Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Blog innovation and other developments

Regular readers of this blog, will notice an innovation. It is now possible to select blog entries by issue. They are there in the column on the right. Click on the issue of interest and it will bring up all the entries tagged to that issue. Handy.

On the podcast front, I've added embedded players for past podcasts. There is also the option of clicking a link to stream the mp3 file into your browsers default player. Alternatively, you can download the mp3 file to listen to on your computer or separate player. And of course, you can also listen through iTunes. Try out the options at:

In case you missed it, the Nestlé-Free Zone banner advertisement has been updated, to link to my blog about Nestlé's attack on the UNICEF Philippines film exposing marketing malpractice and its impact. This is the banner, but if you want to add it to your site, use the code you find on our website so it will automatically update and link to Nestlé-Free Zon page at:

Monday, July 30, 2007

Breastfeeding around the world in Breastfeeding Week

This is my 200th blog entry and I am going to use it to celebrate the efforts to promote breastfeeding over the next 10 days.

World Breastfeeding Week begins on 1 August, with the theme of breastfeeding in the first hour. See:

You can download a pamphlet from that site, which is operated by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action. We have a stock of printed pamphlets so contact us if you are in the UK and would like some.

At the end of the week, on 8 August, there will be a world record attempt for most mothers breastfeeding at different locations around the world. The way it will work is mothers will gather together to breastfeed at 10 am local time.

You can find out further information at:

You can register via the site if you wish to participate and it has contact emails for national coordinators. In the UK, the coordinator is Michelle Atkin of Little Angels.

These are the goals of the event as given on the site:


1. To gather the most number of mothers in Synchronized Breastfeeding Worldwide, that is, participants will breastfeed at exactly the same LOCAL TIME in their Time Zone. Like the celebration of New Year, with every hour in succession for a 24-hour period, countries in one time zone will be breastfeeding simultaneously. See enclosed list of countries in each Time Zone.

2. To make a permanent and on-going roster of the national records of each nation on simultaneous breastfeeding in a single site and in multiple sites, urging each nation to surpass its own record every succeeding year.

3. To establish cooperation between nations, each nation competing with its own record. The Organizers will keep a roster of achievements of every nation,

(a) its record for single site.

(b) its record for multiple sites,

(c) the national record for breastfeeding mothers per million population as the true measure of their effort and achievement,

(d) the overall record for each Time Zone, and

(e) above all, overall worldwide record for each year. Each nation will follow a standard set of Event Guidelines.

4. To nurture a fellowship among breastfeeding mothers in their locality and country that may facilitate the formation of mother support groups.

5. To establish simultaneous breastfeeding as a form of universal prayer for peace and thanksgiving for the gift of motherhood and breastfeeding.

In Birmingham, the Good Hope and Solihull Hospitals had a series of skin-to-skin photos taken of local mothers with their babies, some with fathers as well. These will be displayed around the maternity hospitals as portraits and developed into posters and a leaflet for distribution to pregnant women. See:

While we often think of the need to stop aggressive marketing of baby foods and to support mothers in breastfeeding, it is good to remember that breastfeeding is widespread and rates are improving, as recorded in the report on the Innocenti Declaration. See:

Friday, July 27, 2007

Advice on infant feeding during the UK floods

Thousands of people have been affected by flooding in the UK. In one county 340,000 people have lost their water supply. More rain is expected this weekend, which may lead to further problems.

The Food Standards Agency has posted advice on its website for carers who are feeding infants with infant formula:

This states:

---Quote begins

If your drinking water supply is either interrupted or contaminated by the flooding and you need to prepare formula feed for a baby, it is important to be careful with the water you use. Here are some tips on preparing formula safely.

  • Ideally use water from a bowser (a water tank provided by water companies), or bottled water, brought to a ‘rolling’ boil and left covered to cool for no more than half an hour, then follow the manufacturer’s instructions on making up the feed. The use of unboiled bowser water should be avoided.
  • Use cooled boiled water or bottled water for cooling the feed once it has been made up.
  • Ready-to-feed liquid formula could be used instead.
  • If there is no electricity or gas to allow boiling and you don’t have ready-to-feed liquid formula available, bottled water (table, spring or mineral water) can be used without boiling to prepare baby feeds, but the prepared feed should then be used immediately.
  • Some bottled water labelled as 'natural mineral water' may have high levels of sodium. When buying bottles of natural mineral water, look at the label and check that the figure for sodium or 'Na' is not higher than 200mg a litre. If it is, then try to use another water. If no other water is available, then use this water for as short a time as possible.
----Quote ends

In past emergency situations affecting other countries, we have had to warn people not to send donations of formula as this is not wanted by people on the ground and can do more harm than good. For those that do need formula it is better if this is purchased locally so labels are in the correct language and distributed appropriately and with necessary instructions to minimise risks.

Whether overseas or in the UK, it is important for field workers who will be advising carers familiarise themselves with the materials produced by the Emergency Nutrition Network. These can be accessed at:

We have received an article from Sarah Saunby, a Baby Milk Action Area Contact in Sheffield. Sarah is also a Registered Breastfeeding Supporter with the Breastfeeding Network, which provides support to mothers.

I am included the article below. If you would like to reproduce this in any form, please contact me for permission.

---Article by Sarah Saunby

Infant Feeding in Emergencies – is it relevant in the UK?

Late last night I eagerly watched the news to see the scenes of devastation, due to flooding, in my home town of Sheffield. Sheffield is well known for being built on 7 hills, which naturally means we have a lot of valleys and rivers. These valleys and rivers took the brunt of a months’ rainfall falling in 24 hours. Local rivers were unable to cope with the volume of water, bursting their banks and subsequently flooding many roads, buildings and houses, causing severe disruption.

As I watched, my thoughts went out to all those affected by the flooding. I felt lucky to be living at the top of a hill and that the worst I had to cope with was a few clothes to dry, when the children returned home from school. My sister’s basement had flooded and both her and my parent’s home were left without electricity. Things were also not so good for those, left stranded at work. Rescue RAF helicopters were called in to the area to help winch over 100 people, including a woman and her baby, to safety.

So what’s this got to do with breastfeeding?

Well SKY news and BBC news 24 reported late yesterday that 35,000 homes were left without power and some 250 homes had been evacuated. Sheffield Hallam Arena was providing emergency accomodation, as were local nightclubs, leisure centres, schools and various other places. I then began to wonder how many babies would have been amongst those evacuated or left in a home without power. How are those babies being fed, I wonder?

When we think about Infant Feeding in Emergencies (IFE), it’s generally associated with some crisis in developing countries; a tornado, earthquake, tsunami or displacement due to conflict or fighting. The UK shouldn’t really need to give much consideration to the WHO and IBFAN publications on IFE, which give guidance (Ref. 1, 2) because things like this just don’t happen in the UK.

So when I heard the following day that in South Yorkshire alone 14,000 people remained evacuated from their homes and that 86,000 homes had disrupted power supplies with 32,000 homes being completely without power I wondered what systems, if any, do we have in place to protect vulnerable babies in these situtations in the UK? When it does become a reality it must be worth highlighting that In emergencies, children under five are more likely to become ill and die from malnutrition and disease than anyone else. In general, the younger they are, the more vulnerable they are. Inappropriate feeding increases their risks (Ref: 3).

