Monday, February 02, 2009

The truth about British Midwives and George Clooney

I wrote last time about how Nestlé misled George Clooney by suggesting our claims of baby food marketing malpractice are wrong because the Methodist Church has invested inn Nestlé. In truth, the Methodist Church Central Finance Board (CFB) has praised : "the work of organisations such as Baby Milk Action in highlighting the scandal of inappropriate marketing of breast milk substitutes." And stated: "The way in which the CFB responds to such activities is to engage with company managements and seek change from within."

Nestlé is trying to undermine marketing controls on the multi-billion pound baby milk market by attempting to discredit its critics. Mr. Clooney has become part of its strategy as his office has relayed the Nestlé spin and not the full story. The spin also ignores the fact that the Church Conference stated that 'engagement' and boycotting Nestlé can be viewed as parallel strategies. (We have no problem in talking to Nestlé, but we did warn the Church Central Finance Board that investing would backfire as Nestlé would misrepresent it. Our warning was ignored, but has been proved right).

Another way in which Nestlé misled Mr. Clooney - which again has been relayed by his office - is to state: "British midwives visited Nestlé in 2005 on a fact finding mission and reported a dissonance between their prior perceptions and what they observed in actual Nestlé culture, ethics, policies and hard evidence."

The implication is that 'British midwives' are on Nestlé side of the disagreement. But the facts are that the midwife on the trip was Chris Sidgwick, who wrote a highly flawed article published in the British Journal of Midwifery (included in the briefing to Mr. Clooney). So flawed is the article, in fact, that Baby Milk Action was given a substantial right to reply. Nestlé neglects to include this with the article. You can read our analysis of the article at:

Aside from the journal’s peer-review process being called into question as misuse of references by the article authors was missed, the British Journal of Midwifery recently gained further notoriety for violating the International Code by distributing a free 2009 calendar promoting a brand of formula from a Nestlé competitor (Aptamil, produced by Danone).

The ‘fact finding mission’ referred to in the Nestlé briefing was, in fact, an all expenses-paid trip to Nestlé’s HQ in Vevey, Switzerland. Chris Sidgwick concluded the article by calling on midwives to accept Nestlé sponsorship. She had earlier worked with Nestlé in launching a video at the Royal College of Midwives Conference. Such materials have to have the authorisation of the Secretary of State for Health, which Nestlé had not obtained. So the launch was against the law - enforcement authorities had to remind Nestlé in 2008 that it requires this authorisation.

Chris Sidgwick, as readers of this blog will know, is funded by Nestlé to run training days targeting health workers. The main speaker at events in 2008 works for Nestlé, but this was not mentioned in the publicity. The links are strong. The speaker, Zelda Wilson, is thanked in the British Journal of Midwifery article for arranging the paid trip to Nestlé Headquarters.

Chris Sidgwick and Zelda Wilson also work with Nestlé’s PR firm, Webber Shandwick, in lobbying students to drop their support for the boycott.

Let us hope that Mr. Clooney will look beyond Nestlé's claim about the views of ‘British Midwives’. Let us also hope he will inform those who he has inadvertantly misled in defending his links to the company the facts of the matter.

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