Saturday, December 19, 2009

Industry survey suggests Fairtrade mark has been damaged by being awarded to Nestlé's token products

A report on a survey conducted by the industry body, IGD, suggests that the Fairtrade brand has been harmed by it being added to Nestlé products.

As followers of this blog will know, Nestlé has received Fairtrade certification for two products. Partners' Blend coffee, involving just 0.1% of the coffee farmers dependent on it has been used in national advertising campaigns since it was awarded in 2005, diverting attention from criticism that Nestlé's predatory pricing practices drive down farmers' income, sometimes below the cost of production. Suggestions that the award would be a Trojan horse, transforming Nestlé's relationship with coffee farmers have so far proved unfounded.

This month it was announced 4-finger KitKats in the UK and Ireland will be Fairtrade certified in January, representing just over 1% of Nestlé's cocoa purchase. Media coverage generally failed to mention how small a percentage was involved or the fact that Nestlé has been taken to court in the US for failing to act on a 2001 agreement to end child slavery within its cocoa supply chain within five years. Indeed, media coverage has implied Nestlé's Fairtrade move is addressing the problem of child slavery, rather than being a token move that is diverting attention from the broader concerns.

The amount Nestlé is spending on the Fairtrade Premium for the cocoa it will buy in 2010 (less than £400,000) is less than 1% of its expenditure on its current UK Nescafé advertising campaign (£43 million). Not only has it generated unwarranted good publicity, a UK Minister has used Fairtrade KitKat to dodge a question at a UN press conference on Nestlé's negative impact in developing countries. See:

According to the Food and Drink Digital report on the IGD poll, entitled Food shoppers sceptical of ethical shopping influence:

---Extract begins
There are several forms of certification that food and drink products can be accredited with, such as Fairtrade, the Rainforest Alliance or Freedom Foods.

However, many of these labels have attracted controversy, damaging consumer confidence. Fairtrade certification applies to products, not to companies, recently allowing Nestle to gain Fairtrade certification for the Kit Kat, despite ongoing allegations about its business practices relating to other brands.
---extract ends

US Fair Trade organisations have questioned Nestlé's commitment to sourcing cocoa more responsibly. See the press release at:

---Extract begins
Bama Athreya, Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Forum, said, "Nestlé cannot claim to be sourcing responsible cocoa by using a small amount of Fair Trade Certified cocoa when the majority of its cocoa could be produced by forced labor and child labor. As the largest food company in the world, Nestlé must make a stronger commitment to protecting worker rights in its cocoa supply chain as well as in its production facilities and in the sourcing of other agricultural products."

When Nestlé received its Fairtrade coffee certification from the UK Fairtrade Foundation for a product representing just 0.02% of its coffee purchase, another Fair Trade organisation suggested that a far greater commitment should have been extracted from Nestlé before giving it the right to use the logo:

---Extract begins
Equal Exchange's co-director, Rob Everts said, "We understand what it takes to commit to more equitable relationships with small coffee farmers. We have long recommended that for large corporations the Fair Trade starting point should be 5% of their total imports. Given Nestlé's dismal track record on many fronts in the developing world, they have an even steeper credibility hill to climb than most, and should in fact begin even higher than 5%. Large companies tend to subsidize their modest Fair Trade purchases by paying farmers much lower prices on the rest of their coffee imports."
---extract ends

A quick survey of Baby Milk Action supporters in 2005 found that 47% incorrectly thought the award of Fairtrade certification signified the Fairtrade Foundation had verified that there are no serious ethical concerns with a company. Only 17% realised there could be concerns and the mark relates only to the suppliers of the product that bears it and not all suppliers to the company. Many said their view of the mark would change if Nestlé received an award.

This misunderstanding of the limited scope of the Fairtrade mark that has presumably led to the damage to its reputation as it does not compute that a company with such an appalling record as Nestlé should receive it.

Nestlé is one of the four most boycotted companies on the planet, according to GMIPoll (as reported in The Guardian in 2005), over it aggressive marketing of baby foods.

An international coalition of civil society organisations is currently campaigning for Nestlé to be excluded from the UN Global Compact for bringing this voluntary corporate social responsibility initiative into disrepute by using it for Public Relations purposes while continuing with egregious violations of the Global Compact Principles in various aspects of its business. See:

It is, therefore, perhaps not surprising that the good reputation that the Fairtrade mark has built up over years through the hard work of grassroots supporters (including my own small personal involvement in the campaign to earn Cambridge certification as a Fairtrade city) has been damaged by being handed to Nestlé for so little while Nestlé's systematic breaches of baby food marketing requirements and human rights abuses continue.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Baby Milk Action Update 42 newsletter

You can download our latest newsletter as a pdf file by clicking here:

Here's the overview of what is in the newsletter - and our stop press news that after 7 years of campaigning we have finally prompted the formula companies to warn people on the labels of their products that powdered formula is not sterile and so steps to reduce the risks of possible contamination with bacteria should be followed.

Also in the newsletter: It was 30 years ago that six citizen’s groups, including a member of the Baby Milk Action Coalition, formed the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN). A celebration in Geneva (pg 3) recalled how this came about and honoured the many people who gave pivotal support to its aims.

After celebrating the successes and the many lives the campaign has undoubtedly saved, IBFAN Europe’s conference focused on planning and training to meet the latest challenges. As industry analysts have stated: “The industry is fighting a rearguard action against regulation on a country-by-country basis.” (pg 6) In the UK the industry has been winning. The UK has some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe and, with the help of the European Commission, the industry is successfully blocking implementation of the International Code, despite every health worker and mother support organisation, the Government’s own advisors and enforcement bodies calling for stronger measures. A draft report of an ‘Independent Review’ of the 2007 Regulations shows that the Independent Review Panel has wasted public money asking the wrong question (“Are babies under six months being fed follow-on formula by mistake instead of infant formula?”) rather than examining whether the regulations are fulfilling their stated purpose of protecting breastfeeding. We examine how the Government has got it so wrong and what needs to be done to protect infant health, and ensure that all mothers - those who breastfeed and those who use formula - do so on the basis of truly independent information (pgs 9 - 10).

At an international level we look at the policy changes in the USA that are coming in under the new administration (pg 7). We also examine how UN Business ‘partnerships’ are influencing health policies and threatening food security. Under the banner of ‘enlightened self interest’ and ‘wellness’ the industry is now on ‘a noble cause’ and is fuelling a craze for branded fortified foods with health and nutrition claims - a key marketing strategy for ‘adding value.’ (pgs 8 & 17) We examine the weaknesses in European process for authorising claims. Our position on formula is that if an ingredient is necessary to reduce its shortcomings, it should be a requirement for all formula, without claims being made. (pg 12) Through the Baby Feeding Law Group we are helping to close loopholes in the marketing regulations in the Philippines (pg 15).

Worryingly, Nestlé launched a new strategy at its AGM, claiming its formula ‘protects’ babies (pg 19) - it doesn’t, babies fed on it are more likely to become sick than breastfed babies, and in conditions of poverty, they are more likely to die. The boycott is part of our strategy to force Nestlé to respect the marketing standards (pg 19 - 23). We invite you to send a message to Nestlé and help us stop Nestlé’s ‘protect’ claims. Campaigns like this really work as our latest victory in the UK demonstrates.

