Monday, March 31, 2008

Ethical consumerism article in The Guardian

There is an article on The Guardian website today by Cath Elliott about ethical consumerism, which refers to the Nestlé boycott. You can find it here:

Here is the section on the boycott, with the links as on the original: "I also try not to eat or drink any Nestlé products; this is because despite years of protests and boycotts, the company still refuses to abide by the International code of marketing of breast milk substitutes. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that some 1.5 million children die each year in the developing world because they are not adequately breastfed, and yet Nestlé continues to market baby milk formula in countries where access to clean water supplies cannot be guaranteed, and where bottle feeding is tantamount to a death sentence."

Feel free to join the debate this has prompted. I have posted the following comment:

The support for the Nestle boycott is much appreciated. The boycott keeps Nestle's pushing of baby milk in the public eye (as has just been demonstrated) and has helped lead to changes in company policies and marketing practices.

Baby Milk Action and our partners have had a lot of success in working for legislation implementing marketing requirements adopted by the World Health Assembly, the world's highest health policy setting body. Where companies have no choice they can comply with these measures. They are not being asked to do something that is impossible.

But where they can get away with it they push formula, undermining breastfeeding and contributing to needless death and suffering of babies. For those parents and carers that do use formula, they do not provide the information they need to reduce risks.

We are currently exposing Nestle's advertising of infant formula in South Africa, which Nestle is attempting to defend, despite the fact its own policy says it does not advertise formula in developing countries. See an example of its shelf talker for retail outlets and take our quiz at:

The latest global monitoring report produced with our partners has results from 67 countries and shows Nestle to be the worst of the companies, which is why it is singled out for boycott action. Nestlé responds with PR campaigns and recently took a group of MPs on a jolly to South Africa, one of whom is now vocally defending Nestle's advertising of infant formula there, despite the fact Nestle has been told such practices breach the marketing code and despite the fact they are illegal in the MPs own constituency. See:

Nestle's latest PR offensive, its 'Shared Value' report, has received criticism from campaigners working on this and other issues. Rather than acting to change its practices, Nestle invests in trying to divert criticism. The boycott is an essential tool to increase the financial cost to Nestle of its abuse of human rights. Find out more on the Baby Milk Action website, where this response to the 'Shared Value' report can be found:

Friday, March 28, 2008

Sheila McKechnie Awards 2008

One of our director's, Lisa Northover, was shortlisted for a Sheila McKechnie award last year. Here is news of this year's competition:

An opportunity to apply for a bespoke campaigning support programme.

The Sheila McKechnie Foundation is looking to support 12 individuals who would benefit from a campaigning support programme especially designed for their needs.

One of last year's winners told us:
“Winning an Award has pushed me this far. I've now got the skills and will-power to keep going in the rest of my campaigning life.”

This is a unique opportunity for novice campaigners who rarely get the opportunity to receive a programme of personalised support to help them to improve the impact of their campaigning. The package includes a mix of one-to-one support and group workshops in addition to some rare shadowing opportunities.

Now in their third year, the Sheila McKechnie Awards are for individuals campaigning on a wide range of issues, including health, the environment, international development and issues relevant to communities. We also have awards especially for young people. This award is great for people who work or volunteer in the charity sector, and for those who wouldn’t necessarily describe themselves as campaigners, but as people who just want to change make a difference or change something.

More information about the award categories is available on our website or you can contact Pushpa Dougall 020 7770 7892. Applications can be made by visiting . Please note the deadline is Monday 7 April.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thank goodness for mother support groups

From time to time people contact Baby Milk Action for advice on feeding their child. This is not something we are able to give and we direct people to their health worker, mother support groups and independent sources of information, such as the National Health Service website and carelines and UNICEF's materials.

You can find links and contact details via this blog or on our website links page at:

We do not link to commercial websites, partly because this could raise questions over our independence and partly because we do not have the resources to monitor the sites.

UK mother support groups are non-profit organisations and an important resource. We believe they should have better support from the government in acknowledgement of the important role they fill. Some do accept commercial sponsorship and we have welcomed groups producing and publishing their funding policies, which can be found on the Baby Feeding Law Group website:

Like Baby Milk Action (which accepts no commercial funding) the contributions of members and magazine subscribers is crucial to these groups. I've flagged up the work of different groups in the past and having just received an advertisement from La Leche League GB will give them a plug. It is great to know these groups exist when we need to refer mothers to somewhere they can find support and independent information.

Please do make contact and join or subscribe if you can. If you are able to run an ad like this one to help promote their work, I am sure that would be appreciated.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

New t-shirts for summer!!

The clocks change this weekend in the UK and before you know it Spring will be back and Summer around the corner. Whether you are here or not, now is a great time to buy one (or more) of Baby Milk Action's famous fridge magnet t-shirts, now available in two new colours: black and fuchsia. They show a line of pregnant and breastfeeding fridge magnets - the real things are also available.

