Friday, February 29, 2008

UK court case over - now its time to prosecute the companies for illegal labelling

The industry challenge to the UK Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations at the High Court in London came to an end today with the Judge ruling that companies will have 2 years to bring labels into line with the 2007 version of the Regulations which were due to come into force on 11 January 2008. Companies will have to comply with all other parts of the Regulations immediately.

Baby Milk Action presented evidence to the court suggesting that as labels on the market are non-compliant with the 1995 version of the Regulations and companies have already been warned by Trading Standards they must change these labels, it would have made far more sense to comply directly with the 2007 Regulations.

Now that the ruling has been made, Baby Milk Action is calling for Trading Standards to act to take illegal labels off the market. Both 1995 and 2007 Regulations only allow a limited range of claims on labels. Many of those currently in use are not on the list, including:

* Immunofortis
* Prebiotics and Prebiotic care
* New improved protein balance
* Easily digested

Both the 1995 and 2007 Regulations also prohibit idealizing text and images from labels. Trading Standards have already warned various companies they must change their labels to comply.

Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action said: "This will hopefully be a hollow victory for the companies as we have been able to present evidence to the court showing that labels on the market are non-compliant with both the 1995 and 2007 version of the Regulations. Companies introduced new labels from April 2007 after being reminded of the these provisions by the authorities, but have not removed all non-compliant claims, so let us hope they will now move to prosecute. The public have been subjected to this misleading promotion for far too long.

"We did want the 2007 labelling provisions to come into force so companies would bring their warnings and instructions into line with the Food Standards Agency guidance to parents to reduce the risks of possible contamination with harmful bacteria. The FSA introduced their guidance to parents in 2005 and it is very troubling that companies have won this delay until 2010 - this unwillingness to provide essential information shows the contempt with which companies treat those parents who do use formula."

Full press release will be available on the Baby Milk Action website shortly. See:

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Member of Parliament defends Nestlé after jolly to South Africa

We exposed in our Update 37 newsletter in December 2005 how Tom Levitt MP (High Peak) defended Nestlé's baby food marketing activities when questioned over accepting free tickets to the Wimbledon tennis competition.

Now he has topped that by going on a Nestlé-funded jolly to South Africa and writing in glowing terms about Nestlé support for an HIV charity and for, so he says, cleaning up its baby food marketing business.

You can see the article in the Buxton Advertiser at:

I have sent the following message to the newspaper and direct to Mr. Levitt with an invitation to meet so we can provide him with objective and accurate information about Nestlé practices.

---Letter for publication
It would appear that Tom Levitt MP was taken in by Nestlé misinformation on his recent jolly to Africa as the company's guest. He writes: "Thirty years ago Nestlé's practices in marketing infant formula inappropriately were condemned across the world. Today they have cleaned up their act. Their marketing and distribution practices are tougher and tighter even than international agreements require." Sorry Tom, but this is utter rubbish as the results of a global monitoring project with evidence from 67 countries demonstrated in the report Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules, published in November 2007. This shows Nestlé continues to break international marketing standards in a systematic way and is the worst of the baby food companies. Perhaps you didn't notice and Nestlé didn't tell you, but as you were enjoying Nestlé hospitality, it was promoting formula with prohibited advertising in supermarkets in South Africa - I am sending you an example found in Johannesburg in December 2007. Such shelf talkers are a clear violation of the World Health Assembly marketing requirements for breastmilk substitutes, as are the health claims on the labels.

Mike Brady
Campaigns and Networking Coordinator
Baby Milk Action

Here is the shelf-talker which will feature on our March 2008 Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet.

Article 5.1 of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes states: "There should be no advertising or other form of promotion to the general public of products within the scope of this Code."

To make it even clearer, Article 5.3 states: "In conformity with paragraphs 1 and 2 of this Article, there should be no point-of-sale advertising..."

Nestlé breaks the Code.

For information on how Nestlé is exploiting the HIV tragedy for its own financial gain, see:

The above shelf talker was found in Johannesburg in December 2008, the same town where Mr. Levitt visited at Nestlé expense.

His entry in the UK Parliament's Register of Members Interests states: "7-14 February 2008, to South Africa, looking at corporate social responsibility. Flights, accommodation and other costs, in Cape Town and Johannesburg, paid for by Nestlé UK."

Other MPs accepting Nestlé hospitality in the current register are:

David Gauke (Hertfordshire South West): 4 July 2007, my wife and I were guests of Nestlé Waters at Wimbledon.

Siân James (Swansea East)
: 7-14 February 2008, to South Africa, looking at corporate social responsibility. Flights, accommodation and other costs, in Cape Town and Johannesburg, paid for by Nestlé UK.

Linda Riordan (Halifax): 7-14 February 2008, study tour of South Africa, looking at corporate responsibility. Flights, accommodation and other costs, in Cape Town and Johannesberg, paid for by Nestlé UK.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

See you in court?

The High Court battle between the baby food industry on one side and the UK government and health campaigners on the other begins tomorrow and is scheduled for two days. You can come along if you can make it to London. It is open to the public. See British justice in operation.

Strictly speaking this is the battle by the industry against the English and Welsh Ministers. Last week we had the court battle in Scotland, where we are still waiting for a judgement. The court case in Northern Ireland will take place after the High Court battle.