Safer formula campaign victory: Finally! In 2002 the tragic death of a five-dayold child in Belgium highlighted that powdered formula is not sterile and may contain harmful bacteria, such as Enterobacter Sakazakii. Simple steps reduce the risks, but companies refused to warn parents or update their labels - until now. After seven years of campaigning, new warnings that powdered formula is not sterile have started to appear on SMA, Cow & Gate, Aptamil, Nurture and Hipp branded formula in the UK. The instructions and health claims are still not right - but it’s progress!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

What the UK's Trade and Development Minister said and did not say about Nestle Fairtrade KitKat

The UK Fairtrade Foundation press release regarding the certification of 4-bar Nestlé KitKats in the UK and Ireland, includes the following:

---Extract begins

Rt Hon Gareth Thomas MP, the UK government’s Trade and Development Minister, says: "I am glad to see Kit Kat become Fairtrade certified, giving more British shoppers the chance to improve the lives of some of the world’s poorest people. This will give thousands of Ivorian cocoa farmers better opportunities to trade their way out of poverty."

---extract ends

This has appeared in many of the media reports about the launch. I emailed Mr. Thomas to ask if he was aware of the context of this announcement: 99% of the cocoa Nestlé sources is outside the Fairtrade scheme and that Nestlé has been taken to court in the US for failing to act on its 2001 commitment to address child labour and slavery in its cocoa supply chain from Ivory Coast.

I'll give the full text below. I am still awaiting a reply. But it seems I am not alone in questioning the Minister of his uncritical support. A press release from the United Nations Department of Public Information regarding a press conference Mr. Thomas gave today (9 December) contains the following:

---Extract begins

Mr. Thomas was also asked to comment on his praise for Nestlé UK, whose Kit Kat chocolates would be Fair Trade-certified in Britain beginning in 2010, although Nestlé had faced controversy in the past for its marketing tactics in developing countries. He stressed that, under the Fair Trade deal, cocoa farmers from Côte d'Ivoire earned additional money on top of the agreed price of the cocoa bought by Nestlé, to be used for development purposes. At the moment, the United Kingdom was pursuing the goal of doubling the number of supermarket goods sourced from Africa.

---extract ends

This is exactly what Nestlé was buying with Fairtrade certification for its 4-bar KitKat - a diversion from other issues. Including the fact that 2-bar KitKats and all other Nestlé chocolate is outside the scheme.

From the Fairtrade Foundation we see that the additional money is US$150 per tonne and Nestlé is to buy 4,300 tonnes in 2010, which is US$645,000 (about £400,000).

Great for the farmers, but small change for Nestlé - in August, Nestlé launched a Nescafé promotion in the UK costing £43 million.

So by investing just 1% of a UK Nescafé advertising campaign in sourcing Fairtrade cocoa for 4-bar KitKat, it has generated stories around the world suggesting it is doing something significant to improve the lives of farmers in Ivory Coast and has a UK Government Minister spreading the same misinformation to the media and at the UN. The logo on the KitKat and associated advertising will do the same job in the longer term.

It would have been welcome if the Minister had said something like:

"Fairtrade certification is making a real difference to people's lives. This example is good news for the 6,000 farmers involved, but Nestlé still has to change how it deals with the farmers providing 99% of its cocoa which is outside the scheme and it should live up to its commitments to the Harkin-Engel Protocol. It promised to end child labour and slavery in its cocoa supply chain by 2006, but has not done so. It has been taken to court in the US, but has repeatedly argued that it is just buying a product when it comes to cocoa and is not responsible for egregious labor rights violations involved in its production. If it changed that position it would have a far wider impact than the Fairtrade certification for one product sold in just two countries."

If he was really interested in shifting Nestlé's corporate ethos, he could have added: "We should also not lose sight of the fact that Nestlé continues to violate the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly and that complaints about this and alleged human rights abuses have been filed with the UN Global Compact Office by experts on its practices, calling for it to be excluded."

Is it too much to expect the Minister of State for International Development to see the broader picture and not act as an unpaid Public Relations spokesperson for Nestlé?

If our leaders were prepared to speak the truth then campaigners would not have such a tough job forcing changes on corporations such as Nestlé.

This was the message I sent to Mr. Thomas on Monday (bad grammar corrected):

Dear Mr. Thomas MP,

I have seen your comments regarding the award of Fairtrade certification to some Nestlé KitKats (4-finger products only). In making your comment I wonder if you are aware of the context? Nestlé has been taken to court in the US for failing to act on a 2001 agreement to end child slavery in its cocoa supply chain and in the past has boycotted a meeting by Senator Horkins (co-sponsor of the Horkins-Engel Protocol in the US) called to examine lack of progress. There are 11 million people dependent on cocoa farming in West Africa, many of them dependent on Nestlé. The KitKat products involved in this scheme will benefit only 6,000 farmers. There is a danger that the improved conditions for the 6,000 farmers will divert attention from the many others outside the scheme, and be used deliberately to this end by Nestlé.

Stop the Traffik, founded by Steve Chalke, the United Nations Special Advisor on Community Action Against Human Trafficking, said in response to the announcement that ‘two finger’ Kit Kats and all of Nestlé's other chocolate products: “"will continue to exploit the chocolate slaves of the Ivory Coast from where Nestlé source most of their cocoa"”. See:

I am trying to find out how many cocoa farmers are dependent on Nestlé specifically to see if this is a similar situation to its Fairtrade coffee, which involves just 0.1% of the coffee farmers dependent on it, but is used to suggest it is making a huge difference, providing cover for continued unethical practices.

In addition, Nestlé is the most boycotted company in the UK and one of the four most boycotted companies on the planet according to GMIPoll because of the way it pushes its breastmilk substitutes. Nestlé systematically breaches the baby milk marketing standards adopted by the World Health Assembly, undermines breastfeeding and contributes to the unnecessary death and suffering of babies. According to UNICEF, 1.5 million babies die around the world every year because they are not breastfed. Even Nestlé's Global Public Affairs Manager, Dr. Gayle Crozier Willi, admitted in 2007 that Nestlé is 'widely boycotted'.

Fairtrade KitKat will be added to the boycott list. The boycot has forced some changes in Nestlé marketing practices and policies, but the company, the market leader, refuses to make all necessary changes and is still the worst of the baby food companies. At the present time it is being targeted for practices that include claiming its infant formula 'protects' babies - it does not, babies fed on it are more likely to become sick than breastfed babies and in conditions of poverty, they are more likely to die.

Its Fairtrade product should be seen in this context.

Please see my blogs on this topic, which includes a quote from me:

Best wishes,

Mike Brady

Monday, December 07, 2009

US Fair Trade Organizations Question Nestlé’s Commitment to Fair Trade Cocoa


December 7, 2009
11:18 AM

CONTACT: Fair Trade Organizations
Tim Newman,, 202-347-4100 x113 or 617-823-9464
Todd Larsen,, 202-872-5310
Adrienne Fitch-Frankel,, 415-255-7296
Paul Hong-Lange,, 626-584-0800

Organizations Question Nestlé’s Commitment to Fair Trade Cocoa

WASHINGTON - December 7 - Nestlé SA announced today that it would begin to source Fair Trade Certified cocoa for its Kit Kat bars in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Since stories about the use of child, forced and trafficked labor and the widespread poverty among farmers in West Africa's cocoa industry surfaced in 2001, organizations in the United States and around the world have been campaigning to convince major chocolate companies, especially Nestlé, to commit to sourcing Fair Trade Certified cocoa. A lawsuit filed in 2005 in US courts against Nestlé on behalf of Malian children who were trafficked to Cote d'Ivoire to harvest cocoa is still ongoing.

While Nestlé's announcement may be a very small step toward supporting a more sustainable and labor-friendly system of cocoa sourcing, the company's history and practices around the world raise questions about its commitment to Fair Trade. Additionally, Nestlé has not announced any plans to use Fair Trade Certified cocoa in its products in the United States.

Nestlé is one of the most boycotted companies in the world. Trade unions have criticized the company for a range of labor rights abuses including in Colombia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Tunisia. Nestlé has also been a target of campaigners concerned about its impact on access to water and baby food marketing, among many other issues.

