Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The next step in Nestle's plan for entering UK hospitals

As I wrote here last month, Nestlé has a strategy to enter the UK formula market, where it currently only sells specialised formulas. For some time it has been working with a midwife called Chris Sidgwick to attack the boycott, which is the best-supported consumer action in the UK, and to encourage midwives to accept Nestlé-sponsored materials on infant feeding and bring them into UK hospitals.

In 2006 Chris went on an all-expenses-paid trip to Nestlé (HQ) in Vevey, Switzerland, organised by Nestlé Nutritionist, Zelda Wilson. This led to an article in the British Journal of Midwifery portrayed as an objective view of the boycott and Nestlé baby food marketing practices. The article contained multiple errors, including misrepresenting information from its primary source document. So widespread were the errors that Baby Milk Action was granted a substantial right to reply. Unfortunately, Nestlé now distributes the article without this. You can read our full analysis of the article, with links to many original supporting documents from the history of the campaign, at:

The article suggests: "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."

Chris Sidgwick and Zelda Wilson came to our attention again earlier this year as they were part of a team of 5 that briefed stuudents at Sheffield University, calling for the student union to drop the boycott. Also in the team were people from Webber Shandwick, Nestlé's crisis management PR company.

Then we found Chris involved with Dr. Miriam Stoppard inviting health journalists to Vevey in February, no doubt hoping to generate more misleading articles about Nestlé practices. See:

Now comes the next part of the strategy. Chris is billing herself as a 'Midwifery Advisor' and inviting people to a 'study day with a difference'. This is with a familiar name: "Zelda Wilson a State Registered Dietician specialising in human interaction and behaviour."

In the small print it states that the organiser: "HCP is sponsored by an exclusive grant from Nestlé Science and Education Services."

It promises: "INSIGHT and an opportunity to NETWORK".

I wonder if the networking will include more free trips from Nestlé for midwives in the hope that they too will start working for Nestlé's cause in opposing the boycott and getting its materials onto maternity wards.

As Zelda Wilson has admitted in her capacity as Nestlé Nutritionist, its Nestlé-branded materials for hospitals are intended: "to keep the company name and products in people's mind." See:

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Aptamil formula television advertisement in the UK

A new television advertisement for Aptamil formula (now owned by Danone) appeared on UK television last night. Look how it links the formula to breastmilk. This is the voiceover:

---Quote begins
Breastmilk is perfect for your baby.

Nothing compares to it. It strengthens your baby's natural defences and reduces the risk of infection.

How time flies by.

If you decide to move on from breastfeeding, Aptamil follow-on contains IMMUNOFORTIS to help support some of your baby's natural defences.

Aptamil follow-on. Helping support your baby.
---quote ends

The key is in the 'natural defences' tag. Breastfeeding - natural defences. Aptamil - natural defences. Clever, no? Some people earn a lot of money thinking this stuff up.

Advertising of all breastmilk substitues, which includes follow-on milks, is prohibited by the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. At the beginning of the year Danone promised a 'root and branch review' of the marketing activities of NUMICO, owner of the Aptamil brand, following its takeover. As this campaign has just been launched, the indications are Danone is either very slow at getting the word out to the marketers or it has zero respect for the Code.

The Code aims to protect the right of mothers to accurate and independent information on infant feeding. The government and the World Health Organisation recommend breastfeeding beyond 6 months, so this message is undermined by the advertisement, which makes no mention of this recommendation.

I argue the advertisement is illegal as the UK law states: "Follow-on formula advertising shall be: (a) be designed to provide the necessary information about the appropriate use of the product so as not to discourage breast feeding."

The Guidance Notes that accompany the law state: "To minimise the risk of consumers making a connnection between follow-on formula and the act of feeding infants from birth, information in advertisements for follow-on formula should not include pictures or text which relate or compare follow-on formula to breastmilk."

The advertisement clearly does do this. The Guidance Notes are due to be signed off any day now having been put out to consultation some months ago. It seems Danone is rushing out the advertisement before this happens.

The term IMMUNOFORTIS, a made-up word suggesting strengthening of the immune system, is idealizing in itself and so prohibited by the Code. Immunofortis is a so-called prebiotic (again a non-permitted term). While the advertisement claims these support natural defences, an independent review by the Cochrane Library found the evidence was lacking. See: "There is insufficient evidence to recommend the addition of prebiotics to infant feeds for prevention of allergic disease or food reactions" at:

The website promoted in the advert advertises the full range of formulas, something the authorities appear reluctant to act upon despite the advertising of infant formula being illegal in the UK.