Take a look at them in our on-line Virtual Shop now by clicking here:

All profits help with our campaigns holding the baby food companies to account. If you want to see what we are up against, consider Nestlé's infant formula advertising in Africa, which we are currently targeting, but Nestlé is attempting to excuse. We think the marketing standards Nestlé should abide by - and its own publicly stated policies - prohibit this advertising. Judge for yourself and participate in our vote at:

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Formula donations causing diarrhoea in emergency situations

The press release below, from the UNICEF East Asia website, reminds us of the need for care in providing help to mothers and infants in emergency situations. Find the original at:

You can find resources for planning an appropriate response to emergency situations via my blog:

Call to action to stop the use of breastmilk substitutes in emergencies

Jakarta, March 20th, 2008 - The lives of babies and young children are being put at risk by the inappropriate use of breastmilk substitutes, particularly in emergency situations, says a coalition of more than 100 nutrition and emergency experts.

“The protection, promotion and support of infant and young children feeding in emergencies is inadequate. Inappropriate use of breastmilk substitutes in emergencies, often received as unsolicited donations, endangers the lives of infants and young children,” says the coalition.

102 representatives from the UN, international NGOs, and Government from 16 countries gathered together in Bali 10th – 13th March at a meeting organized by the Emergency Nutrition Network. At the end of the 3 day meeting, a strongly worded statement was released with a call to action to prevent the continued use of breastmilk substitutes in emergencies and to improve the support of infant and young child feeding in emergencies in general.

“The issue of nutrition in emergencies, particularly for babies and young children, is of paramount importance …and one that need serious attention,” says Dr Gianfranco Rotigliano, UNICEF Representative to Indonesia. “We …..know that a decline in breastfeeding indicates an increase in the use of formula milk, which, even if used correctly, is inferior to breastmilk.”

In emergency situations when clean water and opportunities to clean feeding bottles are often lacking, the risks associated with artificial feeding are particularly high. There is a common mis-conception that families in emergencies need infant formula and powdered milk. Authorities in emergencies often see unsolicited donations of such products flooding the affected area.

“Systems are urgently needed to prevent and control such donations in order to protect the lives of young children. And the public and the well intentioned donors need to be informed that such products are not needed or wanted during emergencies,” says the coalition.

Presenters at the meeting emphasized the fact that improving infant and young child feeding during emergencies is one of the most effective ways of reducing death rates and preventing malnutrition.

In 2006 after the Yogyakarta earthquake, UNICEF, UNFPA, the local Department of Health, the University of Gadjah Mada and other partners conducted a survey. It began 21 days after the earthquake and found that some 70 per cent of households with children had received baby milk donations.

The survey revealed that infant formula donations had contributed to a two-fold increase in formula consumption among children under-two and, consequently, a six-fold increase in rates of diarrhoea among these children. Diarrhoea is the second biggest killer of children in developing countries after acute respiratory tract infections.

This was one of the first surveys to document the extent and scale of infant formula donations and its impact on feeding practices and illness rates.

“We know through decades of medical research that breastfeeding children up to the age of two years, or even longer, gives them the optimum opportunity for growth, development and good health. In the first six months of life, it is the only food and drink a baby needs,” says Dr .Rotigliano.

For further information contact:
Kirsty McIvor, Communication Officer, UNICEF
+ 62 21570 5816 ext 298/+62 8121052631

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Help put Nestlé in the Corporate Hall of Shame

You can vote to put Nestlé in the Corporate Hall of Shame. This is an initiative of the US organisation, Corporate Accountability International, which, as Infact, launched the first boycott of Nestlé in 1977, leading to the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes in 1981. Go to this page:

While our work with partners in bringing those measures into legislation is helping to stop malpractice and save lives, Nestlé continues aggressive marketing, where it can get away with it. The current boycott puts pressure on Nestlé to abide by the marketing requirements elsewhere and has helped force some changes in policy. However, as I write, Neslé is attempting to excuse its advertising of infant formula in South Africa, despite this being a clear breach of the Code and Nestlé's own Infant Formula Policy for Developing Countries. See:

As you'll see from the Corporate Accountability International profile on Nestlé, there are a whole host of other concerns, some of which we have also addressed in our press release on Nestlé latest PR offensive, its 'Shared Value' report. See:

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Nestlé in Sri Lanka - baby food regulations and the dairy industry

The Nestlé 'Shared Value' report says on page 55: "Results of the most
recent of these external audits, carried out in Sri Lanka, can be accessed from"

But visit that website and there is no sign of this audit. The most recent 'Action Report' is June 2003! I have documented here before how these reports, which were supposed to be monthly, became a channel through which Nestlé had to admit to breaking the marketing code for baby foods and apologise for misrepresenting comments from others. Baby Milk Action gained a full-page right to reply in one issue. See:

The latest news blurb highlighted on the home page is from 24 July 2007.