Nestlé's minimal investment in Fair Trade Certified coffee also provides reason to be skeptical about its commitment. Nestlé's Fair Trade line is only a marginal part of its coffee products and it has not increased its purchasing of Fair Trade coffee despite its promises to do so. In October 2009, Nestlé launched a new program related to their global cocoa sourcing called "The Cocoa Plan" which does not include investing in Fair Trade cocoa, suggesting that the company does not intend to shift toward more equitable trading relationships through the Fair Trade system and it is unclear if Nestlé plans to expand Fair Trade cocoa beyond the UK.

Bama Athreya, Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Forum, said, "Nestlé cannot claim to be sourcing responsible cocoa by using a small amount of Fair Trade Certified cocoa when the majority of its cocoa could be produced by forced labor and child labor. As the largest food company in the world, Nestlé must make a stronger commitment to protecting worker rights in its cocoa supply chain as well as in its production facilities and in the sourcing of other agricultural products."

Todd Larsen, Corporate Responsibility Programs Director at Green America, said, "We urge Nestlé to go beyond this token commitment to Fair Trade and to take steps to end all sourcing from child labor and pay a living wage to its workers worldwide. Consumers the world over are increasingly concerned that their chocolate purchases are supporting slavery and misery, and are increasingly purchasing Fair Trade chocolate as a result. They will be looking to Nestlé to do far more to support farmers worldwide."

Adrienne Fitch-Frankel, Fair Trade Campaign Director at Global Exchange, said, "While we thank Nestlé on behalf of the thousands of cocoa farming families who will begin to thrive by receiving the Fair Trade price for their cocoa, we also ask, ‘How can Nestlé leave so many thousands of children languishing in child slavery and abusive labor conditions, and keep so many farming families mired in poverty while growing cocoa for the rest of Nestlé's products?' Nestlé's profits depend on the hard work of cocoa farmers, and justice will only be done when those farmers can live in dignity."

Paul Hong-Lange, Director of Oasis USA, said, "This step by Nestlé guarantees that no slave labor or exploitation will be used in the production of one line of chocolate in one region of the world. This is a good start but it still leaves the conscientious American wondering if Nestlé chocolate on the shelf in their grocery store is tainted with slave labor. We urge Nestlé to do better by more farmers and more consumers."

Over 60 organizations and chocolate companies have endorsed a "Commitment to Ethical Cocoa Sourcing" that sets a higher standard for sustainable and responsible cocoa sourcing than Nestlé. The commitment can be found online:


Global Exchange is a membership-based international human rights organization dedicated to promoting social, economic and environmental justice around the

Green America is a non-profit organization whose mission is to harness economic power-the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace-to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society.

The International Labor Rights Forum is an advocacy organization dedicated to achieving just and humane treatment for workers worldwide.

Oasis USA is a non-profit organization committed to developing communities where everyone is included, making a contribution, and reaching their God-given potential. Oasis USA is the West Coast Office for Stop the Traffik Campaign in the

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Nestle KitKat to be Fairtrade - except for those where child slavery is involved

According to the Ekklesia news site, there will be an announcement on Monday 7 December that in the UK four-finger KitKats are to be Fairtrade certified. See "Campaigners give two finger salute to Nestlé":

Great news for the farmers in the scheme if properly independently audited, but raises questions about why Nestlé has not lived up to its promises to end child slavery in its cocoa supply chain more broadly.

As Ekklesia reports:

---Extract begins
Stop the Traffik say the good news is only partial, as this will only apply to their ‘four finger’ product.

‘Two finger’ Kit Kats and all of their other chocolate products “will continue to exploit the chocolate slaves of the Ivory Coast from where Nestlé source most of their cocoa” they said in a statement.
---extract ends

For details of Nestlé's failure to live up to its 2001 promise to end child slavery in its supply chain and a reminder of Nestlé's token Fairtrade coffee and how it has used that to try to divert criticism of its coffee trading and to undermine the boycott over its baby milk marketing, see my earlier blog:

Here's the quote from the page with my full analysis - see that for links to supporting documents and images:

Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, said: "Nestlé is already using a Fairtrade mark on a token product representing just 0.02% of its coffee purchase to try to divert criticism of its trading practices, which have been blamed for driving down prices for millions of coffee farmers. While the coffee and cocoa farmers in Fairtrade schemes should benefit, if proper independent audits are done, that provides little comfort to the vast majority of suppliers outside the schemes. Legal action has been taken against Nestlé in the US over its failure to act on child slavery in its cocoa supply chain, despite public claims that it is doing so, and we have already seen it trying to divert this criticism by, for example, sponsoring an event on the abolition of slavery at the Labour Party Conference.

"When Nestlé is on the record as saying that charitable contributions should benefit its shareholders, we should not be too excited by one of the world's most boycotted companies pursuing something like this. We will continue to include Kit Kats on the list of boycott products and recommend that anyone who is concerned about promoting real change for people in developing countries support the boycott and buy their products from companies with positive business values, not just token initiatives. There are companies whose entire output is Fairtrade certified after all. Nestlé systematically violates baby food marketing standards, undermining breastfeeding and contributing to the needless death and suffering of babies around the world - the changes we have been able to force on Nestlé are because of the boycott and it will continue until Nestlé brings its policies and practices into line."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Looking for justice

I am disturbed by the news from China that two people have been executed for their role in supplying milk contaminated with melamine, which led to thousands of babies being hospitalised and at least 6 deaths. In the UK not even mass murderers face the death penalty. See:

The Chairwoman of the Sanlu company that sold baby milk containing the contaminated milk - even after knowing it was contaminated - was sentenced to life imprisonment, the BBC reports.

Even if you think the death penalty should never be applied, there is a marked contrast between long prison sentences and the lack of action against the executives of transnational corporations whose marketing practices undermined breastfeeding in China and elsewhere in the first place. Don't take this the wrong way - it is certainly not a suggestion these executives should be killed, but a suggestion that they should indeed end up in court and face an appropriate sentence for their willful and deliberate breaking of international marketing standards in the pursuit of increased profits.

Instead of this happening, we found the Chairman of Nestlé, the worst of the baby food companies, being given a platform at the World Food Summit to tell policy makers his views. See:

Nestlé executives also make much of their links with the UN Global Compact, a voluntary corporate social responsibility initiative introduced by then UN Director General, Kofi Anan, when others were pressing for regulatory systems.

We have registered a complaint with the UN Global Compact alongside other Nestlé Critics - see:

This is an ongoing process, so I won't say more about it at this stage. However, while pursuing this complaint we learned that Nestlé had offered a substantial sum to the UN High Commission for Refugees. This may or may not be directly linked to the review we are calling on the UN Global Compact Office to conduct, but it does raise questions about whether we can expect to have a fair hearing if Nestlé is a multi-million dollar donor to the UN.

At first sight it may seem that any money going into UNHCR initiatives must be good news, but Nestlé has stated in the past that it only pursues charitable endeavours if these will benefit shareholders. See:

In a case like this we might see Nestlé seeking to increase income by influencing UN policy and gaining routes to market for its products and using the link to try to divert attention from efforts to hold it to account in the many areas of its business where there are concerns.

Development organisations and health campaigners from around the world joined us in voicing concerns about the possible deal and it has been abandoned by UNHCR.

It is welcome the UN is not taking the money. Now we hope it will take the next step and conduct the review called for under the Global Compact Integrity Measures and exclude Nestlé from the Global Compact until it changes its policies and practices. Such changes have the potential to have a far greater impact on people's health and well-being. Remember, breastfeeding is the most effective health intervention with the potential to prevent more under-5 deaths than provision of safe water, adequate sanitation and vaccination.