So that's three court cases and, as you might imagine, the industry is wanting to keep us out of court. They opposed our involvement in Scotland, but we attended the case as observers to here the arguments. The issue is ostensibly about labelling. The industry thinks it should not have to comply with the labelling provisions of the 2007 Regulations until 2010. In Scotland it tried to extend this to other provisions of the Regulations, such as advertising and the case was postponed by the Judge as he asked to the industry to make up their mind.

In the UK the focus is on the labelling requirements. Again the industry is opposed to us being involved. Here, however, we have been accepted by the court as an 'interested party' in our own name and as members of the Baby Feeding Law Group and Breastfeeding Manifesto Coalition. We have managed to submit written evidence and a witness statement and are very grateful to supporters for the financial support that has made this possible.

We will be able to say more as the case unfolds, but have issued a press release today with information on the grounds for the case, which links to the press release of the Food Standards Agency, and our view of why the industry is pursuing this case. See:

And watch this space!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Rebranding this blog

It is time to re-brand this blog and I am looking for your suggestions on what it should be called.

I'm prompted to do so because, as I wrote yesterday, a post about conflicts of interests in accepting sponsorship from companies with a financial interest in infant feeding decisions was taken as a call to boycott a nipple cream company. This led to some misinformed comments about the boycott 'going too far' in targeting a breastfeeding product.

I already have much too much to do to spend time responding to criticisms of things I have never said, but I was interested to know how this misconception arose and so registered with the dicussion forum involved and posed the question.

This prompted someone to provide the following insight as part of the answer: "I think the confusion arises from the name of the website: "boycott nestle"..."

The blog was called : "Boycott Nestlé - Protect Infants". It does, of course, cover a lot to do with the boycott, but, as it has always explained, covers other areas of Baby Milk Action's work in protecting infants. To try to stop future misunderstandings I think it is time to re-brand the blog and I have already given it a provisional new title: "Mike Brady's Baby Milk Action blog". It has my name in it because it is, to some extent, a personal view of the topics involved.

But I'm open to suggestions for better titles for the blog. So feel free to post them here. You may also have views about the name Baby Milk Action. There have been times when people have seen the name and think the organisation exists to donate baby milk.

I'll also investigate migrating the blog to another URL. The links currently all begin with which may also cause some confusion.

The danger, of course, is the focus may go off Nestlé, which is the worst of the companies in terms of violations and in terms of opposing the internationally agreed marketing standards and our work to see them implemented in enforceable measures.

So feedback welcome.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Some clarity on what is and what is not on our boycott list

Oh dear. I understand someone has linked to a past post of mine about who owns Lansinoh, incorrectly claiming we are calling for a boycott of this nipple cream because it is owned by a feeding bottle company that violates the World Health Assembly marketing requirements for these products.

I don't know how these things happen. The blog is about conflicts of interest in sponsorship of health workers and materials and suggests there needs to thought about the appropriateness of accepting funding from a company that violates the marketing requirements. You can read the blog here:

How that was read as a call for mothers who use nipple cream to stop doing so is a mystery. If you can shed any light, please let me know.

There is not even a boycott call on Pigeon, the owner of Lansinoh. Its malpractice is targeted by other means, such as the exposé on that earlier blog.

Nestlé is singled out for boycott action because it is the worst of the companies when it comes to violating the marketing requirements for baby foods.

But note well, the boycott does not target Nestlé formula, it targets other Nestlé products. In the UK, the primary focus is on Nescafé coffee, though we list all the products from which Nestlé profits - except the formula so boycott supporters can avoid them all if they wish.

The boycott, and all our work holding baby food companies to account, aims to compel companies to abide by the internationally-agreed marketing standards. We have a lot of success in achieving this. The marketing requirements exist to protect breastfeeding AND to ensure breastmilk substitutes are used safely if necessary.

So if the boycott is an effective campaigning strategy and is helping to save lives, why don't we include Nestlé formula on the boycott list? Because there may be times when Nestlé formula is all that is available for a child that has to be fed on formula and our primary concern is the well-being of children.

However much Nestlé tries to give a different impression, we are not calling for formula to be banned or boycotted, just for it to be marketed appropriately, which means in line with international standards.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Nestle backsliding on its claim to abide by 6 months recommedation for introduction of complementary foods

You need eternal vigilence with Nestlé. In 2003 it caved it with its opposition to World Health Assembly Resolutions, adopted from 1994, which said that the appropriate age for introducing complementary foods is 6 months of age.

Nestlé refused to accept the validity of the Resolution WHA 47.5 from 1994 and it took 9 years of campaigning and further Resolutions until, during a week of demonstrations in the UK, Nestlé announced it was 'taking the lead' in re-labelling complementary foods for use from 6 months, rather than 4 months or earlier. See our press release from the time at:

Now we have news that Nestlé is trying to corner the market in infant nutrition products with a new line called NutriNes. According to a report on the website Nutraingredients, Nestlé boasts the food will be 100% natural and the technology used: "perfectly preserve the taste of the ingredients and their nutritional quality."


The website also reports: "A spokesperson told that the food will be aimed at infants over the age of four months."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

House of Lords debate - government committed to 12-month review of formula Regulations

Yesterday I wrote about the House of Lords debate on the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations 2007. Baroness Finlay called for stronger regulations, but withdrew her move for weak version presented by the government to be annulled as the government indicated they would be strengthened if a 12-month review found this to be necessary.