Irrespective of any emergency, artificially fed infants already constitute a risk group (Ref: 4) and should receive special attention from the health and social welfare system, so situations like this really emphasise the importance of breastfeeding. Without wishing to add to any mother’s distress I think it is valid to ask how parents of formula feeding infants, are coping with this situation? Babies continue to need feeding. In these emergency shelters and when there is no power supply - how easy is it to maintain safety guidelines set out by the Food Standards Agency, Department of Health and infant formula manufacturers for preparing infant formula? Such as mixing powdered formula with water at 70 degrees centigrade (the temperature necessary to kill harmful pathogens) (Ref: 5, 6) and cleaning and sterilising bottles and teats. A recent report in The Guardian newspaper highlighted the acute risks that formula feeding presents to infants where there aren't the resources to safely support it (Ref: 7). Whilst anecdotally it is discussed that we don’t have the same problems as in developing countries, the current situation across South Yorkshire and other areas of the country show that occasionally we do (Ref: 8).

In a BBC Radio Sheffield interview, one man described how he was woken in the middle of the night by emergency crews who told him he and his family had 5 minutes to get ready and leave their home. This must have been an incredibly frightening experience, especially for those families with young babies and children. For a breastfeeding mother, so long as the mother and baby are kept together, the baby’s food needs are pretty much catered for, plus the baby will have additional protection from the new environment she / he is faced with, via mum’s antibodies. Breastmilk is known to contain anti-infective properties which provide protection against illnesses and reduce the severity of those that occur (Ref: 9). In a room full of strangers and unfamiliar bugs / germs, this will be very reassuring. But for those mothers artificially feeding, how must they have felt to have to leave their homes so suddenly without any necessary equipment or means to feed their infant? Their babies will not have any additional protection by any antibodies made by mum and are already at risk due to the pathogens already present in up to 14% of tins of infant formula (Ref: 10, 11, 12, 13).

If local authorities and other agencies are donating supplies of food; which includes infant formula milk are they following the UK Law (Ref: 14) WHO and UNICEF code and resolutions and IBFAN guidelines (Ref: 15) in ensuring breastfeeding is protected and not undermined by emergency relief efforts and distribution of breastmilk substitutes? Are those aid workers / staff aware that such guidelines even exist? Any appeals being made on behalf of victims should be for money rather than donations. Many health workers and parents are not aware that infant formula is not even a sterile product to start with (Ref: 16).

Is this covered as part of the ‘major incident’ preparations? Is the importance of keeping a mother and her infant together understood and training given in assisting mothers with relactation, if necessary? Breastfeeding is the safest method of feeding infants. Those women who are feeding both breastmilk and infant formula should be encouraged to breastfeed exclusively and be informed and educated about how supply and demand process of milk production works, if they have concerned about their breastmilk supply.

In situations where the infant is around 6 months and the mother is thinking of weaning, then consideration should be given as to whether it would be safer to continue exclusively breastfeeding, for a while, particularly if the necessary means to wean safely are not available.

Do health workers and other aid agencies have knowledge to inform breastfeeding mothers that stress has no effect on the milk-making hormone (prolactin), but it can have a temporary effect on the hormone which makes the milk flow out of the breast (oxytocin)? The temporary stoppage of this reflex is a useful biological mechanism to stop milk being ejected from the breast at difficult moments. The oxytocin reflex is sensitive: it can stop temporarily, but it resumes quickly. So lots of skin-to-skin contact and continued suckling is important. The skin-to-skin also can help the baby feel secure and limit the damage of the emotional traumas of stressful situations (Ref: 17). The breastfeeding hormones help many women feel calmer in stressful situations. Women should be given additional information about where they can get help with breastfeeding (regardless of current method of feeding).

For those babies being formula fed, is advice given to parents, that it could be safer to cup feed? (Ref: 18). Cups are safer than bottles as they can be cleaned easier. Bottles and teats have intricate parts and need to be thoroughly clean, an important consideration when little or no mains water is available and the kitchen is not big enough for safe handling and preparation to cope with many different babies’ equipment. Kitchen areas may have already been contaminated with debris from the river and also from burst sewage systems. For babies and young children, who’s immune systems are still maturing and may not be fully developed until around 6 years this becomes a real concern (Ref: 19). Health workers should be aware that, at an already difficult time of cleaning up their homes and having to look after small babies and children, people may not have time or necessary resources to be so thorough.

Mothers using powdered formula should be informed that the ready to feed cartons of infant formula may pose less of a risk than powdered feed, during this time, particularly where the clean water supply has been affected. Bottled waters (mineral, spring and table) may be unsuitable to mix with powdered feeds (Ref: 20). This is because the solute levels (sodium, nitrate, sulphate and fluoride) may not be suitable levels for the infant’s system to cope with. In circumstances where people are left without mains, drinking water supply or any bowser water bottled water may be the only option. The advice given by the Food Standards Agency and Health Protection Agency is that in circumstances where the power supply is affected then bottled water can be used unboiled. Prepared feeds should be used immediately (Ref: 21, 22). Whilst boiling water may kill off some bacteria and parasites it does not remove chemical contaminants (Ref: 23). Repeated boiling may actually lead to further concentrating of certain chemicals as the water is boiled off.

If it is felt that the that Infant Feeding in Emergencies guidelines are not that relevant in this country then it’s really time to think again. My feeling is that this highlights just how important it is in the UK as well as the rest of the world and I would urge the Government and other agencies to ensure systems are in place to protect this vulnerable group at such a difficult time.

One real concern is for those people in disadvantaged groups and who are already experiencing inequalities in health. They are likely to be the most affected in these circumstances as they are more likely to have health problems, have lower incomes (ready-to-feed cartons of formula are usually more expensive than powdered formula), less likely to be able to afford house insurance (to replace any damaged items such as sterilisers, bottles and teats), and may be less likely to have their own transport to collect water from depots.

Sarah Saunby
Sheffield Area Contact, Baby Milk Action & BfN Registered Breastfeeding Supporter.


1. http://www.ibfan.org/site2005/Pages/article.php?art_id=335&iui=1
IBFAN Infant feeding in emergencies, 2000

2. http://www.euro.who.int/document/e56303.pdf
WHO Infant feeding in emergencies; a guide for mothers, 1997

3. http://www.ennonline.net/pool/files/ife/module1-manual.pdf
Infant Feeding in Emergencies, Module 1;for emergency relief staff WHO, UNICEF, LINKAGES, IBFAN, ENN, 2001

4. http://www.who.int/child-adolescent-health/New_Publications/NUTRITION/gs_iycf.pdf
WHO/ UNICEF Global Strategy on Infant and Young Child Feeding, 2003

5. http://www.food.gov.uk/news/newsarchive/2006/dec/infantform
Food Standards Agency Revised guidance on powdered infant formula, 2006

6. http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/formulaguidance.pdf
Food Standards Agency / Department of Health Guidelines for Health Professionals on safe preparation, storage and handling of powdered infant formula

7. http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2090780,00.html
The Guardian Formula milk is even more deadly in disaster zones, by Marie McGrath, Wednesday May 30th, 2007

8. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6239828.stm
BBC News Floods force thousands from homes Tuesday, 26 June 2007

9. http://www.waba.org.my/wbw/wbw05/actionfolder.pdf

10. http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/inf-ltr3.html
Health Professionals Letter on Enterobacter sakazakii Infections Associated With Use of Powdered (Dry) Infant Formulas in Neonatal Intensive Care Units, U. S. Food and Drug Administration, April 11 2002 Ref: Muytjens HL, Roelofs-Willemse H, Jaspar GHJ.

