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:

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