Baroness Harnham, for the Conservatives, supported the annulment or delay of the Regulations, in line with the position of party leader, David Cameron MP, who has called for the Regulations to be scrapped. She questioned whether parents who use formula should be warned that powdered infant formula is not sterile and instructions on how to reduce the risks of possible contamination with harmful bacteria.

As I wrote on Monday, the Conservative tactic is ill-informed because if the 2007 Regulations fall, the baby food industry will immediately be criminalised as labels on the market breach the 1995 version of the Regulations, which would remain in force. We have long called for companies to be prosecuted under these and it will become more pressing to use the Regulations if the updated ones go back to the drawing board. See:

Though we were disappointed that the recommendations of the Baby Feeding Law Group and the government's own advisors were rejected in drafting the 2007 Regulations in favour of the industry plea to do the minimum possible, we prefer the review process to begin immediately. It was, therefore, very welcome that the government again voiced strong commitment to this in the House of Lords debate and for the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.

Here is an extract from the Hansard record of the debate. See:

---extract begins
Baroness Thornton:[For the government] I recognise that several NGOs, including the Baby Milk Action Group, the National Childbirth Trust, the Breastfeeding Manifesto Coalition and others are calling for further regulations to ban all advertising and promotion of breastmilk substitutes, including follow-on formula, and want the Government to implement the entire WHO code on the marketing of breastmilk substitutes. The Government are determined to take tough action to stamp out marketing, promotion and advertising practices which undermine breastfeeding directly and indirectly. Indeed, this is evidenced by the Government’s Choosing Health White Paper, which made a commitment to review the relevant provisions of the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations 1995, with a view further to restrict the promotion of infant formula. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, will accept this reassurance.

I assure noble Lords that the Government’s new controls are as tight as possible within the constraints of the EU law and have been specifically drafted to address loopholes in the 1995 regulations which allow manufacturers to market and promote their products in ways that do not enable UK consumers clearly to differentiate between infant formula and follow-on formula when purchasing products, and which bypasses restrictions on advertising of infant formula by labelling and advertising follow-on formula in such a way that it is often difficult to distinguish the practice from advertising for infant formula. This is unacceptable and the Government are determined to take tough action to remove this confusion. In this way the new directive and regulations provide for increased consumer protection compared with the previous infant formula legislation.

The key changes include: updated rules on the composition of all types of formula; tighter rules on the labelling of all types of formula; tighter restrictions relating to the marketing and promotion of infant formula; requirements for companies to label, present and advertise infant formula and follow-on formula in such a way as to avoid confusion between them in the mind of the consumer; a requirement for companies to make clear on the product packaging that follow-on formula should be used only by infants from six months of age; restrictions on the number of health and nutrition claims that can be used on infant formula; and the introduction of national notification requirements, which allow European Union countries to monitor the marketing of new infant formula more effectively.

The Government will also be introducing robust guidance for industry and enforcement authorities on how correctly to apply the new law. The guidance will make it very clear that advertising practice for follow-on formula must change and formula for older babies must be clearly labelled and advertised such that it is clearly distinguishable from infant formula. This is necessary because advertisements for follow-on formula, which may include presentation of the packaged and labelled product, have the potential to be seen as adverts for infant formula, a practice which is specifically prohibited so as not to undermine government advice that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months.

These tough new measures will give effect to the principles and aims of the WHO code on the marketing of breastmilk substitutes and will protect breastfeeding by substantially restricting advertising, requiring proper labelling and prohibiting the donation of any informational or educational material by formula manufacturers unless it has been specifically authorised by the Government, prohibiting the advertising of infant formula to the public, and prohibiting any follow-on formula advertising which promotes infant formula. I hope that this will go some way to meeting the noble Baroness’s points.

In addition, the Government have given a further and key commitment to provide an independently chaired review of the new controls. That point has been recognised by other noble Lords. If after time it is found that the new arrangements are not working effectively or delivering the necessary level of protection for babies, because the arrangements have been circumvented or because new methods of promotion emerge, the Government will respond proportionately and consider taking further legislative action.

Lord Avebury:My Lords, how can the Government take further legislative action when the noble Baroness has told us that the regulations are as tightly drawn as they possibly could have been under the directive?

Baroness Thornton:My Lords, the point is that the independent review after the controls are in place will allow us to assess whether or not this is working. If it is not working, as my honourable friend in another place said, the Government are determined to take action and to make this work. We are confident that this package is effective, proportionate and evidence-based, and, together with the independently chaired review, is a big step forwards in the protection of mothers and babies. As the noble Baroness stated, the Infant and Dietetic Foods Association is challenging the new regulations in England and Wales, which we wanted to come into force on 11 January 2008.


Clearly, we are disappointed by the IDFA’s decision to bring proceedings and the Government are fighting the case because they consider that they have implemented the transitional provisions in line with the obligations of the directive. The Government’s intention and policy objective were clear before the new directive was published in 2006. The industry has been aware since that time of the labelling changes that it will be required to make. The Government are committed to those regulations and will ensure that they apply as soon as possible, taking into account the outcome of the court proceedings.

In conclusion, I reiterate that the Government’s priority is to ensure that infant formula and follow-on formula are clearly labelled so that parents and carers who wish to use those products can do so correctly. I urge the noble Baroness to withdraw her Motion.

---extract ends

Baroness Finlay replied, in part: "I am also glad to hear that there will be an independent review and that the Government intend to take action on it and the background to the timeframe for the introduction of the current regulations, which are currently subject to judicial review. With regard to that background and to the very helpful comments from the Minister, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion."