11. http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1740-8709.2004.00008.x?cookieSet=1
Iversen, C., & Forsythe, SJ. 2004 Isolation of Enterobacter sakazakii and other Enterobacteriaceae from powdered infant formula milk and related products. Food Microbiology as cited in New Scientist 5 June 2004.

12. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/picrender.fcgi?artid=266435&blobtype=pdf
Quality of powdered substitutes for breast milk with regard to members of the family Enterobacteriacae. J Clin Microbiol 1988;26:743-746.

13. http://www.cababstractsplus.org/google/abstract.asp?AcNo=20043165927
Iversen, C., & Forsythe, SJ. 2004 Isolation of Enterobacter sakazakii and other Enterobacteriaceae from powdered infant formula milk and related products. Food Microbiology as cited in New Scientist 5 June 2004.

14. http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si1995/Uksi_19950077_en_1.htm
The Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations 1995; Statutory Instrument 1995 No. 77

15. http://www.ibfan.org/site2005/Pages/article.php?art_id=51&iui=1
The WHO / UNICEF International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and Subsequent WHA Resolutions

16. http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/powderinfantform.pdf
COI and FSA Powdered Infant Formula Qualitative Research Final Report Coi Ref: 272546 (Define ref: 1547) April 2006

17. http://www.euro.who.int/document/e56303.pdf
WHO Infant feeding in emergencies; a guide for mothers, 1997

18. http://www.euro.who.int/document/e56303.pdf
WHO Infant feeding in emergencies; a guide for mothers, 1997

19. http://www.kathydettwyler.org/detwean.html
Katherine Dettwyler, PhD A Natural Age of Weaning

20. http://www.babymilkaction.org/pages/bwater.html
Baby Milk Action Briefing Paper, Bottled water and infant feeding, June 1998

21. http://www.hpa.org.uk/flooding/health_advice.pdf
Health Protection Agency, Health Advice Following Flooding

22. http://www.food.gov.uk/news/newsarchive/2007/jul/flooding
Food Standards Agency, Food Safety advice for people affected by flooding, Tuesday 24th July 2007

23. http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/foodwater.asp
Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Keep Food and Water Safe after a Natural Disaster or Power Outage

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Help to protect Little Jack

Big day for the campaign to strengthen the UK law.

Starting with the fun stuff. Partner organisations Save the Children, UNICEF and the National Childbirth Trust have produced an internet cartoon about protecting Little Jack from the Formula Man. You can watch the cartoon, play a game and send a message to the Minister of Health.

It doesn't matter where you are in the world. Infants and mothers need your help!

Go to this page to view the cartoon and take action:

Here's a screenshot:

Then we have the response from the Government to a question about strengthening the UK law. In the consultation launched by the UK Government there are two options: leave the law like it is or make minimal changes in response to a European Union Directive.

Dr. Lynne Jones MP wanted to know if a third option would be considered: implementing the World Health Assmebly marketing requirements, adopted in 1981 with the support of the UK Government as minimum requirements for all countries. This is from Hansard:

---Quote begins

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make it his policy to extend the consultation on the partial regulatory impact assessment on the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula (England) Regulations 2007 to obtain views on a third option of fully implementing the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent World Health Assembly resolutions on the health, social and environmental aspects of marketing breastmilk substitutes, giving these precedence over trade considerations; and if he will make a statement. [152498]

Dawn Primarolo: The Food Standards Agency launched, on 2 July, a 12-week public consultation on draft domestic regulations which will lay down rules about the composition, labelling and advertising of formulae requesting views from stakeholders on a range of issues. Any responses received, including those that suggest alternative options, will be considered as part of the consultation exercise. The agency will consider all responses to the consultation before finalising the regulations.

---quote ends

So the new Minister for Public Health, Dawn Primarolo, is basically saying implementation of the International Code will be considered if someone suggests it.

Well, we might just do that.

In 2002 the Committee on the Rights of the Child called on the Government to implement the Code. Next year the Government has to report back. Could be embarassing unless we can save the Government from itself.

Members of Parliament have been signing a petition calling for Trading Standards to take action formula companies that continue to make claims on formula that are not permitted by the law. Unfortunately Parliament has broken up for a few months, just as this was getting started, but all the same, we hope Trading Standards to take note. See:

The welcome news that comes my way today is that one of the major supermarket chains is up in court tomorrow, being prosecuted for allegedly marketing infant formula illegally.

I'll say more about this soon. Until then, why not check out the illegal marketing practices by UK supermarkets reported to the monitoring project we run for the Baby Feeding Law Group. They do all deserve to be hauled up before a judge of course.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Breastfeeding chic in Brazil

Well, hey, it's World Breastfeeding Week next week. It has the theme of 'Breastfeeding in the first hour : save one million babies'. And as I wrote some time ago, you could also win US$100!

So visit the website for further details and to enter the competition.

WBW isn't widely promoted in the UK because August is holiday month. We mark Breastfeeding Awareness Week in May. But Baby Milk Action does have the materials produced by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action available.

Brazil marks WBW big time. In the city where I used to live, the city council even passed a law making it an official annual event with guaranteed funding. My wife coordinated the week for many years and wrote about it a few years ago in Practising Midwife (click here to download).

I've just received this clipping from Brazil. There is a familiar rule - if you want media attention, get some celebrities involved. So here are Brazilian celebrity couple, Thiago Lacerda and Vanessa Lóes, stars of Brazil's popular soap opera 'novelas', with their son Gael.

Here is my unofficial translation:

Little Gael is not yet one month old, but he is already promoting a noble cause: son of the actors Thiago Lacerda and Vanessa Lóes, the baby launches World Breastfeeding Week in Brazil, together with his parents. In more than 120 countries from 1 to 7 August, specialists will be calling attention to the advantages of putting the baby to the breast soon after birth.

"The first breastfeed liberates the hormones prolactin and oxytocin, enabling the let-down of milk, helping the contractions of the uteris and reducing the risk of haemorrhage. Even if the baby does not feed, this contact is important to establish the bond with the mother," explains the President of the Breastfeeding Department of the Brazilian Paediatric Society, Graciet Vieira.

The specialists advice was followed by the acting couple, who now want to pass on the importance of early breastfeeding. Gael was born normally on 25 June, with 3.650 kg and 51 cms. Still with the umbilical cord, he was put to Vanessa's breast.

"It was so he would have skin to skin contact," said Thiago.

Vanessa remembered the moment affectionately: "Gael got comfortable, sucked a little, had that first important contact. Then we went to our room together. He opened his mouth and breastfed just like that."

The baby food companies were stopped by increasingly strong legislation implementing World Health Assembly marketing requirements over the past 20 years. That, coupled with support and promotion, such as having TV stars promote breastfeeding, is helping recover breastfeeding rates in Brazil.

In 1975, one out of two Brazilian women only breastfed until the second or third month; in a survey from 1999, one out of two breastfed for 10 months.

For more, see this paper by Dr. Marina Rea (there is an English abstract): A review of breastfeeding in Brazil and how the country has reached ten months' breastfeeding duration

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Nestlé declares war in the Philippines

There is a big article about the Philippines case in the Asia Times today. If you haven't been paying attention, then the article gives a good round up. See:

This contains news of what amounts to a declaration of war from Nestlé on health advocates in the Philippines, specifically UNICEF and WHO.

