Monday, April 28, 2008

Mr. Levitt's pro-Nestle campaign

As I mentioned recently, we have prepared a briefing responding to the pro-Nestlé campaign launched by Tom Levitt MP, who went on a Nestlé-funded trip to South Africa in February and continues to defend Nestlé's advertising and labeling of infant formula there despite the fact the South African Department of Health has said it is non-compliant and asked Nestlé to change its practices.

We still have no response from Mr. Levitt, despite sending him the briefing and asking, once againn, for a meeting.

His efforts to defend Nestlé and his acceptance of Nestlé hospitality and free tickets to Wimbledon tennis competiton, sees him making comments that not even Nestlé makes.

In dismissing the documentary evidence of malpractice collated by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), Mr. Levitt's campaign materials state of the Breaking the Rules 2004 report: "Mr. Levitt says of the Breaking the Rules report 2004, produced by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN):

“200 accusations were laid against Nestlé for breaking the marketing code in a 2004 [sic]. And so they were: but 199 were disproved by independent bodies and the other one had been corrected two years previously.”

This is not only untrue, it contradicts what Nestlé itself says. Nestlé dismisses the violations, but does not claim they were disproved by independent bodies.

This is Nestlé’s statement about the report, published in Mr. Levitt’s local paper in correspondence relating to his column defending Nestlé: “it is important to point out that our analysis of IBFAN's previous report in 2004 found that of the 200 allegations it contained only one was an actual violation and this had been corrected by Nestlé in 2002, two years before the report was published.”

So Nestlé refers to its own analysis, but Mr. Levitt MP relates this as coming from "independent bodies."

The fact is that IBFAN provided details about the violations in the report at Nestlé’s request as it claimed it could not investigate where it had placed its own advertisements or the leaflets and other materials documented without additional information. After providing the information nothing more was heard from Nestlé on the subject.

An earlier report did prompt an independent investigation. Twenty seven academic, development and church organisations formed the Interagency Group on Breastfeeding Monitoring to investigate marketing practices after Nestlé similarly dismissed an earlier report (they are produced about every three years). The Group published Cracking the Code in 1997 and reported ‘systematic’ violations by Nestlé and other companies. Commenting at the time UNICEF stated that IBFAN’s monitoring was ‘vindicated’. While this investigation was 11 years ago, the types of violations are similar to those reported in the 2004 Breaking the Rules report and the latest edition published in November 2007.

In 1999 the UK Advertising Standards Authority ruled against Nestlé’s claim in an anti-boycott advertisement that it markets infant formula ‘ethically and responsibly’ after conducting a two-year investigation. Nestlé was warned not to repeat this and other statements. While it does not do so in advertisements, it continues to make similar statements in its public relations materials and elsewhere, over which the ASA has no power to act.

Mr. Levitt’s claim that Nestlé malpractice is form ’30 or 40 years ago’ disregards all of this evidence, including up to around the time he claims he was investigating in South Africa.

Our briefing paper is available at:

No comments: