Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Nestlé family Twitters

Suddenly we are receiving lots of traffic from Twitter that brought my attention to an event Nestlé has organised in California for bloggers. Apparently 20 influential bloggers have been invited to a jolly in the sun to learn more about Nestlé.

Being bloggers, they are tweeting their experiences. Unsurprisingly, there is a lot of activity on Twitter as others raise concerns about various aspects of Nestlé malpractice, some of it linking to our sites which alerted me. You can follow the conversation at:

There's a description of the event on this site from a blogger who is definitely not a follower of the Nestlé boycott:

Someone at the event tweeted that Nestlé USA CEO said they do not have many complaints. Strange then that Nestlé is one of the four most boycotted companies on the planet because it breaks international marketing standards for baby foods, undermining breastfeeding and endangering babies fed on formula.

Strange too that Nestlé has an anti-boycott team and invest heavily in trying to divert criticism, as well as other tactics, such as infiltrating campaign groups. Nestlé employs a former MI6 Officer (where the fictional James Bond worked) to run Nestlé's spy operation.

Nestlé does have a history of these all-expenses-paid events as part of its attempts to divert criticism. It has attempted to entice journalists to Switzerland, using invitations sent round by a Midwife who has written a factually incorrect article encouraging midwives to accept Nestlé sponsorship. The article defends Nestlé's record with regard marketing of baby foods and purports to be a research-based study, but misquotes the primary reference so badly it raises questions over whether it was peer reviewed - questions which have not been answered. Baby Milk Action was given a substantial right to reply published in a subsequent issue of the journal, but Nestlé distributes the article without this. This is one of the issues addressed in my recent analysis of Nestlé's claims about its activities. See:

There is something curious that sometimes happens when people accept Nestlé hospitality: having eaten Nestlé's food, people are understandably unwilling to speak - or think - ill of their host. Accepting the company's largesse may cloud the critical faculties. It will be interesting to see how much Nestlé's claims will be investigated before being relayed by the bloggers attending this event. Nestlé is a master of two-step communication, having its message relayed by third parties, giving the impression of impartiality, and that is surely part of its goal with this event.

Even if these bloggers were unaware of Nestlé malpractice in the past, how they will respond now they are aware of it from the tweets people have been posting. Will they take an objective look at the evidence - such as the labels which claims formula 'protects' babies when in reality they are more likely to become sick than breastfed babies?

Or will they rationalise defending their hosts so as not to feel a little bit nauseous at all the Nestlé products they've chowed down? I don't wish to suggest that chocolate is enough to sway people of integrity, but in the past I've seen the critical blindness that can result when people try to defend accepting Nestlé sponsorship. See:

My hope is the bloggers will investigate and report both the evidence and how Nestlé tried to mislead them.

For example, this tin was found last month in Malawi, one of the world's poorest countries, where under-5 mortality is 140 per 1,000 live births. It is certainly not a place to be telling parents that formula 'protects'.

We are running a campaign calling on Nestlé to remove these 'protect' logos, which are appearing around the world, including at Nestlé's shareholder meeting this year showing the policy comes right from the top of the company. In a similar campaign in the past we persuaded Nestlé to include warnings and instructions in Chichewa, the national language, on the labels in Malawi - prior to that it had argued the market was so small 'cost restraints' prevented it from translating the labels. So campaigning does work. See:

There have been some comments on Twitter from some bloggers about Nestlé USA executives and how open they say they are to discussing the issues around formula marketing. "It's been worth us coming", someone tweeted. Please wake up and smell the Nescafé they are plying you with. Not so long ago those nice people at Nestlé USA were attacking the heads of WHO and UNICEF Philippines for defending breastfeeding and supporting better regulation of formula. See the report in the Asia Times:

Nestlé now refuses to speak on its baby milk marketing if Baby Milk Action is in the room, having lost a series of debates between 2001 and 2004. In 2000 it refused to attend a public hearing called by the European Parliament. It is currently refusing to accept our invitation to set out its terms and conditions for taking part in an independent expert tribunal investigating claim and counter claim in depth. But it will spend time pitching its claims to the bloggers.

For the time being I prefer to think that the 20 bloggers were unaware of Nestlé's practices and to hope they will investigate further. If they support this campaign they could help to save lives around the world and their trip to California can have a happy ending.

I have to much to do supporting our partners around the world to keep tracking this, so if you spot any blogs arising from this event, please do post links below.