For our past campaigning and its impact in bringing this to media attention in the Philippines see:

Basically, the Ministry of Health introduced baby food marketing regulations last year, concerned at the 16,000 deaths from inappropriate feeding practices. These implemented provisions of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions, which companies should be abiding by whether they are in legislation or not. Many of the companies claim to do so. The Pharmaceutical companies took the Ministry of Health to court which suspended the regulations after the US Chamber of Commerce threatened investment in the country.

Nestlé is not a pharmaceutical company and not part of the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) bringing the legal action. However it has opposed key parts of the regulations, such as the scope covering products for children up to two years of age as in other countries (some countries legislation covers products up to three years of age). Nestlé even attacked Baby Milk Action for including it in a campaign for action, unfairly alleging that violations we highlighted were years old. Not only are violations recent and current, Nestlé had been told by authorities in the Philippines not to give the gifts we highlighted.

Earlier this year, UNICEF Philippines issued a film exposing the strategies used by the companies and their impact on infants and their families. Several companies are featured in the film, including Nestlé. You can view the film here.

Now the Asia Times reports that Nestlé is attacking UNICEF's country representative Nicholas Alipui, who appears in the film: "On May 25, Nestle Philippines Inc... wrote a letter to Alipui to protest the UNICEF documentary, which it alleged was "inadvertently slanted in a manner that showed our company in a bad light"."

Ah, right. I would re-word that slightly myself: Shining a light on Nestlé makes it look bad because people see its practices clearly.

The solution is simple. Change the practice.

Asia Times goes on: "At the same time, the complaint, signed by D Nandkishore, the firm's chairman and chief executive officer, also lambasted the advertisements of competitor milk firms dealing in infant formula, calling them "exaggerated", especially "those that promise to give children increased intelligence or even become gifted, for which there is no scientific basis". "

This is the same D Nandhishore who wrote to me with the false claims that our allegations are years old. In fact one of the things we highlight is Nestlé's current infant formula labels in the Philippines. Here is the Nestogen 'new improved' label:

You might think that as Nestlé attacks competitors claims it would not use such tactics itself. But as you see, the Nestlé label undermines the legally required notice on the importance of breastfeeding with a logo claiming the formula contains 'Brain Building Blocks', adding: "Experts recognize DHA as essential for brain development and good vision."

This is a Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid (LCPUFA), of which the Cochrane Library states: "At present there is little evidence from randomised trials of LCPUFA supplementation to support the hypothesis that LCPUFA supplementation confers a benefit for visual or general development of term infants".


So Nestlé is correct there is no scientific basis for the claims, but makes them itself.

The next comment in the Asia Times piece is, therefore, hilarious: "Nestle, which it notes is not a member of PHAP, says it strictly adheres to international and local marketing codes for infant formula and has offered to engage UNICEF, the WHO and the Health Department in an "open and transparent dialogue"."

Ho, ho, ho. A little re-wording required again: Nestlé, which monitoring around the world finds to be responsible for more violations of the marketing requirements than any other company, misrepresents its own actions while trying to label its competitors as worse and then has the nerve to talk about transparency and 'engagement'.

But that is not the worse of it. Asia Times explains: "The International Formula Council (IFC), a lobbying organization of milk companies composed of multinational firms such as Nestle USA, Abbott, Wyeth, and Mead Johnson, wrote a strongly worded letter to the UNICEF regional office in Bangkok last year complaining about the performance of Nicholas Alipui, UNICEF's country representative to the Philippines..... contended that he was "not competent" to look after the welfare of Filipino children. The letter also criticized the WHO's country representative at the time, Jean Marc Olive, for his public statements on the issue."

Nicholas Alipui is not to be dissuaded.

"In an interview, Alipui took strong issue with the lobby group's allegations. "I [now] realize the enormity of the challenge that we're facing and how big the opposition from the milk companies is going to be," he said. "I think the fact that they are able to penetrate [UN] organizations to the point of trying to undermine representatives is an indication that they feel that they have enough influence to challenge individuals who represent [these organizations] in their respective countries," Alipui said."

We have sent off our petition of solidarity to partners in the Philippines as the court case will shortly reach its conclusion. Thank you for everyone who has signed. As you can see only too well from the action of Nestlé and its colleagues, those on the ground need all the support they can get and need to know the world is watching.

Nestlé and the rest need to know that their behaviour is unacceptable. Please do keep sending messages to the companies responsible. See:

And in the case of Nestlé, the worst and most aggressive of the companies, you can target it with the boycott. Put a Nestlé-Free Zone logo on your site if you have one, spread the word and tell Nestlé you will boycott it till it changes. See:

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Nestlé boycott on Korean Television news

Nestlé-Free Week earlier this month has given a boost to the campaign. Banners and logos announcing Nestlé-Free Zones and other links to the campaign page on our website, have made it the most popular page, visited by thousands already. The page is kept updated with boycott news and resources so it is worth going back. New postings are announced with updates to the banner ads. See:

This is the updated banner, just posted. Don’t copy this one as it is frozen in time. Use the code from the site so your banner automatically updates.

We are alerting people to coverage of the Nestlé boycott on Korean Televisions main morning news last Thursday, 19 July. The clip is a few minutes long and can be viewed on line by clicking here. Interviews are in English, with Korean subtitles.

There is coverage of Nestlé-Free Week and our phone-Nestlé campaign. As we revealed recently, even Nestlé Public Affairs Manager, Dr. Gayle Crozier Willi, admits that Nestlé is ‘widely boycotted’.

Below are some screen shots. Follow the link above to view on line.

Thanks to volunteer Aran for the poster design.

In the clip you can see the Baby Milk Action office and some of our campaign materials.

Here I am with Korean subtitles!

We did a spot of leafleting around Cambridge. Here is my colleague, Patti Rundall.

The interview asked the man and woman in the street if they knew about the boycott. This man did and explains the basics of the issue.

The piece included footage from the UNICEF Philippines film, available from Baby Milk Action.

The piece also looked at breastfeeding in the UK, showing the convenience of breastfeeding while out and about.

Gillian Weaver, Chair of the UK Association of Milk Banks, explained about donor human milk at her milk bank at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital.

So thanks to the campaign many more people around the world know of the boycott, the impact of aggressive marketing, the importance and convenience of breastfeeding and the existence of donor milk banks.


Friday, July 20, 2007

Can we make the UK law work?

Earlier this year we applauded the UK authorities for taking action to enforce the UK Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations 1995. It may have taken 12 years, but finally the companies were being warned about their infant formula labels. The Food Standards Agency wrote advising them that only the 6 claims specified in the law may be used on labels and any others are 'non-compliant'. Trading Standards officers were informed and encouraged to enforce the regulations. But we have watched the companies launch new labels with non-compliant claims and other idealising text and images with apparent impunity.

Far from the crack down taking a load off Baby Milk Action with the authorities using their far greater resources to hold the corporations to account, we have had to act to encourage them to fulfill their statutory obligations. A little disappointing as, according to a Government Minister, they have already been given official encouragement.

So we have been in correspondence with various home authorities and the Councils responsible for them and today have put out a press release about a campaign in Parliament. Lynne Jones MP tabled an Early Day Motion yesterday calling for the regulations to be enforced.

You can help if you are in the UK by asking your MP to sign up. Details of how to take this and other action is given with our press release. See:

Here is the message I have sent to my MP which you may like to select and copy to adapt for your own use.