So the only obstacles to the review process taking place and resulting in stronger regulations if the companies do not clean up their act are the Conservative party call for them to be annulled and the industry's legal challenge.

Baby Milk Action has been attending the court case in Edinburgh and has submitted evidence to the forthcoming High Court case in London. We will say more about what is happening in these cases when it is possible to do so.

We are still in desperate need of financial help for our role in the legal battles and for gathering data for the review process. If you are able to make a contribution, however small, this would be much appreciated. See:

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

House of Lords debate - trying to make formula feeding safer

There was a debate in the UK House of Lords on Monday about the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations 2007. You can read the full text in Hansard here:

The debate was called by Baroness Finlay of Llandaff who challenged the Regulations for not going far enough and so not providing adequate protection for breastfeeding or for parents who use formula. On this latter point she said:

Sadly, some mothers cannot breastfeed, but infant formula should be a fallback choice if breastfeeding is not right for them. Of course, such mothers must not feel stigmatised and safe formula products have been important for many women.

Those mothers need clear information on what is contained in formula products and how to prepare the formula safely. For example, current World Health Organisation guidelines recommend that the water used to mix the formula powder should be 70 degrees centigrade or higher to kill any bacteria and that the formula should then be allowed to cool. However, that information is not on labels, even though the WHO says that it is the single most effective step to reduce the risk of bacterial contamination and that contamination with Enterobacter sakazakii is found in some tins of formula, even before they are opened.

---extract ends

Lord Avebury spoke in favour of implementing the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and referred to information we had submitted to the Lord's' Merit Committee which scrutinises such legislation:

---extract begins

The Merits Committee has drawn to our attention the evidence that it received from a powerful consortium of professional and lay organisations; that is, that these regulations should have banned the advertising of infant milk formula and follow-on formula and that the labelling should include, as the noble Baroness said, a minimum temperature for the water used for mixing. By failing to do so, according to the Baby Feeding Law Group, the regulations undermine the efforts being made by health professionals to see that mothers are provided with scientifically correct advice on the best feeding regime for infants. That point of view is supported by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition and the Local Authority Coordinators of Regulatory Services.

---extract ends

Speaking for the Conservative Party, Baroness Hanham also referred to the need to provide better information to parents and carers who use formula, but advocated two years delay until 2010 before asking companies to bring their instructions into line with that introduced by the Food Standards Agency in 2005. She said in part:

---extract begins

The Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee draws attention to Baby Milk Action’s concerns that the question of labelling giving details of the minimum temperature of water used for mixing the formula does not seem to have been resolved either. It would seem logical that the manufacturers should be involved in discussions as to whether and why this is necessary now, before they have to introduce new labelling, rather than in 12 months’ time, or 12 months after the FSA’s independent review. That is another good reason for giving a proper transition time.

---extract ends

This is the same old industry tactic of delay, delay, delay.

The problem of intrinsic contamination has been known about by the industry for decades. It came to public prominence with the death of a child in Belgium in 2001. The issue has been addressed several times at the World Health Assembly, where the industry lobbies against controls. Both the World Health Organisation and the Food Standards Agency have introduced guidance for parents after a great deal of investigation and thought.

But still Baroness Hanham questions whether it is necessary to inform parents that powdered formula is not sterile and how to reduce the risks, which, remember, can, and have, led to brain damage and death.

Don't forget the government has already bowed to industry pressure and instead off making it a legal requirement to provide this information is only 'recommending' that companies do so.

Cases of infants dying in the industrialised world due to this contamination are rare, though no-one yet knows how much of the greater sickness is due to the all-too-common contamination of infant formula with harmful bacteria. The steps to reduce the risks are simple, they just detract from the message of technological perfection the industry tries to impart with its messages claiming formula is the 'most advanced ever'.

When the parents in Belgium sued Nestlé for failing to warn them of a known risk, they lost on the basis that Nestlé's labels had complied with the law.

Is there a need to re-do the work of the World Health Organisation and Food Standards Agency? I think not. Let us hope that misinformed parents will not have cause to lament this strategy of delay.

The debate ended with Baroness Finlay accepting assurances from the government that the Regulations will be strengthened if they do not work. More on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Conservative Party call to annul Regulations could criminalise UK formula companies

It is surely not their intention but a call by the opposition Conservative Party in the UK House of Lords yesterday for the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations 2007 to be annuled would have immediately criminalised the baby food companies in the UK had it succeeded. The leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron MP, has personally backed a move to strike down the Regulations. As it portrays itself as the party of business, criminalising an industry sector is perhaps not the best way to win friends.

If the 2007 Regulations fall, the 1995 Regulations remain in force. Under the 1995 Regulations, Trading Standards officers could prosecute companies for selling products with claims on labels that are not on a permitted list. We have been calling for this to happen for some time and arguing that as the current labels on the market were produced AFTER the companies were reminded of the provisions of the 1995 Regulations companies deserve no leeway and the products should be re-called and re-labelled. See what needs to change here:

This Heinz/Farley's label shows the possible consequencies of the Conservative call (though I imagine these are unintended consequencies).

The label contains the phrase 'with omega-3 lcps'. This is not permitted by the 1995 Regulations, but Heinz introduced it last year with the agreement of the Food Standards Agency as it was to be included on the permitted list of the 2007 Regulations. So if the 2007 Regulations stand, Heinz is in the clear, at least with regard to this claim (there are other things wrong with the labels). If they are annuled or delayed, Heinz could find itself in front of a judge and facing a criminal conviction.