UPDATE 1 October

Eventually a Nestlé representative, Scott Remy (initially mis-typed as Scot Remy), came on to Twitter offering to answer questions. I posted the following. None of them have been answered a day later.

Hi Scot Remy, will Nestle stop claiming its formula 'protects'? #nestlefamily
Hi Scot Remy, will Nestle bring policies into line with the WHO Code? #nestlefamily
Hi Scot Remy, will Nestle accept the 4-point plan for ending the boycott? #nestlefamily
Hi Scot Remy will Nestle drop its objection to debating with Baby Milk Action? @nestlefamily
Final thought, Scot Remy, how about a Tweet debate with Baby Milk Action tomorrow? #nestlefamily

Let us see if Nestlé's refusal to speak if Baby Milk Action is in the room, extends to ignoring us on Twitter.

I have also posted corrections to some of the untrue statements relayed in some tweets. You can see these and sign up to follow me on Twitter by going to:

It is the nature of the immediacy of Twitter that postings by bloggers are not subject to the journalist standards of fact checking we would expect elsewhere. This has led to the situation where some posters have been scathing of some comments being relayed uncritically - which has led to some heated feelings with some bloggers feeling they are being attacked unfairly. It is difficult to tell how many bloggers have been involved in tweeting from the event, so it is also dangerous to assume that everyone at the event is going to relay Nestlé's line. It is also wrong for bloggers to take a few over the top posts as representative of those with genuine concerns about Nestlé.

Boycott supporters need to learn from this because it is counter productive to attack those caught in the middle. One result has been that it shifts the focus onto the etiquette of who said what and should they have done so and away from the Nestlé's practices.

One blogger has already reported: "I’m not going to touch on the complaints, some of them valid, that are being brought up by the #nestlefamily critics. That’s a different post, and frankly one I have no interest in writing."

I can understand why people at the event don't want to face up to the uncomfortable fact that the nice executives who have told them they are happy to engage (see analysis of this above) in truth are trying to use them in the company's PR strategy; the executives are fully aware of Nestlé's business practices and the cynical and dishonest way in which Nestlé tries to divert criticism. I have debated in public with Nestlé executives and have seen first hand how they are expert at making reassuring statements they and I know are untrue.

Anyone wanting to have a positive impact on these sorts of events should reflect on how some bloggers have felt attacked, because attacks provide an excuse to avoid the real issues.

It has been great to have a lot of traffic thanks to links in tweets and undoubtedly many, many more people are aware of the boycott and concerns because of it. So I am pleased that the community of boycotters spontaneously was on the case and raising awareness. Hopefully at least some of the bloggers will be prepared to investigate and report the evidence and how they were misled by Nestlé. But I quite understand any blogger new to this issue wanting to keep their head down - and it is better if they don't comment at all if they are not prepared to check the facts.

In the UK we often hear of events sponsored by Nestlé and try to contact those involved and sometimes hold a demonstration outside to provide leaflets to those entering. We are often thanked for doing so afterwards; those that decide to go in can put questions to executives, though it can be a more powerful statement to refuse to take part.

I advocate that spirit of providing information.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Nestlé's threats to farmers in Zimbabwe

You really could not make it up! Unbelievable!

I wrote yesterday about reports of Nestlé buying milk from Grace Mugabe, wife of President Mugabe of Zimbabwe. The Mugabe's are on a list of government people facing sanctions over human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.

In the report on the BBC website Nestlé defends buying the milk, stating:

"Had Nestle decided to close down its operations in Zimbabwe, the company would have triggered further food shortages and hundreds of job losses among its employees and milk suppliers in an already very difficult situation."

Nestlé reportedly buys just 10 - 15% of its milk from the farms Grace Mugabe has seized from other farmers. So it would not really have to pull out if it respects the sanctions.

The threat sounds strangely familiar. In 1998 Zimbabwe was introducing legislation controlling the marketing of baby foods. Nestlé called a meeting of Parliamentarians and told them that if the law went ahead it would pull out of Zimbabwe. Nestlé said: "This would result in job losses for about 200 people and an extremely negative economic impact on local farmers who supply us with milk, wheat, maize and sugar."

