Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Branded from birth - IBFAN's new monitoring report exposes baby milk marketing trends

Our partners at the International Code Documentation Centre (ICDC) have presented the new International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) monitoring report at a training event for policy makers in Asia.

IBFAN trains policy makers on implementing the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, releveant World Health Assembly Resolutions in legislation. Independently monitored and enforced regulations are necessary to ensure compliance as companies do not fulfill their obligation under Article 11.3 of the Code to abide by its provisions independently.

The new monitoring report, Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules 2007, shows the depths to which companies sink where there are no regulations. Nestlé is again leading the way in innovative strategies and, as market leader, sets trends others feel compelled to follow to compete. Here is an example highlighted in the Nestlé profile from China:

It says: "In some hospitals in China, babies are 'branded from birth' with identification tages bearing the Nestlé name and logo."

You may recall our campaign exposing a marketing strategy launched by Nestlé Chief Executive Officer and Chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, to target 'pregnant and lactating women' in China with 'nutrition corners' in supermarkets. Nestlé's anti-boycott team, led by Beverley Mirando in the UK, attempted to excuse the practice, arguing that only milks for older babies were on display. See:

These strategies for branding babies as Nestlé babies are to develop what Mr. Brabeck sees as a growth market. We will call on his designated successor, Mr. Paul Bulcke, to accept the four-point plan aimed at saving lives and ultimately ending the boycott, but the signs are not good as he drove growth of infant nutrition products in the Americas and has also cited China and India as the engines for growth in the company. See:

The good news is that where there are strong regulations, these can be effective at stopping violations. In Brazil median breastfeeding rates have increased from less than 3 months to ten months thanks, in part, to strong regulations. See:

Other good news is that the boycott can force some policy shifts, and was instrumental in persuading Nestlé to change its policy on promoting complementary foods from too early an age - though this does still happen. This was a point I made in the press release issued by our partners. See:

The bad news is, Nestlé continues to systematically violate the Code and Resolutions where it can get away with it, as the report demonstrates.

The other bad news is that NUMICO - parent company of Nutricia, Milupa and Cow & Gate and recently bought by Danone - is trying to capture what it calls 'stomach share' - that is, get its formula into infants instead of that of competitors and breastmilk. This has seen a rise in violations to the point where it is rivalling the market leader, Nestlé.

Nestlé may attempt to give the false impression it has changed itself. This is not the case - rather it has driven the industry to new depths, particularly in Asia. IBFAN will be contacting Danone, the new owners of NUMICO to call on it to change the practices of these companies. The International Nestlé Boycott Committee will consider how to bring consumer pressure to bear on Danone/NUMICO if it does not respond.

We will also continue with the strategies we know achieve change and are ultimately saving lives: keeping Nestlé, the market leader, under pressure from the boycott and working for legislation that compels compliance by all companies with the marketing requirements.

You can read profiles of all the major companies and obtain full monitoring results at:

Baby Milk Action is arranging to stock printed copies of the report when this is available.


Anonymous said...

Look, I am a strong supporter of breastfeeding, and I loved breastfeeding my children. The problem I have with this boycott is that it seems to me you are forgetting that there are mothers that die during child birth, or are infected with HIV or AIDS and should NOT or cannot breastfeed their children. What about them? Should their children die of starvation because of a lack of formula? How about selling only ready to use formula the premixed kind that requires no additional water for use? Woulnd't that solve both problems? I just think this should be thought through completely before causing some babies to starve to death.

Mike Brady said...

Anonymous, your comment shows that you haven't read what the boycott is about.

It is not trying to stop Nestlé selling formula, but to market it reponsibly. That means in accordance with internationally agreed marketing standards. Not something we have made up, but the standards introduced by the World Health Assembly, made up of the world's health ministries.

A plan has been put to Nestle to bring its policies and practices into line, but it has rejected it, because it puts its own profits first, regardless of how many babies and their families suffer as a consequence.

Where we have succeeded in bringing the regulations into legislation that is enforced, then companies must and do comply. So they are not being asked to do something that is impossible.

Regarding HIV, please investigate the evidence-based approach taken by the World Health Organisation. Simply saying mothers should use formula will result in more deaths than following their carefully thought through strategy. See:
Doesn't HIV change the situation?