The companies are in a decidedly sticky situation in any case because they themselves have had the 2007 Regulations suspended in England and Northern Ireland by taking the government to court. In Scotland the courts decided against suspending the Regulations while hearing the case.

The Infant and Dietetic Food Association (IDFA), the trade association which is fighting the law, is claiming it has taken the action to "protect the continued supply of baby milk formula". See:

Its logic is that it needs time to comply with the 2007 Regulations and, it argues, it could, in theory, be required to recall labels that are non compliant until the new labels are ready. It argues it didn't have time to prepare, though the Food Standards Agency told the media it had been discussing the changes with the industry for three years. A recall under the 2007 Regulations is perhaps an unlikely scenario as the enforcement authorities have shown they do not rush such action. We have been waiting for 12 years for action under the 1995 Regulations!

We believe the industry's real concern is that the government has promised to review the 2007 Regulations during the first 12 months of operation and to strengthen them if they are not effective. In the debate in the House of Lords, Labour and Liberal Democrat peers spoke in favour of this approach, while also voicing their concern that the Regulations are far weaker than international standards. I'll give a fuller report on this tomorrow.

Yesterday I wrote about the hospitality that Dr. Miriam Stoppard is offering to health journalists on behalf of Nestlé, which is trying once again to break into the UK formula market, this time using a marketing strategy of sponsoring health workers, who are somewhat reluctant to accept its largesse. As someone commented on that blog, there is a link from Dr. Miriam Stoppard's website to the IDFA website as a source of extra information. Funnily enough I haven't seen any links on the website to independent sources of information such as the government's own NHS Direct website.

Let us hope that if IDFA and the Conservative Party do have their way and the 2007 Regulations fall, enforcement action for the 1995 Regulations will immediately follow. Action over these non-compliant labels is long overdue.

If Heinz is ordered to recall the label introduced in anticipation of the 2007 Regulations, shown as the example above, then the Conservative leader, David Cameron MP, can claim some of the credit.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Nestlé is in a panic in the UK and calls in Dr. Miriam Stoppard and Chris Sidgwick

Nestlé's current strategy to enter the UK market is through attempting to persuade midwives to accept its sponsorship. It invites midwives on all-expenses-paid trips to Vevey in Switzerland and tells them how much it cares. This worked with a terribly inaccurate article published by the British Journal of Midwifery in 2006 - so bad that it calls into question the standards of its peer review process and resulted in the journal publishing an extensive right-to-reply from Baby Milk Action.

Now Dr. Miriam Stoppard, a celebrity author and broadcaster in the UK, has been recruited by Nestlé to invite health journalists to Nestlé's global head quarters in Vevey in Switzerland in March.

She writes:

---extract from Dr. Stoppard's invitation
I’m helping the educational division of the Nestle Nutrition Institute to organise a trip that would encompass fact finding, an introduction to Nestlé research and presentations on topics such as obesity, infant nutrition and pre and probiotics (draft agenda below) where Nestlé scientists are engaged in cutting edge research. There will be trips to the laboratories and the opportunity to chat to researchers first hand. There will also be seminars where you can question the decision makers in Nestle about any topic you wish.

We will be housed in the Nestlé Research Centre, nestled in the hills just outside Lausanne. It will be a very pleasant social occasion as well as giving you the opportunity to get to know Nestlé, its work and its programme of corporate social responsibility in some detail.

I do hope you’ll be able to join us, if so please let me know as soon as possible and I will organise your flights and accommodation.

---extract ends

The programme includes sessions on pre and pro-biotics, ingredients Nestlé and other companies add to formula and then make idealizing claims about.

It was a Nestlé Nutritionist, Zelda Wilson, who organised the trip resulting in the BJM article, written by midwife Chris Sidgwick and others. Midwives will remember Chris Sidgwick from a past Royal College of Midwives conference when she called on them to stop supporting the boycott and accept Nestlé funding for materials. She had just produced a video with Nestlé funding she was wanting them to use. Such materials can only be produced with the written approval of the Secretary of State for Health. We asked for the letter of authorisation, but it has never been produced.

Our analysis of the BJM article shows how primary sources of data were misrepresented and misquoted. It can be found at:

Now we have no objection to midwives disagreeing with the strategy of the boycott or taking a different view of the evidence, though we would rather have their support, but misrepresenting the evidence - and Baby Milk Action's position - is quite another matter.

The BJM published a long letter from us alongside one in which Chris Sidgwick attempted to defend describing her investigation as independent when the trip was organised and funded by Nestlé.

The page can be downloaded from:

Now we raised these concerns directly with the authors and though Chris Sidgwick, the named conctact, did not respond, one of the other authors did acknowledge our message.

It is a great concern that the article is being distributed by Nestlé without our right-to-reply being included. The most recent case to come to my attention was in Nestlé lobbying of Sheffield University students, encouraging them to drop their support for the boycott. Not only was the article used, but Chris Sidgwick was part of the Nestlé team.

The purpose of the article is explicit. It states: "Education for midwives and sound, well produced, high quality educational material for women is costly; Nestlé have financial and education resources available which would improve services to women and, as a result of fact finding, we see no reason not to tap into those resources at a time when most Trusts and educational establishments have very limited funds available."