The Minister of Health judged that Nestlé was making an 'idle threat' as Nestlé would not pull out of the country - it wasn't there to create jobs, but to make money. Zimbabwe went ahead with legislation to protect its babies. Nestlé did not pull out of Zimbabwe. Nesté's threat was picked up by Mark Thomas in one of his investigations into Nestlé. See:

Later Mark interviewed the Minister of Health, Dr. Stamps, who was very critical of Nestlé's behaviour. See:

So when it suits Nestlé to threaten people with hardship it has no qualms. When it suits it to express sympathy for their plight, then it will do so to defend sanction busting! The common factor? Nestlé profit.

Nice one, Nestlé!

We know you.

It is Nestlé's management style that employees should fear as well when it comes to their job security and keeping their hard-won benefits - not the boycott. With Nestlé rumoured to be interested in a hostile takeover of Cadbury's, people would do well to learn from what happened to Rowntrees. See:

UPDATE 30 September: According the reports citing the Swiss Government on possible sanction busting, no action is being taken as: "Nestlé confirmed that no individuals or companies in Switzerland were in any way involved in the relevant transactions."

My response: "So Nestlé Switzerland claims it has no control over Nestlé Zimbabwe all of a sudden? This is simply absurd and should have any attentive shareholder seriously worried. On the other hand, when people raise concerns over its baby milk marketing Nestlé is happy to claim that it ensures subsidiary companies respect the baby food marketing requirements (despite the company as a whole systematically breaching the requirements). Nestlé claims control when it suits it and denies control to try to escape a charge of sanctions busting."

UPDATE 2 October: Nestlé has said it will stop buying milk from Grace Mugabe's farms. According to The Guardian: "The company claimed it had been buying the milk since February because the cash-strapped Dairy Board of Zimbabwe could not. It said it did not want the milk to go to waste and hoped to boost the country's deteriorating food supply."

That's a rather different line from suggesting that if it didn't buy the milk it would have to pull out of Zimbabwe, and just shows how Nestlé will say anything it thinks will avoid bad publicity.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Nestle profile in the Daily Telegraph - 'most boycotted'.

An article in today's Daily Telegraph profiles Nestlé under the headline: "Nestlé: the world's biggest food company and one of the 'most boycotted'".

Nestlé is the target of a boycott because it is the worst of the baby food companies in marketing baby foods in breach of international standards. Its practices undermine breastfeeding and mislead people who use formula. According to UNICEF: "Improved breastfeeding practices and reduction of artificial feeding could save an estimated 1.5 million children a year."

The article includes news of International Nestlé-Free Week, scheduled for 26 October - 1 November. People are encouraged to promote the boycott during the week and if they are not boycotting already, to do so at least for that week. Click here for details.

For analysis of Nestlé's dismissal of the charges against it, see:

The profile is linked to an article highlighting that Nestlé is purchasing 1 million litres of milk per year from Grace Mugabe, wife of the President Robert Mugabe, despite sanctions due to human rights abuses by the regime. According to the article: "American and European officials said that if Nestlé was subject to their rules it would be committing a criminal offence by trading with Mrs Mugabe." The article notes that Nestlé "is not obliged to comply with those sanctions as its headquarters are in Switzerland, but the country has its own set of measures, including against Mrs Mugabe, among which it "is forbidden to make funds available to persons mentioned, or put them, directly or indirectly, at their disposition". Nestlé denies that it has violated Swiss law."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Nestlé-Free Week 26 October - 1 November

This year Nestlé-Free Week will take place from 26 October - 1 November.

This special week is an opportunity to give the ongoing boycott a boost.

The week encompasses Halloween, which Nestlé is increasingly trying to exploit in the UK.

You can find resources for promoting the boycott of Nestlé over its baby milk pushing in our Nestlé-Free Zone. See:

You can sign up on facebook to show you will promote the week at:

The ongoing boycott focuses on Nestlé's flagship product, Nescafé coffee. We list all products from which Nestlé profits, so if you don't normally avoid the whole lot, why not do so during this week? You may surprise yourself with how many alternative products are out there.

If you find that your friends and colleagues say they would boycott, but.... then challenge them to do so at least for this week.

We would welcome other poster designs specifically for the week, so feel free to send them to me at

You can also find items for promoting the boycott in our online Virtual Shop at:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Implications of a possible takeover of Cadbury's by Nestlé

Nestlé, one of the four most boycotted companies on the planet, is apparently considering a takeover of Cadbury's - a venerable UK chocolate company.