The term IMMUNOFORTIS is also used on the infant formula packaging which is almost identical to the follow-on formula packaging shown in the advertisement. Packaging follow-on formula and infant formula to make them cross promotional is illegal under the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations introduced at the end of 2007. However, the industry successfully took the government to court to delay having to comply with the labeling provisions for two years.

In court the industry argued it needed more time to change labels, despite knowing a year in advance that they needed to do so and despite the fact that their labels break the previous 1995 Regulations. We now know the Aptamil team was probably too busy to re-design its labels as it was working on this Aptamil advertising campaign.

The government has promised to review how the law and Guidance Notes work. You can send a message in support of a broad review by clicking here:

Monday, April 28, 2008

Mr. Levitt's pro-Nestle campaign

As I mentioned recently, we have prepared a briefing responding to the pro-Nestlé campaign launched by Tom Levitt MP, who went on a Nestlé-funded trip to South Africa in February and continues to defend Nestlé's advertising and labeling of infant formula there despite the fact the South African Department of Health has said it is non-compliant and asked Nestlé to change its practices.

We still have no response from Mr. Levitt, despite sending him the briefing and asking, once againn, for a meeting.

His efforts to defend Nestlé and his acceptance of Nestlé hospitality and free tickets to Wimbledon tennis competiton, sees him making comments that not even Nestlé makes.

In dismissing the documentary evidence of malpractice collated by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), Mr. Levitt's campaign materials state of the Breaking the Rules 2004 report: "Mr. Levitt says of the Breaking the Rules report 2004, produced by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN):

“200 accusations were laid against Nestlé for breaking the marketing code in a 2004 [sic]. And so they were: but 199 were disproved by independent bodies and the other one had been corrected two years previously.”

This is not only untrue, it contradicts what Nestlé itself says. Nestlé dismisses the violations, but does not claim they were disproved by independent bodies.

This is Nestlé’s statement about the report, published in Mr. Levitt’s local paper in correspondence relating to his column defending Nestlé: “it is important to point out that our analysis of IBFAN's previous report in 2004 found that of the 200 allegations it contained only one was an actual violation and this had been corrected by Nestlé in 2002, two years before the report was published.”

So Nestlé refers to its own analysis, but Mr. Levitt MP relates this as coming from "independent bodies."

The fact is that IBFAN provided details about the violations in the report at Nestlé’s request as it claimed it could not investigate where it had placed its own advertisements or the leaflets and other materials documented without additional information. After providing the information nothing more was heard from Nestlé on the subject.

An earlier report did prompt an independent investigation. Twenty seven academic, development and church organisations formed the Interagency Group on Breastfeeding Monitoring to investigate marketing practices after Nestlé similarly dismissed an earlier report (they are produced about every three years). The Group published Cracking the Code in 1997 and reported ‘systematic’ violations by Nestlé and other companies. Commenting at the time UNICEF stated that IBFAN’s monitoring was ‘vindicated’. While this investigation was 11 years ago, the types of violations are similar to those reported in the 2004 Breaking the Rules report and the latest edition published in November 2007.

In 1999 the UK Advertising Standards Authority ruled against Nestlé’s claim in an anti-boycott advertisement that it markets infant formula ‘ethically and responsibly’ after conducting a two-year investigation. Nestlé was warned not to repeat this and other statements. While it does not do so in advertisements, it continues to make similar statements in its public relations materials and elsewhere, over which the ASA has no power to act.

Mr. Levitt’s claim that Nestlé malpractice is form ’30 or 40 years ago’ disregards all of this evidence, including up to around the time he claims he was investigating in South Africa.

Our briefing paper is available at:

Friday, April 25, 2008

Nestle accused of being anti-worker in Russia

Nestlé workers in Russia are protesting about the company's refusal to negotiate over wage rates.

Business Week reports: 'The workers blame one person alone for the current stand-off: Nestlé factory director Martin Ruepp. He has categorically rejected the union demand to create a binding mechanism for wage increases. The Swiss manager has declared that the company will continue to set wage increases at its own discretion."