With the latest initiative by Dr. Miriam Stoppard, it seems that Nestlé is starting to panic. The UK Government has introduced new regulations for formula marketing and promised to strengthen them in 12 months if they do not stop aggressive marketing. The Baby Feeding Law Group, consisting of UK health worker bodies and mother support groups, has called for Guidance Notes to accompany the law to reject company-sponsored materials such as that proposed by Chris Sidgwick. So perhaps Nestlé sees the clock is ticking its time away and so it is making this last push to gain the support of midwives.

At the same time, Nestlé's Global Public Affairs Manager, Dr. Gayle Crozier Willi, finally had to drop the pretence that the boycott has no impact and admitted last year that the company is 'widely boycotted'. In the UK it is particularly strong amongst student unions - one survey by the National Union of Students Services Ethics Committee finding that Nestlé is the most boycotted company amongst students, with 38% of student unions having official boycotts. See:

Nestlé now refuses to debate with Baby Milk Action in front of students having lost all past votes and will only speak if we are not present. It sent a team of 5, including Chris Sidgwick and people from Weber Shandwick, its crisis management advisors, to try to persuade the committee at Sheffield University.

Nestlé's best course of action would be to abide by the internationally-agreed marketing requirements, but it still refuses to bring its policies and practices into line.

This offering of 'hospitality' to health journalists and midwives as a way to enter the UK market and undermine support for the boycott raises questions of conflicts of interest, which are addressed in World Health Assembly Resolutions and the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) Code of Professional Conduct, which states:

---NMC Code of Professional Conduct Article 7.2 and 7.4

You must ensure that your registration status is not used in the promotion of commercial products or services, declare any financial or other interests in relevant organisations providing such goods or services and ensure that your professional judgement is not influenced by any commercial considerations.

You must refuse any gift, favour or hospitality that might be interpreted, now or in the future, as an attempt to obtain preferential consideration.
---end of extract

Apparently there were midwives who refused to join the BJM authors on the day-and-a-half trip, where travel, accommodation and food were paid by Nestlé. Perhaps they were concerned about the conflicts of interests and possible breaches of the NMC ethical code. The authors put a very different interpretation on their refusal, however, stating: "Most of us readily agreed to attend, but not all who were invited were allowed to do so by their managers. It was evident that some midwives and health visitors were managed by people who had fixed views about Nestlé and they were not prepared to encourage the investigation. Some were even threatened with their jobs should they get involved.”

An investigation does not require taking Nestlé funding and only speaking to Nestlé staff.

A properly-conducted investigation would not result in the flawed article Chris Sidgwick and her colleagues produced.

If any journalist do end visiting Nestlé following the invitation from Dr. Miriam Stoppard let us hope they maintain their independence and do a better job.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Making laws work

Brief mention of a couple of stories in the media.

Firstly, our submission to a UK Government consultation on behalf of the Baby Feeding Law Group (BFLG) has been picked up by a specialist news website. See:

Our report, as I mentioned on Wednesday, is called "Trying to make the UK's weak formula law work" and is for a consultation on guidelines to accompany new fromula regulations. We want the government to learn the lessons from the failure of the previous regulations, introduced in 1995, and the monitoring of industry practices we conduct. If the new regulations and guidance notes don't work, the government has promised to revise them in a year's time. The industry is trying to disrupt this timetable by taking the government to the High Court.

Secondly, I've written recently about Nestlé being convicted of price-fixing in the formula market in Italy and being accused of price-fixing in the dairy market in South Africa and the confectionery market in North America. Now its offices have been raided in Germany by officials investigating price-fixing allegations there. See, for example:

It remains to be seen whether Nestlé will be convicted in the dairy and confectionery investigations, which have been launched this year. It struck me as ironic with the formula conviction, which showed the major manufacturers in Italy colluded to inflate prices, is that I recall the industry claiming anti-trust legislation stops them from cooperating to stop violating the World Health Assembly marketing requirements.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Taking stock

This is clever.

I've taken an hour out from legal battles, consultation and countering Nestlé misrepresentation of what it is doing to add this is table to our on-line Virtual Shop. It shows the stock of our popular fridge magnet t-shirts at:

You might have to scroll down to see it because of the way the blog editor works.

Stock (approximate)


I don't know what state it is in at the moment as it is updated live. It could be we have just had a batch in and there are plenty. It could be we have moved on from this particular design and there are none showing at all. It depends when you read this blog entry.

This is just one of the wonderful features with the Romancart system that we use for the shopping cart and linking to our secure payment systems. I give the system a free endorsement because we had a lousy experience with another system some years ago and this one does what we want, is easy to set up, has loads of features and has great support, such as on-line discussion forums.

Here's what the t-shirt looks like anyway.

All profits help with all the other things you read about on this blog, which I'm now getting back to.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

In need of guidance

Forget the legal battle over the UK Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations for a moment. Today was the deadline for submitting comments to the consultation on the Guidance Notes to go with the Regulations.

Baby Milk Action produced a report on behalf of the Baby Feeding Law Group for the submission. It is called: "Trying to make the UK's weak formula law work."

The subtitle is: "Learning the lessons from 12 years of monitoring the UK law to better protect breastfeeding and protect babies fed on formula."

There is not a lot of scope for strengthening the Guidance Notes as the Regulations they relate to are so flawed. The hope for infants is that the government is serious in saying their operation will be reviewed during the first 12 months and they will be strengthened if aggressive marketing does not stop.

