Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Nestle promises to change bear brand logo - but what about whole milk marketing?

In Update 41 we reported on a study in the British Medical Journal about Nestlé's marketing of coffee creamer in Laos with a bear logo. The newsletter is sent to members and can be accessed on our website (click here to join Baby Milk Action). See:

The research found that mothers were using the coffee creamer as a breastmilk substitute, being misled by the logo which appears to show a bear breastfeeding. This logo undermines the message that the product should not be used for infant feeding.

Nestlé has responded to the research in a letter published in the BMJ and a correspondence with the researchers has resulted. Nestlé at first refused to change the logo, while claiming to be concerned about inappropriate use of products such as this. Yesterday it said it would remove the baby bear.

Seeing its claim to be concerned about inappropriate use of products, prompted me to post the following today:

It is interesting to read Nestlé's Roland Stieger (BMJ 2009;338:b196) state that Nestlé: "is very concerned that mothers in poor countries feed infants with inappropriate breast milk substitutes." Mr. Stiegler claims that Nestlé takes steps to reduce such inappropriate use. My experience suggests otherwise. Rather, it seems Nestlé seeks to gain sales from inappropriate use of products bought by mothers who cannot afford infant formula.

A stark example of this appeared in one of Nestlé's own audit reports, its Sustainability Review, launched in 2002. This shows 'auditors' standing in front of a 'baby food' section in a retail outlet, ostensibly checking the labels of formula. Behind them on the shelves, Nestlé's whole milk can be clearly seen alongside the formula.

Whole milk is totally unsuitable for infant feeding. Nestlé Nido (Ninho in Brazil) is typically a third of the price of infant formula and it is known that in some settings poor mothers who do not breastfeed, for whatever reason, are more likely to use powdered whole milk rather than formula.

Yet around the world Nestlé continues to promote whole milk alongside infant formula in pharmacies and supermarkets. The fact that this goes on under the noses of its 'auditors' is stark proof that this is deliberate policy. Whole milk can be viewed as a complementary food and World Health Assembly Resolution 49.15 requires: "that complementary foods are not marketed for or used in ways that undermine exclusive and sustained breast-feeding." Placing it with formula with the implication it can be used for infant feeding breaches this Resolution.

Aside from displays in retail outlets, we have found promotional materials, such as this 2003 calendar in the Dominican Repulic.

More recent examples, can be found in our 'Gallery of Shame' at:

When this was raised with Nestlé, it claimed: "Nido whole milk is not promoted at all as a breastmilk substitute." And: "Unfortunately, Baby Milk Action continues to attempt to apply the WHO Code to products which are not marketed as breast-milk substitutes, in contradiction to the WHO Code itself."

Full text at:

Yet if, as Mr. Stiegler claims, Nestlé: "is very concerned that mothers in poor countries feed infants with inappropriate breast milk substitutes" surely it would not try to excuse the practice, but would remove Nido and Ninho from the infant feeding section as a precaution, knowing that it is used as a breastmilk substitute. There is no legitimate reason for it being placed there.


You can follow the correspondence at:

In Nestlé's latest posting on 27 January 2009, it says it will change the bear brand logo, so, if true, that is an important result. Let us see if it will change its policy on marketing of whole milks.

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