Thursday, July 03, 2008

Nestlé sponsors Govnet Conference on obesity

I've written recently about sponsorship and conflicts of interest. An forthcoming example that several people have alerted us to is Nestlé apparently sponsoring a government conference. I say apparently because although the name of the organiser, Govnet, may give the impression it is official, it is not. There are to be government speakers at the event, however, including Sir Liam Donaldson, the government's Chief Medical Officer, and people from the Department of Health. Nestlé's 'Chief Medical Officer' is also a speaker.

The event goes under the title: "Health weight, Healthy lives". See:

Nestlé's profits are at serious risk if regulations are brought in regarding the marketing and composition of processed foods. That's not my opinion, its the opinion of UBS Warburg investment bank. In a report in 2002 the bank estimated that 46% of Nestlé income is from 'less healthy foods'.

Such concerns prompted then Chief Executive Officer, Peter Brabeck Letmathé, to embark on rebranding the company as a 'Fitness, Health and Wellness' company. Part of his strategy has been to advocate voluntary action by companies instead of regulation and to involve the company in as many PR opportunities where it sits alongside those charged with tackling the obesity epidemic as possible.

Hence it is a 'major sponsor' of this event by Govnet.

Last year it sponsored a fringe meeting at the Labour Party Conference on obesity. See:

Our concerns are not only about Nestlé's efforts to undermine regulations aimed at tackling obesity. Nestlé is attempting to break into the UK formula market at present. We exposed some of its recent tactics in our monitoring report for the Baby Feeding Law Group in May. At these meetings it is not only gaining access to those who are responsible for making decisions on regulation, it is paying the bill.

If health campaigners want to be present to raise concerns about Nestlé, they, by contrast, have to pay just to sit in the audience. Or alternatively they can gather outside with some leaflets and placards. Contact me if you are interested in coming along on Tuesday 8 July at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre, Westminster. Registration is from 8:40 to 9:20.

For details of how to get there see:

You can also try to influence the policy makers by completing the government's consultation on commercial promotion to children. See:

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