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

The UN Global Compact is not even intended to be monitored or enforced and stresses that it focuses on 'facilitating dialogue'. Well, we have been 'dialoguing' with Nestlé and other companies with decades, but that doesn't force changes - exposés and consumer action prompt changes. Those are the strategies we need to use while the UN system is ineffective at enforcing the marketing standards and human rights norms that companies should abide by.

Monday, November 16, 2009

LA Times on Nestlé's Twitter PR Disaster

There is an interesting article in the Los Angeles Times about bloggers accepting corporate hospitality, gifts etc.

It includes reference to Nestlé's Twitter PR disaster last month, though lacks the full story. An extract from:

---Extract begins
But critics of the company countered that the event was a public relations ploy in reaction to an ongoing boycott of Nestle for marketing baby milk formula as a substitute for breast feeding in developing countries.

In fact, before the trip, critics reached out to the bloggers invited to California and urged them to not go.

No one canceled.

As the event got underway, the online conversation quickly turned into an online battlefield. The company's Twitter channel was so inundated with anti-Nestle messages, and nasty accusations aimed at the attendees, that it was essentially shut down. The company, caught off guard, let the parents field questions aimed at executives until finally stepping into the fray.
---Extract ends

I saw several bloggers say they had been invited to the event and refused to go. Not the same as canceling, but bloggers on the invitation list were not all blind to the conflicts of interest in attending, even if unaware of the boycott.

Nestlé is one of the four most boycotted companies on the planet, according to an independent survey, because it is found to be responsible for more violations of the marketing standards for baby foods than any other company.

The LA Times article is a little lazy in characterising the posts to the #nestlefamily hashtag as 'anti-Nestlé messages' and 'accusations aimed at the attendees'. The vast majority of posts were raising concerns about Nestlé practices and posting links to evidence (I became aware of the event through traffic to our sites) and responding to specific requests from some attendees for questions to put to executives, including the Chief Executive of Nestlé USA.

Nestlé came online briefly and offered to take questions. I offered to take part in a tweet debate directly with Nestlé on behalf of Baby Milk Action, but this was not taken up. Nestlé stayed on line for an hour or so, promising to come back the next day to respond to questions, but did not.

The fact is Nestlé runs from fora where there are people with the knowledge to challenge its bland assurances that it markets formula 'ethically and responsibly' (a claim that the UK Advertising Standards Authority found to be untrue when Nestlé made it in an anti-boycott advertisement). It not only ran from the questions on Twitter, it now refuses to debate with Baby Milk Action, after we won a series of them from 2001 - 2004. Nestlé refused to attend a European Parliament Public Hearing in 2000, when UNICEF Legal Officer was present to address questions regarding interpretation of the marketing requirements Nestlé should be following (Nestlé claims its own interpretation is correct, while dismissing all others, including UNICEF). And Nestlé refuses to even set out its terms and conditions for participating in an independent expert tribunal into its policies and practices.

Nestlé prefers to direct people to its own website and provide written answers, but not defend them when these are scrutinised, perhaps hoping the majority will accept its assurances at face value. Those who do look closer generally come away more shocked and dismayed at Nestlé's deceit as it tries to defend practices that contribute to the unnecessary death and suffering of infants.

Nestlé's reticence to engage with informed critics can be understood given how its response to questions put by the PhD in Parenting blog has fueled concerns rather than dissuaded those looking at this issue. Nestlé's answers have been posted in full on the blog, and can be found via:

As is often the case, Nestlé's attempt to divert criticism became a PR disaster and gave International Nestlé-Free Week a boost in the US in its third year. The week aims to encourage boycotters to do more and non-boycotters to do something to increase the pressure on Nestlé. Boycotting has forced some changes and greater involvement can only help. See:

Friday, November 13, 2009

Brabeck attacks 'well-fed' activists as he tries to set food security agenda

Think of Nestlé and the fact it is one of the world's four most boycotted companies will likely come to mind. You may think of how it pushes baby milk in breach of international standards, undermining breastfeeding and contributing to the unnecessary death and suffering of babies around the world.

You may think how it competes with the most locally produced and sustainable food there is - breastmilk - making processed cow's milk, packaging it and transporting around the world to market it with untrue claims and inducements and jollies for health workers.

You may think of the food miles the company's strategy of promoting processed foods over local foods generates, the resources consumed, the green house gases emitted.

You may think of its impact on water supplies and the campaigns around the world by people who do not want Nestlé bottling their water and transporting that large distances to make a vast profit.

You may think of its promotion of Genetically Modified Organisms and the campaigns that have been waged in countries around the world to stop these being used.

You may think of the national dairy industries that have been destroyed or are under attack in places such as Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Brazil. You may think of the dairy farmers and coffee farmers who have had their livelihoods destroyed by Nestlé sourcing strategies.

You may think of the children forced to work on the cocoa farms that provide Nestlé with cocoa and its failure to live up to its public assurances it will address this problem.

You can find information on these and other concerns about Nestlé practices at:

Nestlé's Chairman, and former CEO, Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, wants you to think of none of these things. The man who is at the cutting edge of undermining local food security, wants “well-fed activists” to shut up.

As reported in today's Financial Times, Mr. Brabeck argues it is those: "whose hostility to new food technologies was exacerbating a global food crisis by holding back agricultural productivity."

Mr. Brabeck is trying to set the agenda at an international meeting on food security. From the Financial Times report:

"It is disheartening to see how easily a group of well-intentioned and well-fed activists can decide about new technologies at the expense of those who are starving,” he told a conference in Milan aimed at bringing the private sector into the debate on global food security."

Well, it has never been easy exposing Mr. Brabeck's dishonesty and the corrupt practices of the company he runs - remember he claimed to investigate any hint of a violation of the baby food marketing requirements, yet oversaw some of the most aggressive practices ever documented. Remember the claim that formula prevents diarrhoea, Mr. Brabeck? Or the claim you are currently putting on labels claiming formula 'protects'? It doesn't - babies fed on it are more likely to be ill than breastfed babies and in the poor countries where you do not fail to push these products, they are more likely to die.

Mr. Brabeck neglects to mention that it is in developing countries where you will find strong opposition to Nestlé practices. Those of us in Europe have a responsibility to try to carry their voice to Nestlé's doorstep and to the seat of the powers that should be holding Nestlé to account.

The article continues: "'Food security is not a short-term issue,' he said. 'It will affect [many] more than 1bn people if we do not change radically how we handle the world’s water.'"

Should the Food and Agriculture Organisation really be taking lessons from Mr. Brabeck?

Consider that Nestlé exploitation of water resources has generated opposition around the world. In the Brazilian town of São Lourenço Nestlé's water-bottling operation broke federal law according to a federal prosecutor, but it took a 10-year campaign and finally the threat of daily fines to stop it pumping. Here's a map from the case showing how Nestlé's pumping operation was operating in the area of maximum environmental vulnerability.

This was raised at shareholder meetings and directly with Mr. Brabeck, but still Nestlé refused to stop pumping until a settlement in a court case brought following a petition raised by the people of the spa town who were seeing their livelihoods from tourism destroyed. See:

It is a petty jibe at 'well-fed activists', particularly coming from a man whose basic salary was reported at the shareholder meeting as US$ 5 million per year, boosted to US$ 16 million by shareholdings. Such wealth and power gives Mr. Brabeck preferential access to those who will decide how food security will be addressed. If he has his way, you can bet sugary, salty breakfast cereals, junk food and breastmilk substitutes will be a key part of it and Nestlé will use its participation in the current meeting in Milan and any 'partnerships' that emerge from this cosying up to such bodies in its strategy for undermining the influence of civil society still further.