Trade union representatives claim that wages are not keeping pace with inflation and they have had a wage increase in real terms for years.

It is of interest how Nestlé treats its workers and communities because sometimes people become involved in the baby milk issue, making unjustified defence of the company, on the basis that it is a local employer. Tom Levitt MP in Buxton is a recent example.

Nestlé does not show the same loyalty.

The Business Week quote above makes reference to York. Nestlé shifted production of some products oversees recently and laid off 645. It then tried to force a change in conditions on the remaining workforce, which the union claimed amounted to a 30 - 40% cut in pay. See:

The Russian workers have the support of colleagues in Germany according to Buiness Week:

"The workers are also finding support for their cause outside of Russia—from Germany's NGG union and the International Union of Food Workers, for example. For these international organizations the dispute addresses a fundamental issue: They fear that Nestlé will move more of its production to Russia if it can push through its low-wage policy in Perm."

Nestlé's refusal to negotiate with the workers is not unusual. It refuses to negotiate with workers in the Philippines, despite court orders calling on it to do so. See:

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Nestle wants to hear from you - not!

Every now and then I have to update the link to the comment form on Nestlé's website. They change it periodically, I imagine to shake off people following our links to post messages about cases of Nestlé pushing baby foods in breach of international marketing standards, as feature in our Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheets.

Our links will work again for a while. Do let me know when they die again - which I guess may be likely now I mention this! The link as of today is:

If you are in the UK and fancy giving Nestlé a call on their free phone number then check out our clip below to see what happened when I did so.

I'll tell you in advance not to expect anything funny, this just shows what happens when you call.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bill Gates nutrition initiative draws criticism from Indian health campaigners

I wrote yesterday about concerns in India that funds allocated for improving childhood nutrition are being spent on processed foods. At the same time people have been protesting about the activities of a nutrition programme backed by Microsoft billionaire, Bill Gates. This is new on the IBFAN website.

People call Upon GAIN to leave India and Government of India to regulate PPPs

A joint action group constituted by 33 persons including individual experts, pediatricians, public health experts, representatives from 19 national organisations working in public interest in health, development, gender, education and nutrition sector made strong voice and protest to GAIN for sparing India from the hands of multinational consumer and food companies to which GAIN is a promising market builder.

The group staged a silent protest using placards at the site of GAIN initiated meeting to call for an India Alliance for Infant and young child nutrition (IYCN) on 15th April in Delhi.

The group submitted a pretest note to the GAIN representative in India and also interacted with the participants who were invited at the meeting and offered to answer any questions if they have while using their right to protest in the interest of people of India reeling with poverty, lack of food and lack of support to women who nurture the future of India.

Two members of the protest group also participated in the meeting and raised the points of ‘conflicts of interest’ while entering into any partnership.

Participants met immediately after the meeting and decided to work together for future action on these issues.

Contact for more information:
Dr Arun Gupta 9911176306
Vandana Prasad 9891552425
Mira Shiva 9810582028

Click here for media coverage.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

IBFAN critical of Indian child nutrition scheme providing processed food

An article in Thaindian news yesterday highlights concerns of health advocates, including our colleagues in the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN).

The government allocates funds for food for children attending day care centres under the Integrated Child Development Service, but the small amount of money is being used to buy processed food rather than local food in some states in a link with private business.

"With such a low allocation, packaged food cannot provide required nutrition. We should go for hot cooked food from available local products,” said Arun Gupta, a member of the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), the report states. See:

Some other states are using locally sourced food.

When in Brazil a couple of years ago, I investigated the school food programme there, which is held up as a model for the world. Locally sourced food is provided to a menu developed by a nutritionist. Expenditure and performance is overseen by elected councils, which include representatives of parents. Any journalists interested in further information are welcome to contact me.

I will say more about the attempts to use nutrition schemes to promote processed foods in future. Sometimes they are used as an attempt to industrialize the whole feeding process, so undermining breastfeeding.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Letter in the Buxton Advertiser exposing Nestle's false claims regarding South Africa marketing campaign

As I mentioned last week, we have produced a briefing paper responding to the campaign to present Nestlé as complying with baby food marketing requirements, promoted by UK Member of Parliament, Tom Levitt MP. This can be downloaded from:

With Mr. Levitt still not responding to the messages, communication continues through the pages of his local paper, the Buxton Advertiser. The current edition has my letter exposing Nestlé's claims that its infant formula advertising and labeling in South Africa comply with international and government requirements. They do not. Mr. Levitt has said he accepts Nestlé's explanation, which suggests he did not check the position of the South African authorities on his Nestlé-funded trip to South Africa nor since.