Somebody has already posted a petition against the takeover here:

While there are competition issues pertinent to the takeover, Nestlé refused to accept a ruling against its takeover of the Garoto chocolate company in Brazil - also an old family firm - from the competition authorities. Nestlé was warned at the outset not to integrate the businesses and reportedly signed an agreement saying it would undo the takeover if the competition authorities ruled that it should. However, it embarked on a five-year legal battle that eventually overturned the ruling against the takeover on the technical grounds that the authorities had taken too long to issue it. Nestlé is now reported to control 70% of the Brazilian chocolate market, reaching 100% in some sectors (see this Portuguese article).

A monopoly supplier is bad news for consumers as it means there is no price competition to keep prices down. But Nestlé has also been accused of price fixing in the US chocolate market with Mars and Hershey (its possible partner in the Cadbury takeover). See:

Nestlé is the target of a boycott because of the way it pushes its baby foods, putting its own products before infant health - and then misleads people and spies on campaigners to try to protect its reputation. See:

Cadbury's has a better reputation; recently it brought one of its leading brands into the fairtrade system, more than tripling the market paying fair prices to Ghanaian cocoa farmers. See:

By contrast, Nestlé is accused of failing to act on child slavery and other child labour in its cocoa supply chain and of using the Fairtrade mark awarded to a token coffee product to divert criticism of how it treats farmers. See:


It remains to be seen whether Cadbury shareholders will consider taking the money of such an unethical company, which will see their famous brands added to the boycott list.

There are other reasons why they may wish to think carefully. In 1986, Nestlé made a hostile takeover of Rowntree, another old family chocolate firm. Despite promises to protect the UK operation, Smarties production eventually moved to Germany, Black Magic to the Czech Republic and Dairy Box to Spain. In 2006, 645 people were made redundant as a result of these changes.

Tony Randerson, Amicus officer for Nestle Rowntree in York, spoke out about the way the remaining workers were treated:

“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.”

Nestlé not only continues with such practices, it rewards managers who implement them: in other news, Nestlé is appointing the Chief Executive Officer of Nestlé Philippines to head up the global infant nutrition business. It is in the Philippines where Nestlé is accused of ignoring court rulings regarding its refusal to negotiate pension rights with workers and of targeting trade unionists. This case is featured in the Nestlé Critics report submitted to the UN Global Compact office earlier this year. See:

It was in the Philippines were Nestlé baby food marketing was exposed, alongside that of other companies, in a film produced by UNICEF. See:

Our July 2009 Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet features Nestlé targeting of mothers in the Philippines amongst other cases. See:

Any chance of a change in direction in baby food marketing should not be expected with the CEO ultimately responsible for these practices in the Philippines during the last 5 years being promoted to run the global operation.

We will remain vigilant in monitoring Nestlé's baby food marketing practices. Having to spend time revising boycott materials to include Cadbury brands is something we could do without.

Monday, September 07, 2009

A close look at Nestle's letter in the RCSLT Bulletin shows the dishonesty used to protect this company's unethical practices

The September 2009 issue of The Bulletin of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) contains a letter from Zelda Wilson of Nestlé defending the company's baby milk marketing practices.

I am going to reproduce Zelda's letter in its entirety below. Why would I do Nestlé the favour of freely publicising its claims, you may ask? For the simple reason that sunlight is the best disinfectant and by showing how deliberately misleading Nestlé is - and the reasons behind such dishonesty - all will better understand the strategies of this most unethical of companies.

Here is the letter as published:

---Letter from Nestlé published in the RCSLT Bulletin September 2009

Nestlé firmly believes that breast-feeding is the best way to feed a baby and we are strongly committed to the protection and promotion of breast-feeding [Note 1].

However, when mothers cannot, or choose not to breastfeed, infant formula is the only product recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a suitable alternative [Note 2].

All Nestlé infant formula labels contain the "breast is best" message, together with other important reminders to mothers recommended by the WHO Code [Note 3].

In the UK Nestlé funded a DVD in 2004 for healthcare professionals to use to encourage teenagers to breastfeed. Although funded by Nestlé, the project was overseen by an independent midwife and reviewed professionally by senior healthcare professionals [Note 4].

In 1981, Nestlé took part in devising the World Health Organisation Code, which recommends to companies how they are allowed to market infant formula [Note 5]. The essence of the Code is that infant formula can only be marketed through healthcare professional and only by sharing scientific information [Note 6].

Nestlé has a robust internal system in place to make sure our employees abide by this Code and we also make sure our marketing practices are audited by independent, specialist professional service firms on a regular basis. Any violations are reported and addressed immediately [Note 7].