So the report sets out some of the marketing practices we are concerned about as a bench mark, with an exposé of Cow & Gate's mailshot to mothers on the cover.

Let us see what happens.

You can download the report by clicking:

Thank you to everyone who has sent messages to the consultation calling for better Guidance Notes and a broad and strong review. If you are in Wales or Northern Ireland you still have a day or two. The consultation has closed in England and Scotland. See:

You can also help by reporting examples of aggressive marketing to the BFLG monitoring project. These will feed into reports we will now be producing quarterly throughout the review period and perhaps beyond.

Go to:

Are Guidance Notes important?

Yes. Twelve years after the 1995 version of the Regulations were introduced action was only taken about non-compliant claims on labels because of a change to the guidelines that accompanied them. Here's a reminder of what is on the market:

We know from the Wyeth/SMA trial in 2003 (where it was convicted of a 'cynical and deliberate breach of the regulations' after an 8-day hearing) and the current action by the industry, that they are not shy of defending their profits in the courts.

So Trading Standards need the rules to be as clear as possible to be confident of action. We are concerned the route the government is taking of treating one classification of breastmilk substitutes different to another causes confusion, which only the lawyers enjoy.

Remember that the after the crackdown on non-compliant labels all companies issued new labels in 2007, which again are non-compliant. They remain on the shelves a year later. If they continue to be produced under the new regime without action being taken then that is a strong argument for stronger and clearer measures.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Breastfeeding Manifesto campaing on UK formula regulations

This is just a short hello as it is head down with the High Court case (the formula companies have taken the UK government court and succeeded in having new regulations suspended) and a last push for the consultation on the Guidance Notes that are to accompany these regulations.

We are not alone, of course. The Baby Feeding Law Group has 22 member organisations and we are a member of the broader Breastfeeding Manifesto Coalition.

The Coalition has its own campaign running to assist people in sending in messages to the consultation on the Guidance Notes. You can send a message using the form at:

Monday, February 11, 2008

Thank you for your support

This is just a quick thank you today to everyone who has made donations to our UK work for the Baby Feeding Law Group (BFLG) monitoring project and legal issues.

We can't talk about what is happening with the industry challenge to the government's new formula marketing regulations at the High Court at this stage.

But I can tell you that staff, who in theory are on part-time contracts at present, have been working all hours.

The donations are a practical way of supporting this work, but are also greatly appreciated as a sign of solidarity, as are the messages to many of you are sending to the current consultation on the Guidance Notes that go alongside the Regulations.

You can send a message if you have not done so already at:

You can make a donation to Baby Milk Action's BFLG work using the button below, which will take you to our secure server.


Friday, February 08, 2008

How can we stop corporations abusing human rights?

What to do about companies that break national laws and international standards while demonstrating contempt for the systems that are supposed to hold them to account?

This is a question I have tried to address in a chapter on corporate accountability written for a book that has just been published called: "Global Obligations for the Right to Food".

Here's a blurb from the publicity:

Global Obligations for the Right to Food
Edited by George Kent

"Global Obligations for the Right to Food offers an in-depth look at the urgent need for global responsibility. In this timely work, George Kent and a group of experts address issues of corporate accountability, children’s right to food, and public access to seeds. As persistent inequalities lead to increasing levels of under nutrition on the one hand, and a growing pandemic of obesity on the other hand, Global Obligations for the Right to Food brings much needed attention to this very complex issue."—

David Clark, Legal Officer Nutrition Section UNICEF, New York

A child may be born into a poor country, but not into a poor world. If global human rights are to be meaningful, they must be universal. Global Obligations for the Right to Food assesses the nature and depth of the global responsibility to ensure adequate food for the world's population.

While governments have primary responsibility for assuring the right to food for people under national jurisdictions, we as a global community all have some responsibilities as well. Global Obligations for the Right to Food explores the various actions that should be taken by governments, non-governmental organizations, and individuals to ensure that all people of the world have access to adequate food.

George Kent is professor of political science at the University of Hawai’i, and the author of several books, including Children in the International Political Economy and Freedom from Want: The Human Right to Adequate Food.

This book was prepared by a Task Force of the Working Group on Nutrition, Ethics, and Human Rights of the United Nations System Standing Committee on Nutrition. The Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research of Tokyo and Honolulu provided financial assistance.

Table of Contents:

Preface by George Kent

• Chapter One: Global Obligations by George Kent

• Chapter Two: Extraterritorial Obligations: A Response to Globalization by Rolf Künnemann and Sandra Ratjen

• Chapter Three: International Legal Dimensions of the Right to Food by Federica Donati and Margret Vidar

• Chapter Four: Holding Corporations Accountable in Relation to the Right to Food by Mike Brady

• Chapter Five: International Legal Obligations for Infants' Right to Food by Arun Gupta

• Chapter Six: Global Action against Worms, Malaria, and Measles by Michael Latham

• Chapter Seven: Public Access to Seeds and the Human Right to Adequate Food by Marc Cohen and Anitha Ramanna

• Chapter Eight: Global Support for School Feeding by S. Vivek

• Chapter Nine: Reflections by George Kent

• Chapter Ten: Recommendations by Mike Brady, Marc Cohen, Federica Donati, Arun Gupta, George Kent, Rolf Künnemann

The book is available in Baby Milk Action's on-line Virtual Shop. Click here.