For an overview of what governments and international bodies should be doing to protect food security, see the book produced by a Task Force of the UN System Standing Committee on Nutrition, called Global Obligations for the Right to Food. I wrote the chapter on holding corporations to account.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Nestle pursuing Fairtrade certification for Kit Kat

The Daily Mail has reported that Nestlé is in discussions with the Fairtrade Foundation in the UK about certifying its Kit Kat brand as Fairtrade. We don't know if this will happen yet, but the Fairtrade Foundation did award a Fairtrade mark to a token Nescafé product in 2005. See:

Earlier this year, Cadbury's had its Dairy Milk chocolate Fairtrade certified. This was welcome and has obviously put other companies under pressure, but as world cocoa prices are currently above the price that Fairtrade certification guarantees, there is little extra cost to the companies. As The Guardian reported back in March:

---extract begins
Fairtrade terms require buyers to commit to a minimum price of $1,600 a tonne. For more than two years the open market price has been climbing and yesterday reached $2,213. This is the longest period prices have stayed above the guarantee price and the International Cocoa Organisation yesterday predicted a third year of "production deficit". This makes a Fairtrade commitment more affordable than in previous years.
---extract ends

The advantage for farmers comes because there is a Fairtrade premium and when prices drop the minimum price sets a floor that means they still make a profit. Also various criteria on issues such as child labour have to be guaranteed.

Which raises the question, if Nestlé believes it is able to make these guarantees for the cocoa going into its Kit Kat, why has it not taken the action it promised in 2001 to end child slavery in its cocoa supply chain as a whole? Why pursue Fairtrade for one product, while boycotting a meeting called by Senator Horkins, one of the initiators of the Horkins-Engel protocol?

We can learn from history. When Nestlé gained a Fairtrade mark for its Partners' Blend brand of coffee, this was used in a national advertising campaign.

This failed to mention that just 0.02% of its coffee purchase was covered by the scheme, involving 0.1% of the farmers dependent on Nestlé. Nor did it acknowledge that Nestlé has been criticised for driving down prices for the millions of coffee farmers dependent on it - sometimes below the cost of production. The Fairtrade Foundation received some criticism for giving an award for such a small commitment from Nestlé. See:

The advantages to Nestlé of receiving a Fairtrade mark for Kit Kat is explained in the Daily Mail article: "It would boost the image of Kit Kat's parent, Nestle, which has been criticised over its ethical standards."

Such a boost would be totally unwarranted. The farmers in the scheme may benefit, but for those outside it would be business as usual, except now Nestlé could use the Fairtrade product to divert criticism.

How much good PR Nestlé would achieve is also open to question. An evaluation of its Partners' Blend launch shows that it also drew attention to its malpractice. See:

As with Nestlé's Twitter PR Disaster last month, sometimes it shoots itself in the foot. See:

But we can expect Nestlé to use any certification in trying to divert criticism. In 2006 when Senator Horkins called on the chocolate companies in the US to explain why they had not met their promise to end child slavery in their supply chains within 5 years of the 2001 agreement, Nestlé boycotted the 18 September meeting. However, a few days later on 25 September 2006, it sponsored a meeting at the ruling Labour Party Conference in the UK celebrating the 200th anniversary of the outlawing of slavery. Without any sense of shame, the title of the event was: "Is Slavery History?". See:

Nestlé has been taken to court in the US by the International Labor Rights Fund over its failure to act on its commitments. You can find a 2009 update on the Nestlé Critics site:

This was one of the issues raised in a complaint to the UN Global Compact Office in July 2009. Nestlé violates the principles of this voluntary initiative and uses it as public relations cover. See:

If Kit Kat is certified as Fairtrade, we will continue to list it on the boycott products list, along with Partners' Blend coffee. The boycott puts pressure on Nestlé to make changes to policies and practices to bring them into line with standards adopted by the World Health Assembly. Making those changes will benefit far more people than a token Fairtrade product and the boycott has been essential for forcing the changes we have achieved. See:

In evaluating Nestlé's motives, we shouldn't forget that the Chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, has said that Nestlé should only support charities if it will benefit his shareholders and the reasoning here will be the same. See:

I have my quote ready if this does go ahead: Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, said: "Nestlé is already using a Fairtrade mark on a token product representing just 0.02% of its coffee purchase to try to divert criticism of its trading practices, which have been blamed for driving down prices for millions of coffee farmers. While the coffee and cocoa farmers in Fairtrade schemes should benefit, if proper independent audits are done, that provides little comfort to the vast majority of suppliers outside the schemes. Legal action has been taken against Nestlé in the US over its failure to act on child slavery in its cocoa supply chain, despite public claims that it is doing so, and we have already seen it trying to divert this criticism by, for example, sponsoring an event on the abolition of slavery at the Labour Party Conference.

"When Nestlé is on the record as saying that charitable contributions should benefit its shareholders, we should not be too excited by one of the world's most boycotted companies pursuing something like this. We will continue to include Kit Kats on the list of boycott products and recommend that anyone who is concerned about promoting real change for people in developing countries support the boycott and buy their products from companies with positive business values, not just token initiatives. There are companies whose entire output is Fairtrade certified after all. Nestlé systematically violates baby food marketing standards, undermining breastfeeding and contributing to the needless death and suffering of babies around the world - the changes we have been able to force on Nestlé are because of the boycott and it will continue until Nestlé brings its policies and practices into line."

Monday, November 02, 2009

How was Nestlé-Free Week for you?

How was Nestlé-Free Week for you? Just another Nestlé-Free Week? The first time you took boycott action? The first time you heard of Nestlé baby food marketing malpractice? A good strategy to telling people about the boycott?

Should we now stick to the last week of October for Nestlé-Free Week from now on to build its profile until Nestlé accepts the four-point-plan for saving infant lives and ending the boycott?

The boycott runs throughout the year. Nestlé-Free Week is intended to boost the boycott: for those who boycott to do more, for those who don't boycott to do something. It provides an opportunity for people to tell others about how Nestlé pushes its baby milk in breach of international marketing standards and endangers infants (if this is new to you, click here). When people say they would boycott, but can't give up their favourite Nestlé product, they can be challenged to do so for this week, and may then continue boycotting when they have found an alternative product. That's the theory. Does it work, or might people think the boycott is just for one week a year?

Share your views and experiences in the comments below.

We want the week - and the on-going boycott - to gain ever more support. Nestlé has helped us to promote the week in the past through its public relations gaffs. And it was no different this year.

2009 Nestlé-Free Week 26 October - 1 November (possible new fixed date): Nestlé's Twitter PR disaster boosts the week, particularly in the US, where the week encompasses Halloween and Nestlé candy was boycotted.

2008 Nestlé-Free Week 4 - 10 October (20th anniversary of current boycott launch) : Nestlé attempts to derail launch of Nestlé Critics website, drawing more attention to it.

2007 Nestlé-Free Week 2 - 8 July (30th anniversary of 1st boycott launch): Nestlé's Global Public Affairs Manager admits Nestlé is 'widely boycotted'.

We have a particular focus for action at present: persuading Nestlé to remove logos from its formula labels that claim it 'protects' babies. Keep up the pressure by sending a message to Nestlé if you have not done so already by going to:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

On corporate trolls and spies

I sure I am not giving anything away to corporations in writing this blog.

For reasons I won't go into, I've just come across this system for monitoring social networking sites called Spark from Spiral16.

If you are ever suspicious that comments on blogs, bulletin boards or networks are from corporate trolls (people posing as members of the public to push the company's agenda) then you could be right.

This handy film shows you how to track and interact.