I am writing to request that you give your support to Early Day Motion 1963 on "Local Authority Enforcement of Labelling Requirements of the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations 1995".

The Food Standards Agency advised companies on the requirements last year, but they continue to market formula which does not comply and have even launched new labels that contain health claims that are not permitted. The Government has said Trading Standards officers have been encouraged to take action, but as nothing appears to be happening MPs are being asked to add their encouragement by signing the EDM.

You can find additional information at:

Please contact me if you require further information.

Yours sincerely,

As Lynne Jones MP said: "If companies do not follow the law, then the law has to be enforced."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

China TV covers Philippines case

Chinese televisions has carried a 20-minute report on the way baby food companies are pushing their products. They looked at the situation in China, but the main focus is on the Philippines, where the pharmaceutical companies have taken the Ministry of Health to court to have marketing regulations struck down. These were suspended following pressure from the US Chamber of Commerce on the President.

If you have been following the story on the blog, then you will find many of the things in the film familiar, such as the recent bare breast protest outside the Supreme Court. Ines Fernandez, who sent a message of thanks to campaign supporters last year, is one of those interviewed.

The film is narrated in Chinese, but some of those interviewed speak in English with Chinese sub-titles.

You can watch the film using Realplayer (look for the free download link) by clicking here.

Click here for the page on the Chinese website.

Remember a film from UNICEF Philippines is available through our on-line Virtual Shop.

A document with all the messages of support and petition signatures has been sent to our partners in the Philippines. Thank you to everyone who took action. We have been told this has already been presented to the Secretary of State for Health. Early on in the campaign your messages helped to generate newspaper coverage in the Philippines.

The Supreme Court took oral evidence last month and is expected to rule very soon.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Janipher reunited with her babies

Many thanks to everyone who supported the campaign to reunite Janipher Maseko with her children. She was imprisoned in Yarl's Wood detention centre in the UK after having her application for asylum declined. After being contacted by a partner organisation, we made contact with various politicians and journalists and asked supporters to send messages. See:

Separating a breastfeeding mother from her infant is against Home Office guidelines and after campaigning on similar cases last year we were assured there would be no further cases.

Thanks to work by the Black Women’s Rape Action Project and Crossroads Women’s Centre, Janipher received support while she was in the grim conditions of the detention centre separated from her children. They were brought to her in a family unit about a week later and she has since been released.

On Tuesday Janipher appeard at a meeting at the House of Commons alongside campaigners and Lord Avebury, who had been active chasing up the home office. Find out more at:

Today Janipher was interviewed by BBC Radio 4 PM programme as part of a longer piece on conditions in the detention centres. She explained that she had been unable to eat while detained and had even contemplated suicide. As the programme reports, suicides and self harm are worryingly common. I hope I'll be able to include the clip in my podcast.

The Home Office guidance is available at:

The relevant part is in Chapter 58:

---Quote begins

58.7 Separating Breastfeeding Mothers and Children
  • Breastfeeding children should not be separated from their mother purely for Immigration purposes. The only exception would be if there are compelling and exceptional circumstances which indicate that this may be appropriate to keep the child safe
  • If it is only discovered on the detention visit that the mother has recently given birth it should not be assumed that just because there may be bottles/baby food in the house that the mother is not breastfeeding her child. Neither should it be assumed that just because she does not state that she is breastfeeding that she is not. Officers must ask the question directly.
  • Additionally, the age of a child is not always an indicator that the mother may or may not be breastfeeding. It is not uncommon in some cultures for mothers to breastfeed their children into their formative years. Again, officers must ask the question directly.
  • Authority to separate a breastfeeding mother and child must be obtained from an officer of Assistant Director Level or above in all cases. There must be full written record of the authorisation, the reason for the split and who was informed e.g. police, social services, detention services etc as well as any proposed future actions required.
---quote ends

Let us hope the guidelines are followed in future.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Podcasts are back

Fans of my weekly podcast - whoever you may be - will know that there have been problems with updates this last three weeks. I'll explain why. If you've not listened before, why not try this one, while reading on. This is the latest one, which I'll post to the podcast page once regular listeners have had a couple of days to catch up with the backlog.

Get this widget | Share | Track details

There has been a technological breakdown by the previous host for the streaming mp3 files, a company known as Streamload. It had worked pretty well for me until they organised a transfer to a new system that took the streams off air. Some weeks later the old ones have still not appeared and new streams uploaded disappear into cyberspace. On their blog they have apologised to people waiting 'many hours' for files to appear. Well, I'm still waiting for files uploaded two weeks ago.

Searching the internet I see people have been complaining about poor service since Streamload was taken over by a larger company called Mediamax. So I am writing this by way of warning. People have complained that they have cancelled their subscription, only to find they continue to be billed, so the advice is to tell your credit card company to put a block on future payments.

The service was good when it worked. As emails to support only generate automated responses, it is difficult to know if the engineers are running around desparately trying to get things fixed (the blog claims things were fixed a week ago) or they simply don't care. I don't like poor service - particularly when the company continues to promote itself as an excellent service and sign up customers, so want people to be aware of the problems. My hope is, of course, that the problems will be resolved, emails are answered and some form of compensation offered (such as a waiving of fees).

But hope has not brought the podcasts back on line, so I have had to look elsewhere and load the missing podcasts onto another system.

The theory of competition, so we are told, is that if there is a need then someone will come forward to fill it and if a company does not meet that need well, then it will lose business to others until it raises its game. As with the boycott as a means of putting pressure on Nestlé to change, the way to pressure companies that take your money, but don't deliver is to go elsewhere.

At the moment I am trying out two systems. One is good for people to listen via the website, but doesn't work with iTunes, where my podcast is available as a free download. The other works with iTunes, but will only work via a website if you have specific plug ins, which is far too complicated.

So it is as yet an imperfect solution. But one I will try to improve. If Mediamax does ever get its act together and I revert to that system, I'll post a comment on this blog, so people will know if they have redeemed themselves.

Hopefully the notices posted on the podcast page have meant listeners do not feel they have been kept in the dark as to what has been going on. Baby Milk Action may not be a commercial organisation, and has to cope with limited funding and staffing, but I think we should try to offer a good service to people who come to us for information and support.

If we don't, feel free to complain.

And we'll get back to you.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A little knowledge can be dangerous

A rather sad and tragic story today. A Yale student working in a poor community in Rwanda found a mother infected with HIV breastfeeding her 4-month-old child and so sent word home for money and bought a cow so the child can be fed cow's milk instead.

Sad because the student knew of the risk of transmission of HIV through breastfeeding and thought what she was doing would help, but didn't investigate the risk factors and didn't know or ignored the recommendations of the World Health Organisation. Tragic because the infants are more likely to contract HIV and to succumb to other possibly fatal infections.

The article reporting this states: "Marie's HIV-infected mother, too poor to buy formula or animal milk, was breast-feeding the infant, putting her at substantial risk for contracting the virus, with the likelihood rising once she reached 6 months."

I posted a comment to try to direct people to expert sources of information:

It is unfortunate that this article and the advice given contradicts the recommendations of the World Health Organisation and the research on risks of transmission of HIV. See:

The mother was in fact following the recommendation of WHO, if she was exclusively breastfeeding. Introducing other substances, such as cow's milk, increases the risk of HIV transmission. Infants who are not breastfed are at far greater risk of dying from other illnesses as they are denied the protective factors of breastmilk.