Nestlé was rated 'Best in Class' for compliance and third party verification relating to the WHO Code, as well as for reporting and transparency by GES Investment Services, Northern Europe's leading analysis house for socially responsible investment [Note 8].

You might want to look on: to get further information [Note 9].

Zelda Wilson
---Quote ends

There is an Editor's Note that follows the letter in the RCSLT Bulletin, which states: "Nestlé provided resources to support their current position and are keen to respond to any issues that RCSLT members raise. If you would like to read the resources or correspond with Zelda, please write to"

The details below will help anyone members of RCSLT wishing to do so. If you find it too daunting to unpick Nestlé’s blunt, but untrue, assurances, it is worth recalling that Baby Milk Action has invited Nestlé to participate in an independent expert tribunal to examine claim and counter claim in detail, but Nestlé refuses to even set out its terms and conditions for doing so.

For a short period Nestlé did participate in debates, mainly at universities, with Baby Milk Action, but lost them all and has now reverted to its position of refusing to attend if we are present. We have a recording of a debate from a school available at:

Perhaps before the RCSLT accepts any funding from Nestlé in future, it would like to consider inviting a debate at its conference?

It is also worth remembering that the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) spent two years examining similar claims made by Nestlé in an anti-boycott advertisement. Though it ruled in Baby Milk Action’s favour in 1999 on all our complaints Nestlé continues to repeat similar claims where the ASA has no power to investigate – such as in the letter to the RCSLT. See:

Untrue and misleading claims in the Nestlé letter.

Note 1: Evidence gathered by people on the ground around the world shows that Nestlé systematically undermines breastfeeding in the way it promotes its breastmilk substitutes. The example below is Nestlé's Nan infant formula purchased in Malawi in August 2009 - Malawi is one of the world's poorest countries with under-5 mortality at 140 per 1,000 live births. Yet Nestlé promotes its formula with a logo claiming it 'protects'. The logo detracts from the legally-required 'breastmilk is best for babies' message, a message that Nestlé refused to translate into the national language of the country until Baby Milk Action campaigned on this issue, bringing it to the attention of Mark Thomas who exposed the practice on national UK television, prompting Nestlé to back down. Baby Milk Action is currently running a campaign calling on Nestlé to remove its 'protect' logo from Malawi and all other countries - this is a global strategy - the labels were on proud display at Nestlé's shareholder meeting in Switzerland in April 2009.
You can take action over this and other some other current examples of Nestlé malpractice at:

Note 2. Pasteurised donor breastmilk is used in many countries when mothers cannot breastfeed, for example if their baby is premature.

While Nestlé claims that infant formula is the only 'suitable alternative' it also promotes its whole milk in the infant feeding sections of pharmacies and supermarkets around the world and in materials such as this calendar from the Dominican Republic.

Many poor mothers who use powdered milk to feed their infants use unsuitable powdered whole milk rather than formula, which is typically three times the price.

Again this practice is driven from the top of Nestlé - the picture below is from one of Nestlé's own 'social responsibility' reports and shows Nestlé auditors next to Nido whole milk alongside formula in the baby food section of a pharmacy. Baby Milk Action raised this with Nestlé and called on it to keep whole milk away from infant formula in retail outlets, but it refuses to do so, arguing that as whole milk is not a bona fide breastmilk substitute, no marketing regulations apply to it! It may be totally immoral not to stop this practice, but it is all money in the bank for Nestlé.


Earlier this year a study published in the British Medical Journal exposed coffee creamer being promoted with a logo showing a bear with a baby in the breastfeeding position, which led to it being used in feeding bottles. The exposure of an issue that had been raised for years did prompt Nestlé to remove the logo. See:

Note 3. As the label from Malawi shows, Nestlé undermines the required 'Breast is Best' message. The WHO Code prohibits idealizing text and images from labels, so it is dishonest of Nestlé to imply it complies with the Code's requirements when it has 'protect' logos and other claims on labels.

In addition, Nestlé refuses to tell those parents and carers who do use formula how to prepare it to reduce risks of possible intrinsic contamination. Powdered formula is not sterile and babies have died as a result of Enterobacter Sakazakii contamination in Nestlé formula in the past. Companies have been called on to make those who use formula aware of the risks and to revise their instructions so these can be reduced. Nestlé refuses to do this. See:

Note 4. It is staggering that Nestlé is boasting about a DVD in the letter when this was distributed in breach of UK law, which requires that such materials receive prior authorisation from the responsible government department. Baby Milk Action has campaigned on this and finally it was taken up by Croydon Trading Standards which has informed us that it has "“written to the company stating that they need to obtain approval from the Department of Health.” In other words, the video had been distributed in breach of the Regulations since its launch. As far as I am aware permission has still not been granted - I have forwarded Nestlé's letter to Trading Standards.