A few year ago The Guardian ran an article by George Monbiot called: "The fake persuaders: Corporations are inventing people to rubbish their opponents on the internet."

If you don't think corporations would be so sneaky, then take a look at Nestlé's spying operation. Attac Switzerland has just published a book about the spy that infiltrated the editorial board for a book being put together on Nestlé.

The book is in French. You can find information in English on the spying scandal at:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Nestlé-Free Week 26 October - 1 November - now there are ribbons for Twitter avatars!

Nestlé-Free Week 26 October - 1 November: a week for boycotters to do more and for non-boycotters to do something.

Nestlé's PR Disaster on Twitter recently gave the week extra publicity, so why not add a ribbon to your Twitter avatar if you have an account. Click the button or see:

Monitoring around the world by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) finds that Nestlé is the worst of the companies when it comes to breaking international standards for the marketing of baby foods adopted by the World Health Assembly.

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."

You can sign up to support the week on Facebook at:

If you know people who say they would boycott, but.... why not challenge them to boycott for this week? When they find there are alternatives to Nestlé products they may join the boycott permanently. The boycott is helping to hold Nestlé to account, forces some changes and helps to save lives. See:

The week has gained a big boost in the US following Nestlé's attempt to recruit top parenting bloggers to its cause by inviting them to an all-expenses-paid trip at a 5-star hotel in California, complete with celebrity chef. Some turned it down. Others went and raised questions posted on the Twitter channel Nestlé had set up for the bloggers to rave about its products. Soon the channel was dominated with people raising concerns about Nestlé's practices. Nestlé came on briefly to respond to these, but then left when people were not satisfied. It has since posted responses to written questions on the PhD in Parenting blog, but such is Nestlé's dishonesty - and the failings of its anti-boycott PR team - that these are being shown up for the deception they are, so fueling support for the boycott and Nestlé-Free Week. See:

Do post information on other resources and ways to promote the week.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

UK law review draft report is a whitewash that side steps the real issues so as to clear formula promotion

If you are in the UK, please check out the latest news about our baby formula marketing regulations. Baby Milk Action has launched a quick campaign to protect breastfeeding and babies fed on formula and we need you help!

A government commissioned report on the effectiveness of the law has just been published as a draft. It is a whitewash. The Independent Review Panel did not examine how advertising and other promotion of formula undermines breastfeeding and misleads parents who use formula. Instead it only considered whether follow-on formula is being fed to babies under 6 months instead of infant formula by mistake.

On this basis it concludes there is basically no problem with the current law which allows companies to target mothers with promotional materials and inaccurate information, to offer gifts, advertise, make point-of-sale promotion, give inducements to health workers etc. etc.

The law should be protecting breastfeeding and protecting babies fed on formula. It is failing in this, as the evidence clearly shows - if the Panel would just consider it. This is contained in monitoring reports prepared by Baby Milk Action and in other submissions, including from Trading Standards, which has the task of enforcing the law.

You can send a message to the Minister for Public Health asking the government to send the report back to include these issues, or to otherwise reject it as a waste of public money. See:

Monday, October 19, 2009

IBFAN's 30th birthday and breastfeeding calendar

On 12 October I was fortunate to attend the 30th anniversary celebration of the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) in Geneva. Our press release about the event can be found here:

In 1977 six civil society groups attended a WHO/UNICEF meeting on the marketing of breastmilk substitutes, where it was decided to draft the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. Those six groups formed IBFAN, which today consists of more than 200 groups on over 100 countries.

Representatives of 24 groups from the European region stayed on for a training and planning meeting. I recorded interviews at our last meeting, which you can listen to by clicking here:

When I have had found the time to put together a report from this meeting, I'll post it here.

Also launched at the event was the IBFAN Breastfeeding Calendar 2010. You can order this right now in our online Virtual Shop at:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Does Nestlé formula really 'protect' babies?

The blog PhD in Parenting has another response from Nestlé following its Twitter PR Disaster.

This is regarding Nestlé's claim that its formula 'protects'. In truth infants fed on formula are at greater risk of short and long-term illness than breastfed children and, in conditions of poverty, more likely to die.

There is a good analysis of Nestlé's response on the PhD in Parenting blog, showing the 'protect' logo on the Malawi tin we have been highlighting (click on the image below for a larger version).


I have added the following comment:

Baby Milk Action wrote to Nestlé about this label and also an end-of-aisle display found in a rural area in Malawi. Nestlé replied, simply that it respects the marketing requirements. You can see the other pictures here:

We have posted Nestlé’s response to us on our website. Since receiving it, we have found that Nestlé has posted a different response on its website. We have also analysed that. Full details at:

Two points to note. Firstly, Nestlé refused to translate the breast is best warning into Chichewa, the national language of Malawi, in the past, citing ‘cost restraints’. It took a 3-year campaign from Baby Milk Action which put the issue on national television in the UK before Nestlé agreed to translate the warnings and instructions.

Secondly, this is what Nestlé states on its website about the ‘protect’ logos (follow the link above for links to supporting documents):

“Nestlé makes significant investments in R&D and technology to deliver innovative products with scientifically proven nutritional benefits. While our infant nutrition products meet the needs of non-breastfed babies during the first critical months of life, the functional benefits that are encapsulated in the ‘Protect’ logo are scientifically substantiated – the result of many years of intensive research on how best to improve the formula composition to stimulate the infant’s immune system.”

[****Baby Milk Action comment: Nestlé's justification for these logos is simply untrue. They promote the addition of Long-Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (LCPUFAs) - DHA, ARA and one Nestlé refers to as Opti-pro to give the impression it aids eye development, a claim sometimes made about them. However, the respected Cochrane Library has investigated the impact of adding LCPUFAs to infant formula and concluded: "It has been suggested that low levels of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) found in formula milk may contribute to lower IQ levels and vision skills in term infants. Some milk formulas with added LCPUFA are commercially available. This review found that feeding term infants with milk formula enriched with LCPUFA had no proven benefit regarding vision, cognition or physical growth."****]

Here’s the link to the Cochrane Library review:

Nestlé continues: “The logo helps distinguish this particular formula from other less advanced products but does not claim in any manner that infant formula is superior to breast milk.”

[****Baby Milk Action comment: A comparison comment, with no scientific basis for it, would be misleading, but this is not a comparison comment. The logo simply says 'Protect Start' on the infant formula and 'Protect Plus' on the follow-on formula, an absolute claim that the formula will protect. This undermines the legally-required warning that breastmilk is best for babies. In the Philippines, Nestlé has used logos promoting 'brain building blocks' and claimed 'Experts recognize DHA as essential for brain development and good vision.'. UNICEF Philippines has produced a film examining the impact of such claims: they lead some parents to believe their children will be more intelligent and have better eyesight if fed on formula. You can watch the film by clicking here.****]

So Nestlé is defending its ‘protect’ logos – for now. With more people exposing Nestlé’s bogus claims and sending messages to Nestlé the sooner we will succeed in persuading it to remove the logos. You can send a message via the Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet at:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Nestle's comments on baby milk marketing following its Twitter PR disaster

Following its PR disaster on Twitter, Nestlé has responded to questions posed on the PhD in Parenting blog. I have posted an analysis of Nestlé's response there. I've grouped everything together here so its easier to follow and added the links.

This is not everything that can be said to show Nestlé has been misleading or outright dishonest in its answers. Leave comments on any points where further details would be useful.

---Analysis of Nestlé response:

PhD in Parenting question 4. You say that you comply with the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes in all countries that have adopted the code. Canada is a signatory to the Code and the Canadian government actively encourages companies to comply with it. However, despite Canada being a signatory to the Code, you do not comply with the code in Canada. When you say “adopted” is it fair to assume then that you mean “legislated” and that you will not comply with a developed country’s will unless it puts regulations in place to force you to?