Friday, April 18, 2008

URGENT ACTION: Review of the UK formula regulations

Baby Milk Action has launched a campaign calling for the UK Government to broaden the terms of its review of the new Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations. The Government is consulting on this until the end of April.

By going to the Baby Milk Action website, you can send a message in a matter of minutes using the draft as a model. See:

You can also send messages to the formula companies who have still not corrected labels that comply with neither the old nor the new regulations.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Response to Mr. Tom Levitt MP

This is just a quick note to say if you have received a letter from Mr. Tom Levitt MP claiming that Nestlé stopped aggressive marketing of baby milk 30 to 40 years ago and dismissing the documentary evidence of on-going malpractice, then you will be interested in the briefing paper we have produced in response.

This shows how Mr. Levitt is making claims that even Nestlé does not make in his attempt to clear the company and excuse his free trip to South Africa and tickets to Wimbledon provided by Nestlé.

Plus the facts about Nestlé formula advertising and labeling and the South African government's position.

This can be downloaded from our action page in support of South Africa at:

We are asking Mr. Levitt to issue a correction, so it would be useful if you could let us know about any communications you receive. See the contact link at:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Help South Africa to stop Nestlé and others pushing formula

The South African Department of Health is consulting on new regulations for the marketing of baby foods.

The are implementing the marketing standards adopted by the World Health Assembly since 1981. Companies are called on to abide by these independently of government measures, but they don't, as the recent blogs on Nestlé's infant formula advertising and labeling shows.

It is our recurring experience that governments come under pressure from industry to weaken legislation. So please do spend a couple of minutes sending a message of support. All you need to do is give your name and email, modify our suggested message as you see fit and click the button. See:

Be a part of the action. A similar campaign helped to neutralise industry pressure on the Philippines government and Supreme Court last year. See:

Our campaign sheet also has an action on the new UK law.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Baby Milk Action's Annual General Meeting

It was Baby Milk Action's Annual General Meeting last Saturday. Many thanks to everyone who made it to Cambridge for the event.

Our board of directors is elected by the membership, who also have accounts and an overview of our activities presented to them. You can become a member via our on-line Virtual Shop at:

Members receive our printed newsletter (though you can opt to receive this electronically if you prefer). More importantly, your membership fees help to keep us operating. Our self-generated income makes up more than 50% of our what we receive, with the rest coming from grants from development agencies and charitable trusts.

We do reserve the right to refuse membership (those refused can take out a subscription to the newsletter instead) and ask people attending the meeting to declare any link to the baby food industry. Of course, this does not stop a company from sending someone along to tape the meeting without declaring a connection. We don't go as far as Nestlé, which had me searched when I attended their Annual General Meeting last year!

Monday, April 14, 2008

What South Africa says about shelf talkers and claims on formula

Tom Levitt MP, who went on an all-expenses-paid trip to South Africa to investigate Nestlé has still not responded to Baby Milk Action about the information we provided on Nestlé malpractice in the country. Nor has Mr. Levitt accepted our offer to meet. He has, however, posted an article dismissing the information on his blog. Unfortunately comments on the article are disabled, so I am making my response here.

The blog states: "Mike Brady also refers to what he describes as “prohibited” NAN advertising in South Africa. This allegation is incorrect and the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa has, in fact, already ruled that this advertising did not contravene any advertising restrictions. Mr Brady’s final allegation that the health claims on the NAN labels are non-compliant is also incorrect as the health claims fully comply with the South African regulations that apply to this product."

Clearly Mr. Levitt did not think to check with the authorities in South Africa before accepting Nestlé's assurances. There is no ruling published on the ASA website and Nestlé did not provide this when asked, though it did reply to our letter. The South African Department of Health (DH) points out that it is usually consulted on ASA rulings regarding formula marketing and has no knowledge of a ruling on the shelf talkers. Indeed the DH points out that the advertising code states: "Appendix G 1.3.2 There must be no point-of-sale advertising..."

