Thursday, July 24, 2008

Beware of Nestlé spying

The Swiss campaign group, ATTAC, has launched a legal action against Nestlé and Securitas after it was revealed that the world's largest food company had sent a spy to infiltrate the group while it was preparing a book exposing company practices.

Although Nestlé claimed in a statement that the spy was sent to check whether Nestlé buildings were to be targeted during the G8 summit in Evian in 2003, ATTAC points out that the spy only joined their group some time after the G8 was over. The spy infiltrated the sub-group working on the book on Nestlé. See:

I was a guest speaker at an event in June 2004 in Nestlé's home town of Vevey, Switzerland, where this book was launched. ATTAC said the spying continued until summer 2004 so it is possible my messages to the group about the event and concerns about Nestlé were sent straight on to the company.

We have had our own concerns about possible underhand activities in the past, such as when students informed us that when Nestlé came to speak at their college they were approached by people claiming to be from Baby Milk Action and wanting to speak about their plans for promoting the boycott. Baby Milk Action was not informed of the event and had sent no-one (at that time - as now - Nestlé refused to speak if we were present). The people claiming to be from Baby Milk Action were seen to leave with the Nestlé speaker. At the time I wrote to Hilary Parsons, Nestlé's Head of Corporate Affairs, and received a denial that this had ever happened.

We expect Nestlé to be paying attention to what we are doing - the point of the boycott is to get its attention to prompt changes. Nestlé's preference is to respond with denials and to embark on public relations campaigns to divert attention from concerns. Reading that Nestlé has apparently admitted that spying is also part of its strategy does not come as a surprise.

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