So why is the audit not really there?

It could be because Nestlé does not wish to expose it to scrutiny. Baby Milk Action has campaigned about Nestlé malpractice in Sri Lanka in the past. When new regulations were being introduced ten years ago, Nestlé lobbied against provisions implementing the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. See:

Any improvements in marketing practices in Sri Lanka are despite Nestlé's best efforts to undermine the regulations, not because of any willingness to comply.

Also in Sri Lanka, we have examined the impact of Nestlé and other multinational companies on the dairy industry, which has seen small-scale farmers lose their livelihoods and the price of milk to the public soar.

There is an article in the Sri Lankan newspaper, The Daily Mirror, today recalling the role of the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) in achieving stronger regulations.

The article also addresses the destruction of the indigenous dairy industry, though it does not mention Nestlé by name. Here is an extract:

---Daily Mirror extract
Handing over the domestic dairy development to a transnational company was similar to handing over a flock of lambs to a wolf for protection. Today the destruction of the domestic milk production is complete and is replaced by a monopoly over the milk market which is controlled by a few milk companies. The prices are dictated by the industry. As a direct result almost half the children, under five, are acutely malnourished and wasted, and 40 percent of pregnant women are anaemic. The Asian Human Rights Commission has recorded the price of a 400 gm packet of Milk Powder as Rs 6.00 in 1977, Rs 50.00 in 1994, Rs 100.00 in 2001, Rs 195 in October 2007 and today it is Rs 275. The Consumer Affairs Authority seems to have no way of controlling the rapidly increasing milk prices.
---extract ends

I interviewed a Sri Lanakan campaigner about this in 2002 to find out about Nestlé's impact in the country after a debate in the UK with Nestlé's Beverley Mirando, who is from Sri Lanka, and claimed people in the country welcome Nestlé's impact. I knew there had been demonstrations against the company on the milk issue and wanted to hear direct from people there. You can listen to the interview at:

So while Mr. Brabeck, Nestlé Chief Executive, tours with the 'Shared Value' report boasting that Nestlé benefits millions of people, it seems that people on the ground have a different view. Perhaps this is why the Sri Lanka audit is not yet available on the Nestlé website.

Nestlé's impact on the dairy industry in Sri Lanka is a recurring story. I have documented similar concerns about market domination followed by price hikes elsewhere. See:

By coincidence, China Knowledge is reporting today: "Nestle to raise milk powder prices up to 30% in China".

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Infant feeding courses in India

I have received the following announcement from colleagues in India.

Certified Course on “Infant and Young Child Feeding Counselling Specialist”

BPNI/IBFAN Asia is organizing Regional Training Courses on Infant and Young Child Feeding Counseling: A Training Course – The 3 in 1 Course (An Integrated Course on Breastfeeding, Complementary Feeding and Infant Feeding & HIV-Counseling) at, Lucknow, Gwalior, Hindupur, Delhi and Ranchi during April 2008.

Participants who wish to be certified as Infant and young child feeding counselling specialists, should be either doctors or nurses, nutrition or other social or health professionals who are involved in care of mothers and children.

Highlights of the course are:

Duration of the course: 7 days (9 AM to 6 PM.)
Course Fee: Rs. 5,000/- (includes training materials, lunch and tea).
This course will prepare you as specialists who will help mothers to be successful in exclusive breastfeeding, appropriate complementary feeding and help in selecting feeding option for HIV +ve mothers.
You will be able to set up independent IYCF counselling support centers

Training Venues and Dates:

At Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh from 28 April - 4 May 2008
At Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh from 8 - 14 June 2008
At Hindupur, Andhra Pradesh from 17 - 23 June 2008
At Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh from 21 - 27 June 2008
At Delhi from 22 - 28 June 2008
At Ranchi, Jharkhand from 26 September - 2 October 2008

For any query you may contact us at:
National Coordinator
Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI)
BP – 33, Pitampura, Delhi – 110034
Tel: 011-27343606, 27343608 Tel/Fax: 011-27343606
Email: or

Monday, March 17, 2008

Will Nestlé pay compensation for its quality control failings?

My colleague, Patti Rundall, was on South African radio at the weekend, being asked about the recall of Nestlé formula there. A batch has been manufactured with incorrect levels of ingredients. The day after the announcement, Nestlé had received 15 customer complaints and stated: "We have been told that the babies have been vomiting or having diarrhoea" . We have asked Nestlé to clarify where the products are sold. See my blog from last week at:

In her interview, Patti raised the question of compensation for affected families. Compensation is important not only for the families, but to help motivate companies bring their quality control standards up to expected levels. This has been picked up in the South African media. See:,2172,165962,00.html

In the UK we would expect compensation to be paid and don't believe families in South Africa be treated differently.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Questions over Nestlé policy and product distribution in Africa

Yesterday I faxed Nestlé's Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Brabeck, about Nestlé's bizarre decision to defend its infant formula supermarket promotion in South Africa and also to offer assistance over Nestlé's latest formula recall.

