Sunday, October 18, 2009

Does Nestlé formula really 'protect' babies?

The blog PhD in Parenting has another response from Nestlé following its Twitter PR Disaster.

This is regarding Nestlé's claim that its formula 'protects'. In truth infants fed on formula are at greater risk of short and long-term illness than breastfed children and, in conditions of poverty, more likely to die.

There is a good analysis of Nestlé's response on the PhD in Parenting blog, showing the 'protect' logo on the Malawi tin we have been highlighting (click on the image below for a larger version).


I have added the following comment:

Baby Milk Action wrote to Nestlé about this label and also an end-of-aisle display found in a rural area in Malawi. Nestlé replied, simply that it respects the marketing requirements. You can see the other pictures here:

We have posted Nestlé’s response to us on our website. Since receiving it, we have found that Nestlé has posted a different response on its website. We have also analysed that. Full details at:

Two points to note. Firstly, Nestlé refused to translate the breast is best warning into Chichewa, the national language of Malawi, in the past, citing ‘cost restraints’. It took a 3-year campaign from Baby Milk Action which put the issue on national television in the UK before Nestlé agreed to translate the warnings and instructions.

Secondly, this is what Nestlé states on its website about the ‘protect’ logos (follow the link above for links to supporting documents):

“Nestlé makes significant investments in R&D and technology to deliver innovative products with scientifically proven nutritional benefits. While our infant nutrition products meet the needs of non-breastfed babies during the first critical months of life, the functional benefits that are encapsulated in the ‘Protect’ logo are scientifically substantiated – the result of many years of intensive research on how best to improve the formula composition to stimulate the infant’s immune system.”

[****Baby Milk Action comment: Nestlé's justification for these logos is simply untrue. They promote the addition of Long-Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (LCPUFAs) - DHA, ARA and one Nestlé refers to as Opti-pro to give the impression it aids eye development, a claim sometimes made about them. However, the respected Cochrane Library has investigated the impact of adding LCPUFAs to infant formula and concluded: "It has been suggested that low levels of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) found in formula milk may contribute to lower IQ levels and vision skills in term infants. Some milk formulas with added LCPUFA are commercially available. This review found that feeding term infants with milk formula enriched with LCPUFA had no proven benefit regarding vision, cognition or physical growth."****]

Here’s the link to the Cochrane Library review:

Nestlé continues: “The logo helps distinguish this particular formula from other less advanced products but does not claim in any manner that infant formula is superior to breast milk.”

[****Baby Milk Action comment: A comparison comment, with no scientific basis for it, would be misleading, but this is not a comparison comment. The logo simply says 'Protect Start' on the infant formula and 'Protect Plus' on the follow-on formula, an absolute claim that the formula will protect. This undermines the legally-required warning that breastmilk is best for babies. In the Philippines, Nestlé has used logos promoting 'brain building blocks' and claimed 'Experts recognize DHA as essential for brain development and good vision.'. UNICEF Philippines has produced a film examining the impact of such claims: they lead some parents to believe their children will be more intelligent and have better eyesight if fed on formula. You can watch the film by clicking here.****]

So Nestlé is defending its ‘protect’ logos – for now. With more people exposing Nestlé’s bogus claims and sending messages to Nestlé the sooner we will succeed in persuading it to remove the logos. You can send a message via the Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet at:

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