As you might expect, I draw heavily on my experience of the baby food issue and the great advantage we have in this area with the international marketing standards adopted by the World Health Assembly. Yet, as we know only too well, these standards only have an impact when they are implemented and enforced in national measures or backed by consumer campaigns such as the Nestlé boycott. Companies do not follow the voluntarily. They attempt to weaken implementation, promoting codes of conduct instead of legislation, and disrespect those measures that are put in place.

There needs to be enforcement, but pitched against some of the world's most powerful corporations, how is this achieved? Nestlé has been fined for breaking national measures, but has shrugged off the fines as inconsequential.

Governments, particularly those in poorer, developing countries, are under economic pressure to treat corporations favourably and so do not always take the action to protect their citizens that we would hope.

So human rights are abused.

In the chapter I argue that the global community of nations has a collective responsibility to
hold corporations to account and, particularly as transnational corporations grow ever more powerful, has to provide protection when individual nations fail to do so.

The legal basis for this argument using existing human rights norms and other standards is explored along with the practical methods that could be used to hold corporations to account at the global level.

Well worth a read.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Nestle accused of price fixing yet again (not the same story as on Tuesday!)

For the second time this week I am writing about Nestlé being accused of price fixing. On Tuesday it was about the price of milk, where Nestlé is denying charges in South Africa. Today it is over chocolate, where Nestlé is denying charges in Canada.

There is an article about this in the New York Times on 3rd February. The big fish accused alongside Nestlé are Hershey and Mars.

The case is in court and Nestlé is, of course, innocent until proven guilty.

The alleged cartel came to light when one of the companies involved went to the authorities. Under Canadian law, the first company to blow the whistle gains immunity from prosecution. This is from the New York Times:

---quotes begin
The business [that blew the whistle] provided testimony from one of its top executives and tales from many other employees, as well as e-mails, phone records and receipts to corroborate their stories. In November, Canadian authorities searched the local offices of Hershey, Mars, Nestle and ITWAL, a food distributor based in Ontario.

"The means used to enhance prices was by way of a deliberate, secretive and high-level price-fixing agreement," bureau attorney Daniel Wilcock wrote in a court affidavit filed to support the search warrants. "In the case of at least the cooperating party, Hershey and Nestle, the alleged conspiracy was brought about and sanctioned at the highest levels of the companies involved."


"When this thing goes up to the top [of a company], it really says something about the culture," said White, the NYU professor.


"It's always, 'What could they have been thinking?'" said Andy Gavil, a law professor at Howard University who teaches antitrust law. "And the answer always is a lot of money."
---quotes end

The investigation has now spread to the US and consumers and smaller competitors have filed class actions.

As I mentioned on Tuesday Nestlé was amongst 7 companies fined for price-fixing formula in Italy in 2005. Baby Milk Action campaigns against the inflated price of formula, which is already one of the most profitable products on the supermarket shelves. With the poorest mothers statistically less likely to breastfeed in most industrialised countries, this profiteering is particularly cynical.

The lack of respect for competition regulations in Italy comes as little surprise to those used to seeing Nestlé flouting the marketing standards for baby foods. Nestlé's comments in the chocolate case also have a familiar ring to them.

According to the New York Times: "Swiss chocolatier Nestle said it will cooperate if asked. 'It is our policy to operate ethically and follow all applicable laws and regulations wherever we do business,' spokeswoman Laurie MacDonald said."

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Urgent action on the UK formula regulations

If you want to help strengthen the UK Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations, then you have another opportunity to do so by sending a message to the latest government consultation. Just go to:

The Government is consulting on Guidance Notes to accompany the Regulations.

There is not a lot to say here about the detail of the Guidance Notes. They are constrained by the Regulations, which regular readers of this blog will know, are little better than the Regulations they replace.

However, the Government has promised to review the Regulations and Guidance Notes during the first year of operation, so that is the focus of our draft message. The review needs to be broad enough and serious enough to ensure that action will be taken to strengthen the Regulations if the type of practices we expose are not stopped.

Find out more details on the campaign page. All you have to do is enter your email, name and country, read the message (modify it if you want) and click submit. See:

The Regulations are tied up in court at the moment, but this consultation continues for another week, so please do send your message.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Nestle accused of price fixing again

Nestlé and seven other dairy firms in South Africa are defending themselves over charges of price fixing. See:

Previously Nestlé's activities in the milk industry have been heavily criticised for impoverishing small farmers and leading to large increases in the price of milk or pressure on authorities to remove price controls. See, for example:

In Italy in 2005 Nestlé was amongst seven baby food companies fined over 9 million Euros for inflating the price of infant formula. You can find details in this blog:

Monday, February 04, 2008

Scotland's Forumla Regulations still stand - for now.

The Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations 2007 have been suspended in England and Northern Ireland, following a legal challenge by the Infant and Dietetic Food Association (IDFA) - the baby food companies.

However, in Scotland the Regulations have not been suspended, though there will also be a review of whether the government acted correctly in introducing them.

I can't say much more than this as the cases are on-going, but you can find out more about the Scottish decision not to suspend the regulations from this publicly available ruling:

Friday, February 01, 2008

Consolidation in the baby food industry

The baby food industry is consolidating, creating every more powerful companies.

Last year Nestlé took over Gerber baby foods. Danone took over NUMICO (makers of Nutricia, Milupa and Cow & Gate brands).

Now Mead Johnson is being put up for sale by Bristol Myers Squibb and Nestlé and Danone are rumoured to be in the market for it. See this report in the Financial Times.

More on this later.