So why is Nestlé boasting to RCSLT of a film distributed in breach of the law? Because it thinks it can get away with people not knowing the background.

The history of the film is more illuminating still. It was launched at the Royal College of Midwives Conference in 2004 by Chris Sidgwick, resumably the midwife that Zelda is referring to as 'independent'. At the launch Chris made an appeal for midwives to drop their support for the Nestlé boycott so as to make use of the video. We raised at the time that the video could only be distributed if the Department of Health had given permission, but Nestlé went ahead regardless.

Zelda Wilson then took Chris and some others on an all-expenses-paid trip to Nestlé HQ in Switzerland to prepare an article on the baby milk issue. The resulting article was published in the British Journal of Midwifery, but was so misleading and flawed that Baby Milk Action was given a substantial right to reply in a subsequent issue. Nestlé continues to distribute the article without our right to reply. The article really was very badly done, with references misused, quotes misapplied and other types of factual errors which led us to question - without satisfactory answers - whether it had gone through peer review. (The British Journal of Midwifery is itself known for breaching the baby food marketing requirements, advertising Aptamil on a free-gift calendar in a past issue for example). A full analysis with links to original documents can be found at:

We then discovered that Nestlé was sponsoring study days run by an organisation called HCP Study Events - proprietor Chris Sidgwick. Communications from Chris about one event highlighted the expert speaker “Zelda Wilson a State Registered Dietician specialising in human interaction and behaviour", but failed to mention that Zelda Wilson works for Nestlé.

The HCP Study Events website does admit, however, that the organization is supported by a grant from the Nestlé Nutrtion Institute (see bottom of the page)– so much for Zelda’s claim of ‘independence’. See:

As well as these financial links, Chris and Zelda formed part of a five-person contingent that lobbied students at Sheffield University to drop their support for the boycott in a visit on 31 January 2008 - fortunately students consulted Baby Milk Action, UNICEF and Save the Children and the report countered some, though not all, of the dishonest claims made. Save the Children recalled studies had found "violations by Nestlé are systematic. We have no reason to believe that this has changed." Students voted to retain the boycott when it came to a cross-campus referendum. See:

Earlier in 2009 we exposed that Chris was trying to recruit others to go on trips to Switzerland at Nestlé's expense to write articles. See:

Note 5. Nestlé's claim about taking part in devising the WHO Code is so shameless it is laughable. UNICEF and WHO convened meetings to discuss developing a Code in 1979 following a long campaign, including a Senate hearing called by the Senator Edward Kennedy, who passed away this week. You can see a clip of this at:

It is true that industry was involved in these discussions alongside campaigning organisations, including representatives of the Baby Milk Action Coalition as we were known at that stage. Throughout Nestlé attempted to weaken the Code and its Vice President, Ernest Saunders, opposed the final version when it came before the World Health Assembly, calling it 'irrelevant' and 'unworkable' and ‘bereft of support from the world industry’.

But reading Zelda's re-writing of history, you would think Nestlé was behind the Code from the start! You can download a copy of Nestlé's letter and other documents from the time at:

Note 6. The statement that "infant formula can only be marketed through healthcare professional and only by sharing scientific information" is nonsensical and does not reflect the provisions of the Code. Marketing includes the process of selling and formula can be sold through retail outlets, though some countries have attempted to limit sales to pharmacies.

What the Code restricts is PROMOTION. There should be no promotion of any type.

Companies are limited to providing scientific and factual information to health workers and it is for health workers to advise parents - not to market infant formula to them on behalf of Nestlé, but to provide them with objective information, including on the benefits of breastfeeding and the difficulty of reversing a decision to introduce infant formula.

The Code also prohibits companies giving gifts to health workers and seeking direct and indirect contact with parents - which Nestlé breaches systematically. Subsequent Resolutions also address the issue of conflicts of interest and call for special care when it comes to accepting sponsorship for health workers or programmes involved in infant feeding.

As the RCSLT is all too aware, Nestlé is very keen on sponsoring health workers.