Nestlé was informed that shelf talkers are viewed by DH as a breach of the international marketing standards, yet continues to defend the shelf talkers.

Regarding the health claims the DH position is that: "The SA Regulations 2 (9) (b) & (c) of the Regulations Governing the Labelling and Advertising of Foodstuffs, published under Government Notice No. R. 2034 of 29 October 1993 strictly prohibits health/curative/restorative/prophylactic/medicinal claims.

"Therefore, statements such as "optimal physical and mental development", "activate your baby's immune defences" and "strengthen your baby's natural defences" as indicated on the labels are just some examples of prohibited statements on NAN 1 and 2".

Such promotion and claims are illegal in Mr. Levitt's constituency, so it is disappointing that he is defending these practices in South Africa and undermining the Department of Health's position.

This is a critical time for infant health in South Africa as the Government is consulting on tightening regulations. Mr. Levitt's attempts to portray Nestlé as voluntarily complying with international standards - when the opposite is the case - should be seen in this context. People who are interested in protecting infant health should visit the Baby Milk Action website and see the action in the 'code watch' section.

Mr. Levitt's defence of Nestlé has not gone down well with some people in Buxton, as letters to the press show. It doesn't take much to read what the marketing requirements say to realise that Nestlé is breaking them. Indeed we conducted a poll on our website, showing the shelf talker and the text of the Code and 100% of those completing it agreed Nestlé is breaking the rules. See:

Friday, April 11, 2008

Mother maltreated in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Detention Centre

Once again a breastfeeding mother is being maltreated in Yarl's Wood immigration detention centre in the UK. We joined in the campaign in support of a Janipher Maseko from Uganda and her child last year. See:

For the latest case, please read the blog from Morgan Gallagher at:

She is providing support in this case, providing updates and will tell you what you can do to help.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Changes at Nestle

As I wrote yesterday, Nestlé, the World's Largest Food Company, will have a new Chief Executive today. See:

There are other changes underway at Nestlé. Last year it bought Gerber baby foods from Novartis. This week it has sold a 25% stake in Alcon, producer of contact lens solutions, to Novartis for US$ 11 billion. It has options to sell the rest over the coming years. If the divestment from Nestlé is complete then one day Alcon may be removed from the boycott list of products from which Nestlé profits. Watch this space, as they say.

This extra cash is fuelling speculation that Nestlé will buy the Mead Johnson formula business from Bristol-Myers Squibb, which is putting it up for sale to concentrate on pharmaceuticals.

There are also suggestions that Nestlé may go for outright ownership of L'Oreal, which controversially took over Body Shop a couple of years ago. See:

In other Nestlé news today, the death of Rowntrees has been announced. Nestlé bought this British confectionery company based in York in a hostile takeover battle in the 1980s. Some production has since been moved outside the UK. Smarties moved to Germany. Black Magic to the Czech Republic. Dairy Box to Spain. 645 people were made redundant. (See the Daily Mail 20 September 2006). There has been investment in a new Aero factory in York, but with a quarter of the workforce on notice to leave, Nestlé tried to force through cuts of 30% to 40% in pay and conditions on those that remained, as the Amicus trade union website reported. See:

---extract begins
Tony Randerson, Amicus officer for Nestle Rowntree in York, said:

“Management have made clear that unless our remaining members accept significant cuts they face the same fate as their colleagues who have already lost their jobs.

“We are making clear to the company that although we will work with them to ensure the plant is viable and, if necessary, cost savings are made, eroding hard won and hard fought for pay and conditions and threatening employees with the sack is not an acceptable way to operate.”

The union says that threatening workers with the sack and imposing severe pay cuts is in breach of international employment guidelines and that they will be making representations to the company at an international meeting of all the trade unions involved with Nestle in Geneva next week (Tuesday 10th October).
---extract ends

As The Press reports today, Nestlé Rowntree is no more. It is being renamed Nestlé Confectionery, though some products will retain Rowntree branding.

This should serve as a reminder that Nestlé shows no loyalty to those that work for it, to the heritage of the businesses it swallows, or the communities where it operates. Tom Levitt MP, who is currently defending Nestlé's advertising and labelling of infant formula in South Africa (in breach of international standards and South African policies) because Nestlé bottles Buxton water in his constituency, would do well to remember this. See:

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Welcome to Mr Paul Bulcke - Nestle's new Chief Executive

Tomorrow Nestlé's Chief Executive Designate, Mr. Paul Bulcke, is due to have his appointment confirmed by the shareholder meeting in Switzerland.