I am seeking an explanation as to why Nestlé is advertising infant formula in Africa, let alone defending the practice, when the Nestlé Infant Formula Policy for Developing Countries states: "NESTLE DOES NOT advertise or promote infant formula to the public."

It could be that I have forgotten what words mean and somehow Nestlé's point-of-sale promotion (which the company itself has described as 'advertising') is somehow consistent with its statement that it does not advertise or promote. To help me out, please take a look at Nestlé's stated commitment and let me know what you think:

The issue with the latest formula recall is a batch of Lactogen infant formula containing higher levels of zinc, iron and copper. This has been causing illness according to a Nestlé spokesman quoted by Reuters on Wednesday:

"'We have received 15 customer complaints since our announcement yesterday ... We have been told that the babies have been vomiting or having diarrhoea,' Theo Mxakwe, spokesman for Nestle South Africa, told Reuters."

The batch code is 73100179LI.

Two weeks ago Nestlé recalled Nan 2 formula for a similar reason, as the South African Daily Despatch notes. That batch code is

According to media reports Nestlé has announced the recall in
South Africa, Botswana and Zambia.

The International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) monitors Nestlé practices across Africa and is looking out for the tins.

I have asked Mr. Brabeck to confirm if any other countries are involved.

In 2005 Nestlé shifted its Zimbabwe operation to South Africa as a cost cutting exercise. Problems soon after the shift resulted in parents in Zimbabwe who had been using its formula desparately seeking supplies and the South African HIV intervention programme, which provides formula for some mothers, experienced shortages.

In the past I have personally found formula from South Africa in Mozambique.

In other recalls Nestlé has been reluctant to take action. In 2005, an Italian Judge ruled that Nestlé formula should be seized by the police as Nestlé had failed to order a recall over contamination with chemicals from the label printing process identified months before.

In China in 2005 Nestlé refused to order a recall of formula with higher-than-permitted levels of iodine until consumer action prompted a re-think. The China Daily reported Nestlé had responded : "with the speed and alacrity of a sailor drunk on shore leave."

In 2002 when Beba infant formula was found contaminated with Enterobacter Sakazakii after the death of a child in Belgium, Nestlé initially only recalled the formula within the European Union as this had been ordered by authorities, but IBFAN found the formula from the same batch on sale elsewhere.

For links to supporting documents see:

So the point is, the formula in this latest case could be in countries other than those indicated publicly.

The IBFAN network is doing what it can to check and I hope that Mr. Brabeck will cooperate by providing clarification on where the formula is sold.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Can Nestlé really advertise infant formula in Africa as it claims?

On our March 2008 Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet, we have exposed various Nestlé violations, including its advertising of infant formula in a supermarket promotion in Johannesburg in December 2007.

Now, Nestlé criticises us for claiming practices are violations by saying we misinterprete the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981. It is claiming it has done nothing wrong in advertising infant formula in South Africa.

Nestlé claims: "Nestlé was the first company to voluntarily adopt the WHO Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes (the WHO Code) as a minimum standard in all developing countries."

The Code states: "There should be no advertising or other form of promotion to the general public of products within the scope of this Code."

The Nestlé Infant Formula Policy in Developing Countries: "NESTLE DOES NOT advertise or promote infant formula to the public."

Yet, all the same it is defending its shelf talker in South Africa, just as it defended its promotional fliers for Lactogen in Bangladesh last year.

I don't see how Nestlé can produce such materials, let alone defend them, when it is claiming the Code is its minimum standard. But that is exactly what it is doing in a letter in the Buxton Advertiser today.

I'll respond to the detail of that letter on a future occassion. It is this overarching question which is perplexing me today and I want your views because I am feeling as if I have fallen down a rabbit hole and words no longer mean what it says in the dictionary, but what Nestlé wants them to mean at that particular moment.

So please help me out. Reading what the Code says, reading what Nestlé's Policy says, do you think it should be advertising infant formula in Africa?

You can find more detail and give your vote at:

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

EthicsWorld: The Challenges of Corporate CSR Reporting: Nestle’s Creating Shared Value – True CSR or Just Good PR?

It is often the way that Nestlé PR offensives draw attention to both its malpractice and its dishonest presentation of its practices. There are many past and recent examples, but one of my favourites is Nestlé's anti-boycott advertisement that blew up when all our complaints against it were upheld by the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Mr. Brabeck, Chief Executive Officer, flew in to quell the storm, but instead generated headlines like: "Mr. Nestlé gets angry". See:

The same is happening with its 'Shared Value' report launched last week. Peter Brabeck-Letmathé is retiring as Chief Executive, but will continue as Chairman and is currently on tour with the report, boasting of the positive impact Nestlé has on millions of people. Yet the report is incomplete and dishonest in its portrayal of the Nestlé activities with which I am familiar.