Nestlé response to question 4. The WHO Code was adopted by the WHO Member States as a recommendation to governments, which are required to implement the Code as appropriate to their social end legislative framework. Nestlé universally follows all countries’ implementation of the WHO Code.

In addition, Nestlé decided over two decades ago to voluntarily and unilaterally apply the WHO Code in all developing countries, whether or not they have implemented it in their own legislative framework. If the local legislation is stricter than the Code, we apply local legislation.

Baby Milk Action analysis on question 4. Read Article 11.3 of the Code: “Independently of any other measures taken for implementation of this Code, manufacturers and distributors of products within the scope of this Code should regard themselves as responsible for monitoring their marketing practices according to the principles and aim of this Code, and for taking steps to ensure that their conduct at every level conforms to them.”

PhD in Parenting question 5. You mention that “The WHO Code will only truly succeed if governments enforce it and monitor its compliance“. When a country is considering changing its legislation to include provisions contained in the WHO Code does Nestle lobby against those changes through formal or informal consultation processes?

Nestlé response to question 5. No, it is not in Nestlé’s interest to have weak national codes in place; we apply the WHO Code and the Nestlé instructions if the national code is less strict than the WHO Code itself.

A strong national legislation, that includes monitoring procedures, provides clarity and an even playing field for all infant formula manufacturers. Therefore, Nestlé encourages governments to implement monitoring mechanisms. The Code itself also recommends this.

Baby Milk Action analysis on question 5. When the Philippines was defending stronger legislation in 2007, Nestle USA was part of a campaign against the UNICEF and WHO country heads for speaking up in favour of the regulations. In Zimbabwe, it tried to ‘economically blackmail’ the government by threatening to pull out if regulations went ahead. And so on.

PhD in Parenting question 6. You say that you do not market formula in developing countries. and you also say that you have unilaterally applied the WHO Code in all developing countries and regions. Please:

Provide a list of developing countries where you sell infant formula (i.e. the countries where you do sell, but do not market your formula).

Nestlé response to question 6. This is the list of countries that we define as developing countries when it relates to the implementation of the WHO Code. All countries in Central Asia, and all countries or territories of Africa, Middle East, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean nations and the Pacific nations except Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

The categorisation of a country as developing or developed is subject to objective criteria, such as infant mortality rate, adult literacy rate, Gross National Income per capita, percentage of infants with low birth weight, percentage of population using improved water sources and percentage of population urbanised.

Baby Milk Action analysis on question 6. The Code was adopted under World Health Assembly Resolution 34.22. The second line states: “Recalling that breastfeeding is the only natural method of infant feeding and that it must be actively protected and promoted in all countries” and “All member states” are called on ” to translate the International Codeinto national legislation, regulations or other suitable measures”. In other words, it is not restricted to countries of Nestlé’s choosing. Nestlé does not follow the Code even where it claims to. A survey published in 1997 by the Interagency Group on Breastfeeding Monitoring (IGBM) called Cracking the Code, produced independently of Baby Milk Action and the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) found systematic violations by Nestlé and other companies. UNICEF said IBFAN’s monitoring was ‘vindicated’. IGBM continues to monitor. Member Save the Children said recently the results since its first report give no reason to change that opinion.

PhD in Parenting question 6b. Provide a definition of “marketing”. Does your definition of “marketing” align with the definition in the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes. Or is this description of the variances between the WHO Code and your implementation of it accurate? If this description is inaccurate, please explain how it is inaccurate.

Nestlé response to question 6b. Our definition of “marketing” is the same as the one given in the WHO Code (art. 3). By “marketing we mean: product promotion, distribution, selling, advertising, product public relations, and information services.”

Baby Milk Action analysis on question 6b. Nestlé has clearly confused itself. According to the question Nestlé said it does "not market formula in developing countries". Is Nestlé really wanting to say it does not even sell formula in developing countries?

PhD in Parenting question 7. Does any Nestle formula packaging in any nation make claims that the formula offers protection or protects the baby against diarrhea or any other ailment?

Nestlé response to question 7. There is no question about breast milk being the best start a baby can have in life. But when mothers are not able to breastfeed, it is critically important that a safe, effective, high-quality alternative be made available.

Nestlé makes significant investments in R&D and technology to deliver innovative products with scientifically proven nutritional benefits. While our infant nutrition products meet the needs of non-breastfed babies during the first critical months of life, the functional benefits that are referred to on our products are scientifically substantiated – the result of many years of intensive research on how best to improve the formula composition. However, we never claim in any manner that infant formula is superior to breast milk. All our infant formula labels contain the following text: “Important notice: Breast milk is best for babies. Before you decide to use an infant formula, consult your doctor or clinic for advice.”

Baby Milk Action analysis on question 7. In April 2009 Nestlé unveiled its new marketing strategy for infant formula and other breastmilk substitutes – logos on labels claiming it ‘protects’, which undermines required 'breast is best' messages. View an example from Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries with under-5 mortality of 140 per 1,000 live births. Not the place to be telling mothers that infant formula protects. Click on the image for a larger version.


PhD in Parenting question 8. You maintain that “Nestle does not provide mothers in the developing world with free samples of your infant formula products – in fact Nestle has no contact at all with mothers with regards to these“. Are samples provided to doctors? Is information about the “benefits” of your formula provided to doctors or other health professionals?

Nestlé response to question 8. Nestlé does not provide mothers in the developing world with free samples of products. Samples of formula may be provided to individual health workers for the exclusive purpose of professional evaluation and in very specific instances (e.g. introduction of a new formula product). In such cases, the health worker may only be given one or two cans of the product and one time only. When in contact with health workers, Nestlé staff emphasises the superiority of breast-feeding and gives objective information on scientific and factual matters pertaining to formula and its correct use.

Baby Milk Action analysis on question 8. As The Guardian’s own investigation found in 2007 in an investigation in Bangladesh, Nestlé distributes pads for doctors to tear off and give to mothers promoting infant formula. This and other practices, including free samples etc. are given in the Breaking the Rules reports.

PhD in Parenting question 9. You indicate that you have regular audits on a worldwide basis of your marketing practices relating to infant formula. Do you have any public audit reports and/or statistics that you can share?

Nestlé response to question 9. Nestlé has implemented a thorough monitoring system to ensure compliance with the WHO Code. This includes an internal WHO Code Ombudsman System that allows Nestlé employees to alert the Company on potential non-compliance with the WHO Code, regular internal audits of the Company’s subsidiaries’ formula marketing practices as well as independent external audits in case of multiple, broad scale allegations about non-compliance with the WHO Code by Nestlé. The latest Independent Assurance Statements of Nestlé’s subsidiaries’ compliance with the Code can be found at:

Baby Milk Action analysis on question 9. Nestlé’s ‘independent audits’ are conducted by Bureau Veritas, paid by Nestlé to audit against Nestle’s own instructions, not the Code. It has embarrassed itself with some of the things it has missed. See the details here.

PhD in Parenting question 11. You indicate that “Nestle complementary foods are not marketed or presented as breast-milk substitutes” and that you support the May 2001 WHA Resolution that changed the recommended duration of exclusive breastfeeding from 4-6 months to 6 months. Given your support in this regard does this mean that you do not market any food/drink products at all for the use by infants under 6 months of age in any country and that none of your labels for cereal or baby food indicates that it can be used starting at 4 months?