We have written to Mr. Bulcke asking him to make a statement to shareholders prior to the vote about his position on the marketing of baby foods. Unlike his predecessor and current Chairman, Mr. Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, will Mr. Bulcke accept the validity of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions and agree to bring Nestlé policies and practices into line? Those are the first two steps for ultimately ending the Nestlé boycott. Nestlé's Global Public Affairs Manager, Dr. Gayle Crozier Willi, stated last year that Nestlé is 'widely boycotted', so shareholders will presumably be interested to know if this constraint on their business can be lifted. I will let you know what happens.

More importantly, Nestlé compliance with the Code and Resolutions will make a real difference to infants. According to UNICEF:

"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."

Whether Mr. Bulcke will be appointed is not open to question. It is a foregone conclusion that the board will get their way as even when there was a shareholder rebellion over the current Chief Executive, Mr. Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, also being made Chairman it was impossible to muster enough votes. Indeed, it is statistically impossible to carry a vote on some issues because Nestlé is so obstructive when it comes to registering shares, as I have mentioned before. See:

Should any journalists be looking for a quote, here is one from me.

Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, said:

"Mr. Bulcke's predecessor rejected the four-point plan aimed at saving infant lives and ultimately ending the boycott and embarked on a strategy of denials and deception to try to divert criticism, creating quite a few public-relations disasters in the process. Whether Mr. Bulcke can act any differently with his predecessor as Chairman remains to be seen, but I sincerely hope that he wishes to do so. Nestlé's aggressive marketing of baby foods in breach of international standards contributes to the needless death and suffering of babies around the world."

Images with examples of Nestlé malpractice can be found at:

For an insight into what happens at the shareholder meetings see:

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Be a Star : UK campaign marketing breastfeeding where most women don't breastfeed

Little Angels, an inspiring mother support group based in Blackburn, has launched a social marketing campaign with the health authorities in Blackburn with Darwen, East Lancs and Bolton.

Little Angels rallying cry is 'Making Breastfeeding Fashionable'. I spoke at their conference last year, and heard how breastfeeding rates at 6 weeks are just 40%. Though low, this is a significant achievement as before Little Angels were active, the rate was just 20%.

Here is part of the campaign to reach new mothers. It goes under the title: Be a Star.

This is Michelle Bromley. Michelle is 23 years old, from Colne and mum to 3 month old Naomi and 3 year old George.

See more pictures and listen to the accompanying radio advertisements at:

The campaign is feature in The Guardian today. You can read the article at:

Here's an extract:

---extract begins
"We've found it's no use talking about the benefits of breastfeeding," says Michelle Atkin, from Little Angels, a community interest company in central Lancashire , which trains breastfeeding peer supporters. "For this group, it can be difficult to think that breastfeeding could be for them. Too often, it's seen as a 'sitting cross-legged under a tree humming' thing – something hippies do! We needed something different."
---extract ends

Do take a look at the other images on the Be a Star website, where you can also leave comments.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Brabeck concerned about water shortages

Nestle's Chief Executive Officer, Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, has raised concerns about water being used for agriculture and bio-fuels. While there is good reason to be concerned about access to what is becoming a scarce resource in parts of the world, Mr. Brabeck's concerns are self serving. He is reported on as follows:

"As we run out of water, Nestlé will also have the problem of securing raw materials," he said.

He added that the scarcity of water would make food less accessible to the world's poor.


My comment:

Mr. Brabeck's concerns are typically selfish. Nestle's interest in water is as a resource to increase its own profits. Around the world it is being criticised for its extraction of water from aquifers for bottling. In the Brazilian spa town of São Lourenço citizens raised a petition prompting legal action by the Public Prosecutor, who found breaches of federal law. Nestle eventually settled out of court, compensating the town by renovating the water park and stopped pumping in the face of daily fines if it did not do so. All the same Nestle pumped water for 10 years. Nestle claimed : "a third party audit by Bureau Veritas confirms that we have acted in accordance with Brazilian legislation, and we extract far less water than we are legally permitted... Bureau Veritas audit confirms that the test evidence and resultant regulatory approvals do not support allegations that exploitation of the Primavera Well (Sao Lourenço) negatively impacts groundwater in the region."