It was audited by Bureau Veritas, who famously cleared Nestlé of any wrong doing in water extraction in Brazil, but failed to report the fact - and were apparently unaware - that Nestlé was being pursued through the courts by the Public Prosecutor which resulted in out-of-court settlement requiring Nestlé to stop pumping water or face significant daily fines. The audits Bureau Veritas has conducted on the baby milk issue have been as flawed, missing practices such as Nestlé's supermarket promotion for 'new formula' in South Africa which breaches the weak Nestlé Instructions Bureau Veritas uses its benchmark as well as the World Health Assembly measures it should be using. See:

These concerns about the process and the weight to put on such reports and counter criticism are gaining attention. The website EthicsWorld leads on Nestlé's 'Shared Value' report today:

It asks: "The Challenges of Corporate CSR Reporting: Nestle’s Creating Shared Value – True CSR or Just Good PR?”

The article states:

---extracts begin
The report takes on a wide variety of issues developed by a company that works with leading organizations like SustainAbility and AccountAbility. Nestle was one of the first food companies to help the Global Reporting Initiative develop a global reporting standard and indicators on sustainability in the food sector. It participates in such initiatives as the UN framework to tackle climate change and the International Cocoa Initiative. But despite Nestle’s positive credentials, advocacy groups like Baby Milk Action and Corporate Watch continue to be critics and challenge the credibility of the company’s reporting.


Nestle’s accomplishments in its key CSR areas are detailed in the report, but the text falls short when it comes to admitting problems and difficulties in meeting goals. Articles from outside sources, notably advocacy NGOs, highlight the shortcomings, but these too raise questions about objectivity at times and so makes the challenge of determining the reliability of corporate reports all the more complex.

An article from Baby Milk Action, for example, criticizes Nestle for aggressively marketing baby foods, trade union busting, failing to act on child slavery in its cocoa supply chain, depleting water resources, among other concerns. The group’s primary allegation is that Nestle has violated the baby food marketing requirements adopted by the World Health Assembly and conducts faulty audits. It has been critical of Nestle for many years.

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald expressed the same concerns over Nestle’s “aggressive marketing tactics.” According to the article, “under an agreement by the Manufacturers of Australian Infant Formula, companies may not advertise formula for children under 12 months as it has been shown to reduce breastfeeding rates.”

Corporate Watch has highlighted Nestle’s questionable marketing schemes in promoting its bottled water and the company’s impact on public water sources.

EthicsWorld seeks to assist companies and organizations to better understand the challenges of CSR reporting and continues to highlight reports by major firms and comments by leading NGOs. Keep monitoring our site for analysis on how companies are addressing this sticky issue.

---extracts end

Read the full article and find out more about EthicsWorld at:

Baby Milk Action prides itself on the objectivity of its information and provides documentary substantiation, not just allegations. You can find some of this by exploring the links from our press release concerning the report at:

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

UK Government defends formula regulations in Parliament

The Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations 2007 were discussed in the UK Parliament last week (5 March 2008). You can read the full record here:

This was because the opposition Conservative Party was trying to halt them coming into force. The good news is the Minister for Public Health, Dawn Primarolo MP, stood up to this challenge. However there was amgibuity about a promised 12-month review and what it would consider - its terms of reference may be too limited to address all the concerns of health advocates.

The Conservative Party challenge follows the baby food industry taking the government to the High Court in January. That case ended in February with a ruling in favour of the industry for when labelling requirements will come into effect, but fears that delays might be made to other parts of the Regulations of they would be struck down were not realised. There are still rulings to be made in Northern Ireland and Scotland (where the hearing has already taken place and the industry did at one stage try to delay the advertising requirements coming into force for two years) and we await the outcome of those.

The government is deciding whether to appeal the high court ruling, but the Regulations have otherwise come into force. Parliament has the opportunity still to block the Statutory Instrument that sets out the Regulations, but not to ammend it (which is a shame really because the government ignored the health expert advice, including from its own experts, to bring in weak and unnecessarily complex regulations).

The Conservatives had tabled a 'prayer' to strike down the regulations, which started a process of discussing whether this should happen. Peter Bottomley MP for the Conservatives saw the court case as a complicating the situation and said in the Parliamentary Committee hearing:

'There are two ways of resolving the dilemma. The first is for a discussion to take place between the usual channels in which the prayer and the statutory instrument are withdrawn, which would mean our procedures coming to an end. That has happened in the past. The second is for the Government simply to withdraw the statutory instrument anyway, or to say, through the usual channels, “Can we suspend the sitting and return, even if nothing is withdrawn, to allow time for consideration.”'