New research from South Africa found that infants of HIV-infected infants living in poor conditions are more likely to survive if exclusively breastfed for the first six months. See:

Field workers can obtain expert training and information on supporting mothers and infants in difficult circumstances at:

The WHO position has recently been strengthened and adopted as a UN Consensus Statement following the results of a major study from South Africa. It states:

Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for HIV-infected women for the first 6 months of life unless replacement feeding is acceptable, feasible, affordable, sustainable and safe for them and their infants before that time.... Breastfeeding mothers of infants and young children who are known to be HIV-infected should be strongly encouraged to continue breastfeeding.... Governments should ensure that the package of interventions referenced above, as well as the conditions described in current guidance, are available before any distribution of free commercial infant formula is considered.

Possibly cow's milk could have a role after the period of exclusive breastfeeding as rapid cessation when introducing other foods is recommended to minimise the period of mixed feeding, but should not be a replacement for breastfeeding. As Marie McGrath of the Emergency Nutrition Network comments on the article cow's milk has "high sodium and protein, inadequate micronutrients" and in practice its introduction may lead to mixed feeding as well as increased risk of other infections.

Another comment refers to the South Africa study we reference in our newsletter (link above) and states:

Remember: not all infants that are breastfed by HIV+ mothers get HIV; the risk of getting HIV decreases with exclusive breastfeeding; breastmilk protects against infections, take away that and increase the number of infective agents that are fed to the child through the cows milk, feeding method, etc and the likely hood of that child becoming ill and possibly dying are raised enormously - depending on the situation, much more than the risk of getting HIV. It is this because of this high risk of morbidity and mortality from not being breastfed in places where providing infant formula (and other breast-milk substitutes, such as cows milk) is not affordable, feasible, acceptable, sustainable and safe (places like rural Rwanda) that the guidelines have come down so heavily on the side of exclusive breastfeeding.

It is wonderful that she managed to fund raise but perhaps it could have been used to teach local community health workers and others how to counsel women to exclusively breastfeed - studies in S.Africa and else where clearly show that quality counselling can improve exclusive breastfeeding rates and therefore reduce HIV transmission.

For more on the South Africa study (the Coovardia study, published in the Lancet) see:

Friday, July 13, 2007

Trading Standards abandons infants and the law

Yesterday I wrote of the prohibited claims that baby food companies in the UK are using on new formula labels. One of the companies responsible is Wyeth, makers of SMA. The company is based in Maidenhead, Berkshire. Baby Milk Action and others have reported the new labels as having claims that are not permitted under the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations 1995. They also contain idealizing text and images, also prohibited by the law. This is despite the Food Standards Agency writing to the baby food companies reminding them they can only use the 6 claims as specified in the 1995 legislation.

Yesterday I said I was sympathetic to Trading Standards as they are over worked and under resourced, but I hoped they would bring prosecutions soon, particularly after the Public Health Minister said they had been encouraged to enforce the legislation.

News reaches me today, however, that the home authority for Wyeth/SMA is refusing to enforce the law.

According to the Trading Standards officer who relayed the decision of the home authority: "This was because the 1995 regulations are about to be revoked and replaced."

Draft revised regulations have indeed put out to consultation. But there are several key facts that make the decision by the home authority, which I understand to be Buckinghamshire County Council, a scandalous failure to fulfill their legal obligations.

Firstly, the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations 1995 are still in force. They have been in force for 12 years and companies have been allowed to break the provisions during that time. At the end of 2006 the Food Standards Agency wrote to the companies reminding them of their obligations regarding labelling. The new labels have been much anticipated and it is absurd that having warned companies to abide by the 1995 law, no action is going to be taken as they continue to break it.

Secondly, the Minister for Public Health said just 3 weeks ago that Trading Standards had been encouraged to enforce the legislation. Here is the exchange with Lynne Jones MP recorded in Hansard:

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action she is taking to encourage relevant authorities to prosecute companies that continue to make claims on infant formula labels and promotional material for baby milk which are non-compliant with current legislation. [143720]

Caroline Flint: The local authorities coordinators of regulatory services issued updated guidance in late 2006 to clarify the types of claims about infant formula that are prohibited. All local authority enforcement offices have been made aware of the new guidance and encouraged to enforce the United Kingdom legislation to ensure companies comply with the rules on claims.


How can we make sense of Trading Standards refusing to enforce the legislation?

Did the Government Minister (who has now moved post following Gordon Brown becoming Prime Minister) mislead Parliament?

Or is it Trading Standards that is unilaterally deciding to ignore the legislation?

This is what the message relayed by Trading Standards to a member of the public who had complained about the SMA label explains:

---Quote begins

To conclude the home Authority Officer has a meeting arranged with the company on the 20th of July were the matters raised by you and others will be raised and discussions on the new regulations and their possible implications will take place.

Therefore as the regulations are the subject of an FSA consultancy with stakeholders at the present time and the home authority are aware of concerns re advertising and “idealise" no further actions will be taken at present. The situation can be re-assed in the light of any new interpretations/guidelines when the new regulations come into force.
---quote ends

The new regulations will come into force in 2008. There is likely to be a delay while guidelines are prepared by LACORS (the umbrella body for Traidng Standards). The regulations for the 1995 legislation took 2 years to finalise. So it could be 2010 before new guidelines appear. The industry then may be given a grace period of a few months to make any required changes and existing labels allowed to work through the system. Use-by dates may be up to 2 years in the future.

This means it could be 2012 before illegal labels are removed from the market if the Home Authority Trading Standards officer follows this route.

That to my mind is neglect of duty bordering on collusion with the company.

Refusing to enforce the law currently in force betrays infants and mothers.

Simply put, the rule of law no longer functions in this area - at least in Maidenhead.

Unless Trading Standards take legal action following up on the letter sent to the companies over 6 months ago these labels could be on the shelves for the next 5 years. Wyeth does not deserve to be treated with kid gloves. Remember the company already has a criminal conviction for a 'cynical and deliberate breach' of the regulations for illegal advertising of infant formula.

Although it is irrelevant for Trading Standards to talk about what possible future legislation will contain in refusing to act now, let us just consider what the draft, revised legislation has to say.

It can be downloaded at:

The relevant text in the draft is:

---Section 17 (extract)
(3) The labelling of an infant formula shall not include—
(a) any picture of an infant; or
(b) any other picture or text which may idealise the use of the product, but may include graphic representations for easy identification of the product or for illustrating methods of preparation.

(4) The labelling of an infant formula may bear nutrition and health claims only when—
(a) the claim is listed in the first column of Annex IV and is expressed in the terms set out there; and
(b) the condition specified in the second column of Annex IV in relation to the relevant claim made in the first column is satisfied.

Here is the relevant text from the existing law:

---Section 13 (extract)
(2) The labelling of an infant formula shall not include—
(a) any picture of an infant;
(b) any other picture or text which may idealise the use of the product,but may include graphic representations for easy identification of the product or for illustrating methods of preparation.

(3) The labelling of an infant formula shall include a claim concerning the composition of the product only when—
(a) the claim is listed in column 1 of Schedule 4, and is expressed in the terms there set out; and
(b) the condition specified in column 2 of that Schedule in relation to the relevant claim made in column 1 is satisfied.

Yep. You've got it.

The draft law and the existing law are exactly the same.

Trading Standards saying it has to wait for the new law to come in is a bogus argument that seems intended to shut people up complaining and to delay action.