However, Bureau Veritas told Baby Milk Action: "our work did not constitute a legal audit as such, nor did it include a review of the on-going civil action". Documentary evidence gathered by Baby Milk Action includes official legal opinions that the law was broken. See:

Friday, April 04, 2008

New law bans promotion of infant formula AND follow-on formula

Yesterday the law implementing the European Union Directive on Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula was published. The advertising and promotion of infant formula and follow-on formula to the general public is forbidden, including point-of-sale promotion.

If this is surprising news, then let me quickly add that I am talking about the law in Luxembourg.

In the UK the Baby Feeding Law Group, a coalition of health worker and mother support groups, called on the government to treat infant formula and follow-on formula the same and prohibit advertising and promotion, as required by the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, adopted by the World Health Assembly. The government's own Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition and LACORS, the umbrella body for Trading Standards officers who have to enforce the law, called for the same thing in their responses to the government's consultation on implementing the EU Directive.

We argued that as the Directive explicitly states its aim is the implementation of the International Code the government could protect the right to independent information on infant feeding by prohibiting the promotion of all formula advertising (click here if you have the idea that advertising is providing useful information). The government claimed that it did not have that power. Policy makers in Luxembourg clearly see things differently.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Give and take in Nestle's bottled water business

Two news stories come together, exposing Nestlé's way of doing business. On the one hand harming communities, on the other providing support to schemes with high publicity value in the same area. We see it all the time with the issue of infant care as Nestlé pushes its baby foods while trying to push money on people who work with children.

The two news stories that dropped into my inbox this week on the same day are about water, however. Nestlé has a poor record when it comes to exploiting water resources in the face of opposition from communities. Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with the legal action prompted by a community petition in São Lourenço, Brazil, which, eventually saw Nestlé forced to stop pumping large volumes of water from the water park on which the spa town survives for its Pure Life brand of bottled water. Nestlé claimed an audit by Bureau Veritas had confirmed it had complied with Brazilian legislation, but Bureau Veritas admitted when questioned by Baby Milk Action: “our work did not constitute a legal audit as such, nor did it include a review of the on-going civil action". See:

Similar stories are found elsewhere. Nestlé is curently up for induction into the Corporate Hall of Shame not just for its baby food marketing practices, trade union busting etc. but also because of its exploitation of water, with Michigan featuring prominently. See:

Bottling water is a great business as the resource is virtually free to the company. Indeed, in the latest case in Florida, Nestlé had to pay just US$ 230 for a licence to pump water until 2018, according to a report on the website. Even this outlay was more than offset by the tax refunds of US$ 196,000 Nestlé received for opening the bottling plant with the promise of 300 jobs, which have not yet appeared. Nestlé can pump 1.5 million gallons a day and successfully challenged a move to reduce the volume. Residents have left outraged comments on the news site complaining that householders have been instructed to conserve water due to shortages.

Nestlé's new CSR report, audited by Bureau Veritas which has been so accommodating to Nestlé in the past, boasts of Nestlé's positive impact on water. Nestlé claims to have improved efficiency of water usage at its factories. If it is true, then that is welcome. But in boasting of this while hiding its negative impact and making demonstrably untrue claims about the situation in places such as Brazil, Nestlé brings CSR as a whole into disrepute as empty PR.

Similar questions need to be asked over Nestlé's use of schemes promoting water conservation, such as one announced this week in the Philippines, a country where Nestlé has a reputation to improve due to criticism of its baby food marketing and trade union busting activities.

Here is the introduction to the article in the Sun Star:

---quote begins
THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Nestlé Philippines Inc. have launched a water awareness and conservation campaign called Every Drop Counts, to promote awareness that potable water is becoming increasingly scarce globally and locally, and to advocate specific practices to prevent its waste.
---quote ends

Nestlé is using its advertising budget to promote the scheme:

---quote begins
Every Drop Counts will feature tri-media advertisements by DENR and Nestlé Philippines using the latter's classic public service series Sa Mata Ng Bata as a vehicle, to remind audiences that water is an indispensable but limited resource and that they can personally take specific actions to conserve it. Sa Mata ng Bata is the value-formation public service campaign that Nestle Philippines started in the late 1980s, to call the attention of the public to the vital role of adults in forming the values of children who look up to them as role models.
---quote ends