Dawn Primarolo MP was emphatic - "I am not prepared to withdraw the statutory instrument." She explained that the court case required only a change to the date on which labelling provisions came into force, which was in the government's power to change. Everything else stood and was necessary.

Annette Brooke MP for the Liberal Democrats raised the question of the promised review:

"For those of us who would like the regulations to go further, the review is of great importance. Will the Minister outline exactly what is proposed and when that review will start? She might have to give me various options, given the court decision. Nevertheless, it would be nice to have them. One thing about the court decision that concerns me is the fact that everything is getting pushed back in time; we want some of the changes to be implemented as soon as possible. The statistics and our international comparisons speak for themselves—there is an urgent need for action."

In response to this Dawn Primarolo said: " I shall briefly answer the hon. Lady. At the heart of the discussion in the review of advertising by the Food Standards Agency is the marketing in relation to infants of what is called follow-on formula. That is what the regulations seek to prevent, so the guidance lays out what should not happen, on current practice. We will then monitor that through the 12 months."

This is ambiguous, as the Baby Feeding Law Group, consisting of 22 health worker organisations and mother support groups, has submitted reports to government consultations calling for a broader review. Will that happen?

The way follow-on formula is marketed is one issue, and not even the most important one in my view. The latest BFLG report: "Trying to make the UK's weak formula law work" sets out the lessons learned from the 12 years of monitoring the effectiveness of the 1995 Regulations. Companies promote formula with idealizing claims, inducements and attacks on breastfeeding and do not provide parents and carers who use formula with necessary information on their products.

The impact of company promotion on understanding of infant feeding issues is what the review primarily needs to consider, with a view to strengthening the provisions if this is found to be necessary.

A investigation of whether promotion of follow-on formula, which is permitted in the UK is serving as de facto infant formula advertising, which is prohibited is a necessary part. The government has suggested it will prohibit follow-on formula advertising as many other countries and international standards do, if need be.

There is also a focus in the discussion on breastfeeding. We highlight the regulations are also to provide better protection for those who use formula. There are serious failings in the regulations in this regard and they need to be evaluated and corrected.

We ran a campaign asking people to send messages to the government supporting the BFLG position of making the review inclusive enough to evaluate the impact of all aspects of marketing. We will continue to raise it.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Buxton residents respond to Tom Levitt MP's column praising Nestlé

I wrote last week about an inaccurate defence of Nestlé written by Tom Levitt MP in his weekly column in the Buxton Advertiser after an all-expenses-paid trip to South Africa, where he failed to notice Nestlé promoting formula in supermarkets in breach of marketing requirements and its own proclaimed policy. We are targeting this violation on our March Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet. See:

My letter pointing out the innacuracies, given in that blog, has been published under the rather snappy headline: "Firms claims are 'utter rubbish'". See:

Some of Mr. Levitt's constituents also took issue with his unwarranted defence of Nestlé. See:

Nestlé bottles Buxton water in the town. One of the letter criticises the company regarding the spa that also makes use of the spring water. It is not the first time where bottling operations and the development of tourism based on spring water have come into conflict. See our past press release on Nestlé's damaging impact in São Lourenço, Brazil:

Friday, March 07, 2008

Lancet article on protecting infant health in the Philippines

The new issue of the Lancet has an article about the struggle to protect infants and mothers from the aggressive marketing practices and lobbying pressure of the baby food industry.

It is written by Rene R Raya, Action for Economic Reforms, which describes itself as "an independent policy research and advocacy group. In the past 5 years, Action for Economic Reforms received grants from: Christian Aid, Oxfam, WHO, Frederich Ebert Stiftung, and the EU."

The article begins:

---extract begins
Scientists and policy makers have declared, urged, and exhorted countries to exert every effort to increase breastfeeding rates. 25 years of scientific evidence have accrued since the signing of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes in 1981, as illustrated by the Lancet Child Survival series in 2003 and many declarations, agreements, and resolutions adopted at World Health Assemblies and WHO/UNICEF meetings. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has warned that powdered infant-formula is not a sterile product.