(There have been some changes to the list of claims in Annex/Schedule 4, which is specified by the European Union, but it does not include the 'new improved protein balance' or 'easily digested' claims on the SMA formula).

There are idealizing text and images. Such as the slogan 'Love the milk you give', a new SMA logo incorporating a stylised breastfeeding woman and a photo of a woman.

This is the label.

So there you have it. This label could be on the shelves until 2012 despite the fact it contains text and images prohibited under existing law and the draft revised law.

Despite the fact that a Government Minister has said Trading Standards have been encouraged to enforce the legislation.

The most frustrating part of this scandal is the following.

Trading Standards, backed with resources from the public interest fund of the Food Standards Agency, should be bringing a prosecution to have this - and the other non-compliant labels - removed from the market with immediate effect.

Instead, Baby Milk Action, a small organisation operating on a shoe-string budget, is now having to investigate taking action against Trading Standards for failing to carry out its statutory duties.

At present we have no funding for our UK-specific campaigning, so donations and merchandise purchases are welcome.

It looks like we are going to be busy on this one for a while yet.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Aptamil joins the rest waiting for Trading Standards

A new label for Aptamil formulas reaches shelves in the UK following the crack down on illegal claims by the authorities. But if you read the law then look at the label it seems it is still breaking it. The question is, will the authorities act as they have so far failed to do over the claims on new labels from Heinz/Farley's, Cow & Gate and SMA?

You will recall there are 6 claims that may be made on labels under the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations 1995. The conditions for making the claim and the text that can be used is defined.

After 12 years of campaigning, the authorities finally wrote to the companies reminding them of the facts and informing them explicitely that they cannot use claims such as:

* Omega 3 LCPs for development.
* Nucleotides help growth and the immune system.
* Beta-carotene helps the immune system.
* Prebiotics supporting baby's natural defences
* Closer than ever to breast milk.

Here is the new Aptamil label.

Now does the manufacturer, NUMICO (which owns the Milupa and Aptamil brands) really think it will get away with 'Inspired by breastmilk', when it has been told it can only use the 6 claims permitted by the law? When it has been told 'closer to breastmilk' is an example of an non-compliant claim?

Clearly it does. It is daring Trading Standards to take action. It is daring the Food Standards Agency to dip into its fund for backing a public interest prosecution.

Remember, too, that according to a Department of Health survey, 34% of women incorrectly believe that infant formula is the same, or almost the same, as breastmilk. See: 'Myths stop women giving babies the best start in life' at:

How could the women have picked up that impression, one wonders?

NUMICO is also trying it on with this made up word 'immunofortis'. What on earth is that? Something to fortify the immune system, one would imagine, but such a claim is not permitted by the law. The claim is in the name.

According to the back of the label: "Milupa Aptamil First contains Immunofortis, a patented mix of prebiotics inspired by those found in breastmilk. Breastmilk strengthens a baby's natural immune system helping to prevent infections and allergies."

The companies have been told that claims such as: "Prebiotics supporting baby's natural defences" are not permitted. Does NUMICO think it can get away with saying the self same thing in a different way? Yup.

You'll notice the label has a cute polar bear image. Perhaps they are moving on from teddy bears as polar bears have been in the news so much recently with film of the Arctic ice caps melting. Seems they are trying to tap into the zeitgeist for cuteness.

But what does the law have to say about such images: "13 (2) The labelling of an infant formula shall not include (a) any picture of an infant; (b) any other picture or text which may idealise the use of the product."

Plenty of idealizing text.

Are polar bears idealizing? Well, they are there for a reason and if it is not to idealize the product, to make to people look at it and smile, then I can't think what else it might be.

There is plenty for Trading Standards to get their teeth into here, even if they want to limit legal action to the bang to rights, bleedin' obvious, non-compliant stuff.

What did the Public Health Minister say the other day? Ah, yes:

"All local authority enforcement offices have been made aware of the new guidance and encouraged to enforce the United Kingdom legislation to ensure companies comply with the rules on claims."

You can read it in Hansard.

Will they be encouraged we wonder? It's not just Aptamil, remember. Here are some other bleedin' obvious non-compliant claims.

Heinz/Farley's new label
has a banner on the front: "with omega-3 LCPs".

NUMICO/Cow & Gate's new label has a flash on the front: "prebiotic care".

Wyeth/SMA's new label has a whole host of things: "improved protein balance", "easily digested" and idealizing claims and images "love the milk you give", a breastfeeding mother in the logo and a picture of a mother.

As you know, we are campaigning to have the UK law strengthened. You can send a message to the Public Health Minister supporting this.

We must press on with this campaign to tighten labelling regulations and to stop the aggressive marketing that goes on as described in our Hard Sell Formula pamphlet.

But sometimes I can't help thinking what is the point of having a law in the UK if the one we already have is not enforced?

I very much hope I will be able to applaud the officers responsible by them announcing soon that prosecutions are being brought.

I am sympathetic. I know Trading Standards officers are over worked and under resourced.

I know that when Birmingham Trading Standards took on Wyeth/SMA in 2003 in ended with an 8-day court case, with the Chief Executive being described by the Judge as 'extra-ordinarily evasive throughout his cross-examination'.

But Birmingham Trading Standards won!


So here are four clear cases to pursue. And they are not just labelling violations. It is a matter of public health.

That's why the Public Health Minister has said Trading Standards are 'encouraged to enforce the UK legislation'.

Let's see Trading Standards chalk up some more landmark court victories please.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Putting processed effluent into formula

Do you know why infant formula is called 'formula'? It is because at the end of the 19th century a tailored and complex formula was written for the ingredients of the concoction to be fed to each baby.

As Gabrielle Palmer writes in The Politics of Breastfeeding: "This was seen as a matter of life and death, as Charles Warrington Earle stated at a meeting of the American Medical Association in 1888: 'One food nourished a given baby well, but may, if administered persistently, kill the next baby.' A variation of 0.1 per cent of an ingredient was thought to be crucial. The mother had to return every few weeks to have the formula adjusted."

A mothers breastmilk does, of course, vary throughout a feed and from day to day as the baby grows, tailored to its nutritional needs. As a mother produces antibodies to infections in the environment, these are also passed to the child as a dose of medicine with every feed. Medical science now, as one hundred years ago, cannot repicate this, however complicated a formula is written.

Gay continues: "However when this cult of individuality became commercially inconvenient to the doctors it rapidly went out of fashion."

There was another factor in play. The milk food first produced by Henri Nestlé and the condensed milk Nestlé produced after merging with the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company in 1905. Other companies also entered the market with condensed and evaporated milks for infant feeding.

From the Politics of Breastfeeding again: "In the milk-producing countries, improvements in dairy production led to whey surpluses that prompted the search for a market outlet. Whey became the base for artificial baby milk as it is today, not because research proved it to be the most suitable food, but because it was there and it was cheap."

I suppose we could look on this as efficient use of resources, using an otherwise waste product for feeding for infants. Of course, nearly all infants already had a ready supply of food - their mother's breastmilk - so this had to be supplanted to provide a use for the whey surpluses.

Over a hundred years later and in Australia we learn that: "A $50 MILLION business to produce a vital ingredient that helps infant formula better mimic breast milk was launched yesterday."

A new factory is being built. According to The Standard:

---Quote begins
The plant will turn the low value cheese by-product whey into Vivinal GOS, a crucial component in the $25 billion global infant formula market.