Nestlé response to question 11. Nestlé fully supports the May 2001 WHA Resolution 54.2 which changed the recommended duration of exclusive breastfeeding from 4 – 6 month to 6 months, thereafter introducing complementary foods while recommending continued breast feeding for as long as possible. Thus we implement this resolution in the same way as we implement the WHO Code and we have completed label changes on complementary foods to follow the 6-months recommendation. In addition, in developing countries Nestlé applies the WHO Code not only to starter formula (0-6 months of age) but also to follow-on formula (6-12 months). It is the only major manufacturer to do so.

Baby Milk Action analysis on question 11. The World Health Assembly first addressed this 6 months issue in a Resolution in 1994. It took 9 years of campaigning to force Nestlé to change – which it announced during a week of demonstrations in the UK that gained international media coverage. A great victory for the boycott, though Nestlé foods labelled from 4 months have been reported since.

PhD in Parenting question 12. In discussions with the bloggers, your CEO mentioned that children died in the 1970s as a result of the misuse (wrong quantity, mixed with dirty water) of formula samples. Do you believe that deaths from the misuse of formula samples ended in the 1970s?

Nestlé response to question 12. The WHO Code was adopted in 1981 to contribute to the provision of safe and adequate nutrition for infants, by protecting and promoting breast-feeding, and by ensuring the proper use of breast-milk substitutes, when these are necessary.

Unfortunately, lack of clean water is still a reality in many developing countries. In these countries, mothers are advised not to use infant formula unless it is AFASS – acceptable, feasible, affordable, sustainable and safe.

However, if a baby is not breastfed for whatever reason, he or she needs a breast-milk substitute, whether or not clean water is available. Until all people have a safe water supply, the only solution is to teach mothers the importance of boiling water and how to prepare infant formula correctly.

All of Nestlé’s Infant Formula Labels contain the following text in the local language: “Warning: Unboiled water, unboiled bottles or incorrect dilution can make your baby ill. Only prepare one bottle at a time. Feed immediately. Do not keep unfinished bottle. Follow instructions exactly.”

In addition, the WHO Code states that it is the responsibility of health workers to advise mothers on infant feeding – first and foremost by encouraging and protecting breastfeeding, secondly to inform the mother about appropriate alternatives (advantages and disadvantages) which include instructions on how to prepare infant formula in a correct way.

It must also be underlined that the vast majority of women in developing countries breastfeed, and at the same time give their baby additional traditional foods, or just plain water. However, many poor mothers who need to use a breast-milk substitute cannot afford infant formula and therefore have to feed their babies with a potentially harmful substitute plain (including cornstarch water or other traditional food mixtures). The challenge is to educate mothers about appropriate breast-milk substitutes and complementary food that can be given to babies as well as to find a way to make appropriate substitutes available to those babies who really need it.

Baby Milk Action analysis on question 12. See Nestlé’s labels telling mother that formula ‘protects’. Etc.

PhD in Parenting question 13. Why did your CEO tell bloggers at the Nestle Family event that the boycott ended in 1986? The boycott in fact ended in 1984, but was reinstated in 1988 because Nestle did not live up to the promises it made. The boycott is is still active today. Please explain why you would attempt to mislead the bloggers about the status of the boycott.

Nestlé response to question 13. In 1977, the first Nestlé boycott was lead by US-based INFACT and ended in 1984. At the end of 1988, an attempt was made to relaunch the Nestlé boycott but received little attention in the U.S.

Baby Milk Action analysis on question 13. Nestlé is one of the four most boycotted companies on the planet according to an independent survey.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Nestlé response on child slavery in its cocoa supply chain to #nestlefamily on Twitter

Nestlé has agreed to respond to questions following a grade A public relations (PR) disaster on Twitter.

Its response on child slavery in the cocoa industry is posted here:

I have posted the following comment:

----Comment begins
Nestlé says: “That is why Nestle has actively participated in the chocolate industry’s efforts to address the issue through steps outlined in the Harkin-Engel Protocol, and is a founding participant of the International Cocoa Initiative and a member of the World Cocoa Foundation.”

Errr…. Nestlé has not lived up to its undertakings and has been taken to court over this. Nestlé was invited to a public meeting about the progress of the initiative on 18 September 2006 and refused to attend. But a few days later it was sponsoring an event on slavery in the UK!

It's not Baby Milk Action’s issue (I work for Baby Milk Action) so I interviewed the Director of the International Labor Rights Fund to find out more. Listen at:

Nestlé wrote the book on ‘Engineering of Consent’. There is a very good briefing paper on this, with the subtitle “Uncovering PR Strategies” from the Cornerhouse at:
----Comment ends

You can find out more about the concerns regarding child slavery and child labour from the International Labor Rights Fund. See the chocolate section of:

There is also a section in the report submitted by Nestlé Critics to the United Nations Global Compact Office, calling on Nestlé to be expelled for bringing this voluntary Corporate Social Responsibility initiative into disrepute. Nestlé uses it for PR purposes, while failing to respect its principles. Download the report at:

Monday, October 05, 2009

Please read before saying the boycott is pointless

In the Nestle Twitter PR disaster, some people have commented that they do not support the boycott because it has been running for over 30 years and, they suggest, hasn't achieved anything.

I posted the following as a comment on one such blog in response:

It really is necessary to click on the links. I am encouraging the bloggers and everyone else who attended this event to do some research if they intend to write about it. There is a wealth of material and I don't have the time to post it all in comments on various blogs and I don't want to overwhelm people with information here. People are also welcome to leave comments on my blog about the event:

There is a history page on our site. The Your Questions Answered may also prove useful:

This blog post may also prove useful, looking back on the 30th anniversary of the boycott launch:

Also take a look at this report, which gives a good overview and examines what has happened in seven countries over the past decades:

A few potted things the boycott and campaign has achieved: The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (despite what Nestlé told you, it opposed the Code - scans of documents from the time are on our site), the Code's implementation in 70 countries to greater or lesser degrees, breastfeeding rates in countries taking action to stop malpractice increasing (Brazil from median duration 3 months in the 1980s to 10 months), Nestlé changing its policy on milk nurses and baby pictures on formula, stopping specific cases of malpractice such as Nestlé promoting formula in Botswana as preventing diarrhoea etc. etc. Take a look on the site.

Sometimes success is measured in terms of things not getting worse. For example, we have had to campaign several times to stop Brazil's exemplary legislation from being weakened. And 2 years ago helped to stop the regulations in the Philippines being struck down (I have written about this in more detail on my blog about the #nestlefamily event as Nestle USA, which organised it, was involved in attacking WHO and UNICEF in that case).

Nestlé is always bringing in new strategies. Health claims are a recent strategy. In the Philippines it labeled its formula as containing 'brain building blocks' and made demonstrably untrue claims about ingredients aiding 'brain and eye development' (you can see these on our site). The new regulations should stop this. Watch the UNICEF film from the Philippines to see the impact of such promotion and why these regulations are so necessary:

If you want to see how the campaign can force a change on an immediate issue, I would suggest writing to Nestlé over its strategy of telling mothers its formula 'protects' their babies.

If you can write a blog encouraging others to do the same, even better. You don't have to support the boycott to do so and if you think that your new contacts at Nestlé are listening to concerns that you put to it, then feel free to try asking directly - I did post this request on #nestlefamily so it could be raised while the CEO was there taking questions, but I have not heard that anyone took it up and Scott Remy did not reply when I addressed it to him. You are welcome to take up other issues, for example encouraging Nestlé to accept the four-point plan for saving infant lives and ultimately ending the boycott. Again, details on our site.

With a little pressure we will get those 'protect' logos removed from labels. I have written to Nestlé about them and its reply ignores the issue entirely, hence the campaign. When the public write in large numbers, it often does bring about a response.

Nestlé's claims may boost sales, but they are the height of irresponsibility. Nestlé knows that babies fed on formula are at greater risk of illness than breastfed children and in poor settings, more likely to die.