Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Where is the proof?

Can you trust Baby Milk Action to tell the truth? There are two answers to this question.

The first is : YES!

The second is : Look to the evidence and challenge us if you want more.

Sometimes it is necessary to spend the time to dig into the substance of the campaign, because Nestlé uses a strategy I call mid-point bias. Basically it says whatever sounds reasonable, regardless of the truth, in the hope confused on-lookers will conclude the truth must lie somewhere between what Baby Milk Action says and what it says. In reality, we stand on the spot marked truth. Regardless of anything else, Nestlé would sue us to oblivion if we stepped off it! See:

Someone did challenge us a few weeks ago to substantiate two of the claims on our Give Nescafé the boot flier.

Rather than photocopy of load of stuff from the files and stick it in the post, I have written a new entry for our Your Questions Answered section of the website, with substantiation for every point on the flier, with links to as many of the documents I could find on-line or scan myself.

You can see it here:

I'll give you a flavour with an examination of this claim on our flier:

"According to UNICEF: 'Improved breastfeeding practices and reduction of artificial feeding could save an estimated 1.5 million children a year'."

This quote is from the State of the World’s Children 2001. Available at: http://www.unicef.org/sowc01/maps/maps/map1nf.htm

It has been given in various other forms by UNICEF and WHO. The UNICEF website states (on 14 August 2007):

"It has been estimated that improved breastfeeding practices could save some 1.5 million children a year. Yet few of the 129 million babies born each year receive optimal breastfeeding and some are not breastfed at all. Early cessation of breastfeeding in favour of commercial breastmilk substitutes, needless supplementation, and poorly timed complementary practices are still too common. Professional and commercial influences combine to discourage breastfeeding, as do continued gaps in maternity legislation."

In a 1997 press release responding to the independent Cracking the Code report UNICEF stated:

"Marketing practices that undermine breastfeeding are potentially hazardous wherever they are pursued: in the developing world, WHO estimates that some 1.5 million children die each year because they are not adequately breastfed. These facts are not in dispute."

However, the figures are disputed by Nestlé. How it does so, I've analysed in detail at:

In 1995 Baby Milk Action was required to defend the statistic before the Advertising Standards Authority after stating in a Nestlé boycott advertisement:

"Every day, more than 4,000 babies die because they're not breastfed. That's not conjecture, it's UNICEF fact."

We did so successfully and, as the ASA report notes, this was with the support of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

A 2003 study in the Lancet examined the question “How many child deaths can we prevent this year?” and concluded that promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding is potentially a more effective health intervention than provision of save water, sanitation and vaccination. Improved breastfeeding rates could prevent 13% of under-5 deaths in the 42 countries where most occur, amounting to 1.3 million. Appropriate introduction of complementary foods could prevent 6% of deaths.

You can find plenty more information responding to questions people have raised at:

For an in-depth look at the history of the campaign look at the response to an awful article published by the British Journal of Midwifery a while ago which we see as part of Nestlé's strategy to sponsor health workers in the UK to break into the market here.

There are two ways to approach information on this issue. If Nestlé says something that contradicts Baby Milk Action you can safely assume they are using deceit to try to divert attention. Or you can investigate in depth and see for yourself the documentary evidence backs Baby Milk Action's position.

Really you should do the latter, because why are we any more deserving of your trust than anyone else? But if time is short, please remember Nestlé's track record and it's mid-point bias strategy, and do the former.

1 comment:

Crepuscule said...

Cartoon demonstrating the faults of midpoint bias here