In the Philippines, breastfeeding advocates welcomed the long-awaited ruling of the Supreme Court, which lifted on Oct 9, 2007, and with few changes, the temporary restraining order on the Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations (RIRR) of the Milk Code (1986). While the ruling did not support a total ban on advertising of breastmilk substitutes, it affirmed most of the provisions of the RIRR, including the right of the Department of Health to regulate and decide on: advertising materials; expansion of the coverage of the Milk Code to infants beyond 12 months; new labelling requirements stating that infant-formula may contain patho genic microorganisms and other health warnings; and prohibition of all health and nutrition claims for products within the scope of the Milk Code.
---extract ends

Here's the summary of industry pressure against the regulations as in the Lancet:

---extract begins
The ruling concluded nearly 3 years of legal battle that started with the strengthening of the implementation of the Milk Code in response to the rapid decline of breastfeeding. In the last quarter of 2004, the Department of Health crafted a national plan and updated the RIRR to align it with international standards. This effort met opposition from the industry, which mounted pressure against the Secretary of Health and his undersecretaries through meetings. The industry warned the US Embassy in Manila and the US regional trade attaché that the RIRR would negatively affect trade. The International Infant Formula Council wrote to UNICEF to complain about UNICEF activities in the Philippines that promoted breastfeeding. Industry representatives prompted congressional hearings and extracted the RIRR from the Committee on Health to the Committee on Trade. They wrote letters to Congress and the President of the Republic.
---extract ends

Your messages of solidarity with the Philippines showed the world was watching and helped to put the issue on the front pages in the Philippines and into the media around the world.

For my reminder of what it took to defend the regulations see my blog:

Eventually the Supreme Court ruled in favour of protecting health over commercial interests, stating: "The framers of the constitution were well aware that trade must be subjected to some form of regulation for the public good. Public interest must be upheld over business interests".

You can access the Lancet article at:

You will have to take out a free registration to access it.

Now the regulations need to be enforced. An independent committee is tasked with authorising all materials before they are used.

They are regulating a well-resourced sector. According to the Lancet article: "Nearly $100 million is spent annually on the advertising of breastmilk substitutes, which is about half the annual budget for the Department of Health."

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Nestle launches 'shared value' report as malpractice is exposed.

This is the latest email alert (sent out using the Mass Mailer I wrote about yesterday):

On Monday Nestlé launched its 'shared value' report boasting of its "positive impact on millions of people across the world." Our press release about this is included below: "Campaigners criticise Nestlé shared value report as PR whitewash to divert attention from malpractice."

[Not included here - see it on our website:]

The report includes claims that Nestlé markets baby milk responsibly. It comes as we launch our March Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet, exposing Nestlé's systematic violation of international marketing standards around the world as well as the weaker Nestlé Instructions the company promotes as its policy. See:

For example, Nestlé claims not to advertise or promote infant formula, yet partners in South Africa have asked us to help stop Nestlé promoting its 'new improved' formula in supermarkets. You can view Nestle's shelf talkers on the site. We are asking people to send a message to Nestlé new Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Paul Bulcke, who is due to take over from Mr. Brabeck in April (Mr. Brabeck will continue as Chairman).

Mr. Brabeck rejected the four-point plan put to him to save infant lives and ultimately end the boycott. It remains to be seen if Mr. Bulcke will change policy.

Elsewhere, Danone, which recently took over NUMICO (owners of Nutricia, Milupa and Cow & Gate) making it a global player, has announced a root-and-branch review of business practices. You can send a message to Danone welcoming this and asking it to commit to bringing its policies and practices into line with the marketing standards. We have put a similar four-point plan to Danone as that rejected by Nestlé and hope it will act on it, as a US feeding bottle and teat company is doing to become 'Code compliant'.

Mr. Brabeck is now on tour with his report. Let me know of any events so we can alert people to raise concerns about Nestlé practices at the meetings and with leaflets outside. You can download our ten facts leaflet and other resources at:

Contact us if you are in the UK and would like leaflets. There is a forthcoming event organised by Nestlé and the London Business School on 10 March: "Where next for corporate responsibility: Can business make a meaningful impact?" It is taking place at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in London (near Baker Street tube) beginning at 10:15. Contact me if you are interested in coming along.

If you do leaflet at any events, please do follow our leafleting guidelines. Do not cause an obstruction. Move if asked to leave private property (you have a right to be on public property). Offer leaflets, but do not force them on people. If there is to be a big group staging a demonstration, it is a good idea to inform the police beforehand. Please keep us informed of any action you do take and let us know if you need any help.

The link for the action sheet once again is:

To sign up for alerts, go to:

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Mass mailing email alert lists

I have a shareware programme for mass mailing. It is called macmassmaler. As the name suggests, it is for running on a Mac. You can find it here:

This has just been updated (at the time of writing it is version 1.3.5). This is a much improved version. It has its own smtp engine and can cope with smtp timeouts.

I did have some problems prior to these updates and some of you on my email list may have received my last email alert more than once. Sorry about that. Problems are now solved.

Great news as tomorrow I am sending out an alert with our updated press release on Nestlé's latest PR initiative - its 'shared value' report - and our new Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet.

The mass mailer makes it very easy for me to update lists. I just collect the emails and webforms from people wanting to join or leave into a folder in my email programme. I also collect the delivery failure emails. Export the folder (which on a Mac you do simply by dragging it to the desktop). From the mass mailer, I can then scan the folder for email address and indicate whether I want them added or deleted from my mailing list.