Warrnambool Cheese and Butter chief executive officer Neil Kearney said the GOI plant was expected to export $30 million in product by 2010, processing the whey from WCB's annual 40,000-tonne cheese production.

"What we will be selling is about 15,000 tonnes of product of GOS, which is the lactose derivative we will extract from the whey,'' he said.

"It is our single biggest joint venture but most importantly it is adding a lot of value to what is primarily waste for us.''


CB chairman David Karpin said the GOI project would be a financial winner, reduce WCB's effluent output and help with water efficiency.

---quote ends

It is interesting to see this dressed up as an environmental gain, reducing effluent output and helping with water efficiency. Promoting formula use in place of breastfeeding, as the baby food companies do, is to replace the most locally produced food that exists with one that uses energy and pollutes in its production.

In tackling climate change, governments should consider the impact of aggressiving marketing of baby foods in undermining breastfeeding. There is an environmental case for implementing the World Health Assembly (WHA) marketing requirements as well as health and social ones.

The UK Government does not include this in its Regulatory Impact Assessment for the draft Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations, though this is supposed to consider sustainability and environmental issues.

With over 700,000 infants born in the UK each year and a quarter being formula fed from birth, bringing the law into line with the WHA requirements could make a valuable contribution to meeting carbon reduction targets, not through compelling mothers to breastfeed, but by respecting their right to accurate information and support. According to the government's own survey 9 out of 10 women who stopped breastfeeding during the first 6 months, said they had not breastfed as long as they wanted. And while initiation rates in the UK are just 76%, in Sweden they are 98%. The difference between the countries is not biological, but fundamentally political.

Mothers in the UK stop breastfeeding earlier than they want because we fail them.

That may be good news for industries looking to make profit from effluent, but it is not good news for infants and mothers.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Synchronising action on water

I've written in the past about my São Lourenço hat and its significance. São Lourenço is an historic spa town in Brazil, where I spent some of my honeymoon unkowing that the water park on which the city lives was being destroyed by Nestlé illegally pumping water for bottling as 'Pure Life'. This is its global brand for developing countries. After a ten year battle, Nestlé agreed to stop pumping. But water remains one of its major brands. Having entered the market in 1992 with the purchase of Perrier, it has gobbled up - or should that be glugged down - many, many other brands. Our experience of company PR strategies is very relevant to the issues around water.

Two things happened on water last week that prompt be to return to this topic.

Firstly, people are waking up to the rather obvious fact that bottled water is extremely wasteful. It is transported around the country, and even internationally. In fact, I predict there will be efforts to market water for claimed medical benefits of its mineral composition (Nestlé is involved in the establishment of a government committee in Brazil that will certify claims that will be on labels). It is in bottles, that use resources in their manufacture and disposal. And an awful lot of effort is put into promoting it.

Last week in the coverage of the Live Earth concerts there were some comments on the inefficiency of bottled water compared to tap water. And remember in the UK at least, tap water often wins out in blind taste testing of different waters. In fact, we had a famous public relations disaster for Coca Cola a few years ago when it was revealed that its Dasani brand, launched as 'one of the purest waters around' was, in fact, bottled in a plant that was hooked up to the water mains. Coca Cola did process it (reverse osmosis) and added salts, but that also created problems as a batch of half a million bottles became infected with bromate, a potentially dangerous chemical.

In advice on taking personal action to combat climate change comes the suggestion of drinking tap water instead of bottled water, not just at home, but asking for it in restaurants. According to a report in The Mirror tap water takes 300 times less energy to provide than bottled water. There are some figures for the distances travelled by bottled water in this Food Commission article.

One of my attempts at humour when taking the stage at the Tap Water Awards, the corporate-free alternative to the Nestlé Perrier Awards, was on this theme. Nestlé took over Pow-Wow water a few years ago, the biggest distributer of mineral water in Europe. Researching this to add it to the boycott list, I found a claim that Pow-Wow is so efficient distribution that it good get water from the ground to your office in just 5 days. Wow! So efficient. The only way they could do better than that would be to run a pipe from the source all the way to the office so you just had to, er, turn on the tap. Crazy idea. Well, that was my joke.

Now, this is a threat to business. So we may expect some sort of PR spin from Nestlé, Coca Cola and others in the industry.

Oh, the other thing that happened last week.

Business leaders who have signed up to the UN Global Compact, a voluntary code that was introduced to head off regulation of transnational corporations. They have launched a Global Water Mandate pledge, which according to the UN is a pledge: "to set water-use targets, assist suppliers with water-efficiency practices and partner with governments, policy makers and community groups to address water shortages and sanitation."

I don't have a problem with business being less harmful and considering others. But I sense there is another agenda in play. Who are the companies involved? Two of the six have been mentioned above: Nestlé and Coca Cola. Both with a poor record when it comes to respecting community groups and national legislation.

They want to look good on water. Great if they do something to lessen their exploitation of water, improving the efficiency of their operations. But eye-catching pledges don't amount to much when their practices are otherwise and when they have clear business interests to protect.

Maybe it is a coincidence that the call to dump bottled water and the pledge come in the same week. Maybe not. Certainly it is something that companies will point to in future to try to divert criticism.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Nestlé-Free Zones continue

International Nestlé-Free Week may have come to an end on Sunday, but the boycott continues until Nestlé accepts and abides by the four-point plan put to it by boycott coorindators. Thanks to your efforts in promoting the boycott to new people during Nestlé-Free Week many more people will have become aware of it and some of those will continue to put pressure on Nestlé. For those that can only be persuaded to give up Nestlé products for one week a year, plans are already being discussed for next time!

The Nestlé-Free Zone banner advertisement has now been updated. If put this on your site or blog using the code we provided it will automatically have updated. If not, you will still be proclaiming it is Nestlé-Free Wee from 2-8 July, so best to add the code now, which you will find at:

This is what the banner looks like today (this one is frozen in time for historical reasons).

It flags up that Nestlé's Public Affairs Manager has acknowledeged in a letter that Nestlé is 'widely boycotted'. This was the finding of an independent poll conducted by GMIPoll that found Nestlé was one of the four most boycotted companies on the planet. The banners link to the Nestlé-Free Zone, which links to the press release about this. Here is the direct link to the press release:

In the Philippines, they publicised the week with a photograph of a mother which had been displayed in a shop. She is appears holding a sign saying she is a shop lifter and the tin of NIDO whole milk she had tried to steal. As the UNICEF Philippines film shows, mothers are misled into believing their children will be more intelligent if fed with formula and processed milks. Those that give up breastfeeding may overdilute formula to make it last longer or use unsuitable milks such as NIDO (which Nestlé promotes alongside the infant formula in the infant feeding sections of pharmacies and supermarkets in many countries - a practice is has refused to stop). Those that cannot afford NIDO may be driven to steal.

The impact of Nestlé-Free Week continues. Today we were visited by a news crew from a national television channel, preparing a piece to go out in Asia. Hopefully I'll be able to link to that on the internet once it goes out next week.

We went out and did some leafleting to film. If any of you have tried this, you will know how motivating it can be. Sure, some people blank you and don't want to take a leaflet, but many do with lots of those making a point of saying they support the campaign.

Remember you can download leaflets and posters from our website and order other materials from our on-line Virtual Shop.

Let's spread those Nestlé-Free Zones far and wide and keep on encouraging people to sign our boycott petition and tell Nestlé they boycott.