Such activities are used to divert criticism from the negative impact that Nestlé has and are a very small business expense. Remember Nestlé's Chief Executive Officer, Peter Brabeck-Latmaté, has been clear in the past that support of good causes is only justified if it benefits shareholders. See:

This is not all about PR of course. It is also about selling more bottled water. The report on the initiative in the Philippines ends:

---quote begins
During the launch, Sager [Nestlé 'Choose Wellness' head] spoke on the key role of water as a zero-calorie nutrient in maintaining health and wellness, particularly the need for adults to drink at least eight glasses or two liters of water each day, with 2/3 of body weight consisting of water. The World Water Day Technology Exhibit, to be held for several days at Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife on Quezon Boulevard near the Elliptical Circle, was also ceremonially unveiled during the launch. Underscoring the linkage between water and health, Choose Wellness, Choose Nestlé nutritionists-dietitians were on hand to provide free nutrition counseling, and sampling of Nescafe Protect, Milo, Nestle Fitnesse and Nestle Pure Life water rounded out the event.
---quote ends

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The love hormone

We have added two more breastfeeding books to our on-line Virtual Shop after these were presented at a lactation consultants conference we attended recently. If you are organising a conference or event in the UK and are interested in having Baby Milk Action attend with a stall with information, publications and merchandise, please let me know.

The additions to our Virtual Shop are:

'The Oxytocin Factor' by Kerstin Uvnäs Moberg. A groundbreaking look at "the love hormone, " and its role in everything from childbirth and bonding to human relationships.

'Breastfeeding Made Simple' by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett and Nancy Mohrbacher, which acknowledges : "Some mothers find that breastfeeding is more challenging than they expected—and anything but simple."

To view these and other publications on breastfeeding and infant care see:

If you have read the books already, why not leave a comment on our site?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Critics of not the Nestlé boycott

One of the things that takes more time than I would like is having to respond to attacks on the boycott campaign strategy which misrepresent or misunderstand what the strategy is all about.

Here's an example in the long, long discussion about 'ethical consumerism' prompted by an article on the Guardian website yesterday.

My response to a ill-informed, would-be expert:

[Someone said] "If you think it was the boycott that caused the scandal of US pressure on Nestle to come to light in the Philippines you are living in cloud cuckoo land. What caused it to come to light was persistent lobbying by those opposed to formula; many of those might also have supported the boycott but that was coincidental. As for those who claim consumer pressure will cause Nestle to give up selling formula, do the math."

As I said, see the range of strategies we used to achieve victory in the Philippines at:

It is a fact that the support of boycotters put the story on the front page there. Here's an example, not from cloud cuckoo land, but from the Philippines biggest-selling broadsheet:

The campaign succeeded in drawing attention to the industry attack on the law in the Philippines because the boycott keeps this issue in the spotlight. You are proving the fact.

You say: "As for those who claim consumer pressure will cause Nestle to give up selling formula, do the math."

Which is not what the boycott is aimed at doing at all. If you wish to criticise the campaign, please at least check what it is about before doing so.

The demand on Nestlé is straightforward: to bring its baby food marketing policies and practices into line with the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly.

Article 11.3 calls on companies to abide by these measures independently of government measures. As I said above, they can comply when given no choice by independently monitored and enforced legislation. The campaign works for legislation. Baby Milk Action and its partners in the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) train policy makers around the world.

The companies are not being asked to do anything unreasonable - they were even involved in the discussions that let to the International Code and most now claim to abide by it. Monitoring shows they do not, with Nestlé being the worst of the companies, hence it being targeted by the boycott.

A four-point plan has been put to Nestle aimed at saving infant lives and ultimately ending the boycott. Nestle has rejected it out of hand.

Other companies are targeted by exposés and letter writing campaigns. A bottle and teat company has been cooperating with campaigners as it wishes to be 'code compliant' and is making the necessary changes. Another company recently announced a 'root and branch' review of its policies and practices after taking over one of Nestle's leading competitors and we are in discussion with it over what it will change. Continued monitoring will show whether it can be declared 'code compliant'.

Please look at the boycott section of the Baby Milk Action website for further information on what the boycott is really about:

For examples of Nestle policies and practices that have changed as a direct result of being targeted by the boycott campaign, see the site and this blog.