Note 7. The claim that Nestlé's marketing is independently audited and violations addressed is untrue. Nestlé does pay a firm called Bureau Veritas to conduct audits – meaning it is not independent. Bureau Veritas audits are carried out not against the International Code, but Nestlé's own Instructions. As well as auditing against these weaker provisions, Bureau Veritas misses the violations documented by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) or excuses them.

When violations are reported to Nestlé directly it is similarly dismissive unless pressure from adverse publicity and the boycott prompts it to act, as in the case of refusing to label products in Malawi in Chichewa, the national language, as described above.

Nestlé similarly paid Bureau Veritas to audit its water bottling activities in the town of São Lourenço, Brazil, when the company was under fire for destroying an historic water park in the spa town. Nestlé claimed Bureau Veritas cleared it of any wrong-doing and found it was fully compliant with the legislation. When questioned by Baby Milk Action, Bureau Veritas, which had visited Brazil, admitted it was unaware that the Public Prosecutor in the town had taken Nestlé to court - Nestlé eventually agreed to stop pumping and to compensate the town under the threat of daily fines until it did so.

Questioned by Baby Milk Action as to why it had failed to mention these and other key facts showing Nestlé was breaking the law, Bureau Veritas admitted: "our work did not constitute a legal audit as such, nor did it include a review of the on-going civil action" (even this was incorrect as at that time Nestlé had agreed to the Prosecutor's demands). None of these facts has stopped Nestlé from claiming regarding this case: "a third party audit by Bureau Veritas confirms that we have acted in accordance with Brazilian legislation",


Note 8. Far from being 'Europe's leading analysis house for socially responsible investment' GES Investment Services is perhaps unique in the so-called ethical investment sector as it looks only to company reports on their activities rather than independent monitoring reports. IBFAN has asked GES to accept its monitoring reports as evidence of Nestlé malpractice and it refuses to do so, saying its analysis model does not allow this. Reputable organisations such as FTSE4Good exclude Nestlé from their ethical investment lists because the company's policies and practices to not meet their criteria. See:

Note 9. Nestlé's 'Code Action' website has a curious history. It was launched amongst much fanfare as the online depository for monthly 'Code Action' reports. These reports were to showcase Nestlé's claim that it complies with the Code, but they very quickly became an embarrassment to Nestlé. One issue carried a substantial right to reply from Baby Milk Action after the company had denied our claim that it was hiring health workers to promote formula in rural areas of the Philippines. Other reports carried apologies to governments which Nestlé had falsely claimed had verified it was complying with the Code. The monthly reports became more and more infrequent and there hasn't been a new issue for some years. See:

Why is Nestlé targeting the RCSLT?

Nestlé attempts to forge links with health workers around the world, particularly those connected with infant feeding. In part this is as a route to target parents, for example by providing free gifts bearing the Nestlé name and styling of its formula. Zelda Wilson is on the record from one of her anti-boycott presentations as admitting the purpose of such gifts is: "to keep the company name and products in people's mind." When the gifts are for maternity wards then clearly the relevant product is infant formula. See:

Speech therapists have a role to play in infant feeding – indeed in Brazil it is common practice for milk banks to have a speech therapist as part of the team to help with positioning and because infant feeding methods can have a profound effect on development of the mouth and teeth. In countries such as Brazil Nestlé also attempts to woo speech therapists with financial support.

A related goal is that Nestlé can then use its links to try to improve its image. In part this may be by boasting of its financial support to the organization. It is also because an organization accepting Nestlé funding is inevitably drawn into defending the company in excusing its decision. So in The Bulletin the Editor suggests that the documents provided by Nestlé support its position, whereas objective analysis of these and source documents such as those I reference would expose how Nestlé has attempted to mislead.

If you question whether Nestlé could really be so dishonest in the assurances it has given in its letter, let me simply say you need to wake up and smell the non-Nescafé coffee.

That is the least of its sins. This is a company that puts its own profits before the health and well-being of infants. As well as using deception to divert criticism of its practices, there are other clues as to its nature, such as the fact it employed a former MI6 officer to hire a spy to infiltrate a campaign organisation in Switzerland. Many other concerns have been raised by campaigners and employees regarding other aspects of Nestlé's business. See:

I have contacted the Editor of The Bulletin asking that an objective assessment of Nestlé's claims is published after considering the source documents and other evidence. Failing that, I can provide a response to Nestlé. In the meantime, please do direct people to this analysis of Nestlé's claims to subject them to a little sunlight.