Very efficient and hopefully will keep me off spam lists because I only email people who sign up and they can unsubscribe easily.

If you want to sign up to receive alerts, go to the contact page of

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The gap between Nestle's PR and reality is immense.

Nestlé has just launched a new PR booklet called 'Creating Shared Value'. It did so at a join meeting yesterday with the UN Global Compact in New York.

The Global Compact was set up by Kofi Anna when he was Secretary General of the United Nations as an alternative to regulating corporations. The Compact is, in fact, a toothless PR endorsement for companies who have to do nothing other than proclaim their support for its 10 principles. Nestlé has been more active than some in submitting reports proclaiming how well it is doing. These do not have to conform to any standard, are not audited and the Global Compact does not investigate complaints of breaches (though it will investigate whether a company brings the Global Compact brand into disrepute - which we believe Nestlé does). I write about better alternatives in the new book 'Global obligations for the right to food'. See:

There is probably some truth in some of the things Nestlé presents in its report, but when it comes to various aspects of Nestlé business practices with which I am familiar I see that the gap between what Nestlé says it does and what it really does is immense, particularly in those areas where it is being criticised.

I address some of these issues in our press release which you can find at:

Nestlé's new report presents it as respecting the marketing requirements for baby foods even citing audits, when at the self-same time Nestlé is publicly defending breaches such as distributing promotional fliers for Lactogen to mothers in Bangladesh and branding babies from birth in China. There are a host of other issues aside from baby food. Quotes from other campaigns are coming in and being added to the press release.

If you have been on the receiving end of Nestlé business practices or involved in trying to persuade it to respect human rights and the environment then you particularly appreciate Mr. Brabeck's comments on the launch of the report:

"Creating shared value means thinking long term while at the same time delivering strong annual results," he said.

"This enables us to deliver five to six per cent organic growth while at the same time improving our environmental and social performance, thereby having a positive impact on millions of people across the world."

Perhaps those on the winning side of Nestlé's thirst for growth and profits do number so highly, but even if so, that does not justify the well-documented practices of aggressively marketing baby foods, trade union busting, failing to act on child slavery in its cocoa supply chain, depleting water resources and the rest.

As Franklin Fredrick, who you can see here, said today: "We had to battle for 10 years to stop Nestlé breaking federal laws in Brazil as its water extraction was destroying the historic water park in São Lourenço. We didn't experience much in the way of 'shared value' from Nestle. It put its own profits before our community."

Monday, March 03, 2008

Cut throat competition building a US$20 billion baby food market

There is a new report out analysing the global baby food industry from the financial point of view.

There are extracts on this website:

---extract begins
It states: "Global baby foods and infant formula market is projected to witness steady growth through the forecast period and reach US$20.2 billion in sales by 2010. Although US and Europe are the leading markets for baby foods and infant formula products, these developed regions offer little opportunities for growth due to the declining birth rates, static market conditions, and consolidation. As a result, manufacturers are moving towards the more lucrative and populous markets in Asia-Pacific, and are currently focusing their efforts on India and China."


Companies engaged in production of baby foods face cut throat competition, particularly on the innovation platform. Each company is focused on gaining a competitive edge over rivals by introducing new products into the markets from time to time. Major companies operating in the global market for baby foods and infant formula include Nestle, Numico, Abbott Laboratories, Bristol-Myers-Squibb, Gerber, Heinz, Danone, and Hipp. Nestle, Danone, Heinz and Royal Numico. Among these, Nestle is a dominant player with global presence.

Europe represents the leading regional market for baby foods and infant formula products for 2007, capturing more than 30% share of the global sales, as stated by Global Industry Analysts, Inc. However, the large population base in developing regions, particularly India, China and Brazil, is expected to facilitate in shifting the focus of manufacturers to these regions. As a result, Asia-Pacific is projected to emerge as the fastest growing regional market over the 2001-2010 period, driven primarily by the exceptional sales in the Chinese market. Europe would continue to retain its position as the leading baby meals market by 2010, with sales projected to reach US$2.1 billion.

---extract ends

The cut throat competition between companies to grow their market share, results in the type of aggressive marketing practices exposed in the monitoring report produced by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) called Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules.

Nestlé comes in for special mention here too, for being the worst of the baby food companies.

We have also seen the efforts of NUMICO, now owned by Danone, to compete with Nestlé in the asian markets has led to more violations coming from its group of companies.

While the portrayal of artificial feeding as modern and helping to develop intelligence is only part of the story, it is no doubt contributing to the declining breastfeeding rates seen in China. For a recent blog on China see:

If you want to see the full financial analysis report you can order it here:

It costs US$4450 so I'm not sure we'll get to see a full copy.

The IBFAN report is much more reasonably priced. You can order it here:

It costs £25 for non-profit use (not including investment planning) and £75 for profit use.