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.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Twitter answers

I drafted the following as a quick response to a posting on Karen's Chronicles and am posting it here as it was too long for a comment.

Hi Karen,

Thanks for this post. I became aware of the event due to the amount of traffic coming to Baby Milk Action sites from Twitter as people posted links. I'd not posted to Twitter before, but after following for a while posted some links to background information and tried to counter some of the dishonest Nestlé statements being relayed by some bloggers at the event. When Nestlé came on and offered to answer questions, I posted a few, including asking if Nestlé is now ready to sign up to the 4-point plan for ending the boycott. I also suggested a Nestlé/Baby Milk Action tweet debate. I found no answers to my questions and Nestlé refuses to debate with us having lost a series in the UK between 2001-2004. Nestlé also refused to attend a European Parliament Public Hearing into its practices in 2000 and currently refuses to set out its terms and conditions for participating in an independent, expert tribunal we have proposed.

There were some over the top posts both from some of the bloggers and boycott supporters, though I think the majority posting were trying to address the issues. I don't know how many bloggers were posting so no conclusions should be reached on how the 'bloggers' responded - it will be interesting to see what follow-up posts are. Similarly, I hope nasty comments will not be used to dismiss concerns about Nestlé out of hand. Those who did blast the bloggers need to reflect on how some have been alienated as a result. I sent a tweet asking people to cool it and keep the focus on Nestlé and its practices. I've written about this and why Nestlé tries to influence opinion leaders with these jollies here:

The campaign is evidence based. A few years ago we had the opportunity to challenge Nestlé claims in a Nestlé anti-boycott advertisement that stated the company markets infant formula 'ethically and responsibly'. After a 2-year investigation the Advertising Standards Authority upheld all our complaints. Unfortunately the ruling has no impact on Nestlé's PR materials - or Tweets!

As you say, there is a wealth of material. Periodically, the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), of which we are the UK member, rounds up examples of violations in Breaking the Rules reports, which you can find in the 'codewatch' section of Nestlé is found to be the worst company, which is why it is targeted with the boycott. Other companies are targeted by exposure and other campaigns. There have been recent mergers and takeovers that mean that Danone is coming to rival Nestlé as a source of violations of the international standards companies should follow and it may be subject to consumer action - however, the parent company has said it is conducting a 'root and branch' review of its new companies so we are in communication and giving it a little time, though so far the signs don't look good as it is aggressively competing with Nestlé, particularly in Asia, which drives standards down.

Regarding independence of evidence, we reproduce the companies' own materials where possible and I would encourage you to look at that and ask yourself whether a responsible company do this? You can read our analysis of what the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions says, but first just think whether it is right, for example, that Nestlé claims on labels that its formula 'protects' in countries such as Malawi where under-5 mortality is 140 per 1,000 live births and elsewhere around the world.

You can find further details and take action on our latest Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet.

That is an interesting example as Nestlé refused to translate warnings and instructions into Chichewa, the national language, until we got this onto the national television in the UK - campaigning does work and it would be great if bloggers back the campaign to have these 'protect' logos removed from formula labels. You can send a message to Nestlé via this page:

IBFAN is a network of 200 civil society groups in over 100 countries. We work to protect breastfeeding AND to protect babies fed on formula - the second aspect of our work is often missed if we are labelled as 'breastfeeding organisations' and helps to needlessly and inaccurately polarise the issue. Nestlé misleads those who use formula and endangers babies fed on it through failing to provide required information on labels. How many people are aware that powdered formula is not sterile and that the World Health Organisation issued instructions for reconstituting formula to reduce the risks of possible intrinsic contamination with bacteria? Nestlé refuses to tell people about this, despite having to recall formula after deaths linked to such contamination in Europe.

IBFAN is independent, but anyone who is critical of Nestlé and the industry is immediately labelled as biased. In the UK 27 faith, development and academic organisations formed the Interagency Group on Breastfeeding Monitoring. Its first report in 1997 found companies breach marketing requirements 'systematically'. UNICEF commented that IBFAN's monitoring was 'vindicated'. IGBM members, such as Save the Children, have issued further reports and statements since. A 2006 SCF briefing states:

"It’s over 25 years since the introduction of the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes in 1981.2 And we’re a whole generation on from the start of the international campaign and boycott to stop companies such as Nestlé promoting alternatives to breast milk. Yet, manufacturers are still flouting the Code by heavily promoting manufactured baby milk and food. We think that’s appalling."

They come under attack by Nestlé and other companies. The British Medical Journal has also published studies.

Regarding universality of Nestlé practices, the company gets away with as much as it can. Since the Code was adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981 - with Nestlé leading the industry battle against it, despite the Tweets saying it backed it (see original documents on the Baby Milk Action site) - we have worked for its implementation in legislation. Over 70 countries have measures to some degree, that are helping to save lives. In Brazil thanks to this and other efforts, median breastfeeding duration has increased from 3 months to 10 months. Companies can comply when forced to; we are not asking them to do anything impossible.

Yet Nestlé opposes legislation. Those nice people at Nestlé USA were part of a campaign against UNICEF and WHO in the Philippines when the organisations were backing stronger legislation. I cite a quote from the head of UNICEF Philippines in my blog on the Twitter case. We mounted an international campaign and eventually the legislation came in, mostly intact and we are now working to see it enforced, but as the latest campaign sheet on our website shows Nestlé is still finding ways to target parents.

Where there is not independently monitored and enforced legislation, the boycott and other company campaigns do make a difference. Victories such as the 9-year campaign over labelling complementary foods for use from too early an age.

Particularly illuminating is the outright dishonesty of Nestlé's statements on this issue and the steps it goes to to try to divert criticism. Key amongst these is the strategy of 'two-step communication', where it attempts to recruit others to relay its messages. I cite a case of an article written by a midwife who went on a similar trip to Nestlé HQ in Switzerland, which is so factually inaccurate we were given a substantial right to reply. Nestlé distributes the article still, without our right to reply, claiming it is independent, though the lead author also picked up a sponsorship deal for her training business from the company. I link to an analysis of the article, which covers many of your questions, with links to original materials.

Tweets told us hardly anyone complains about Nestlé, yet it is one of the four most boycotted companies on the planet and has an anti-boycott team, including an agent running a spying operation that came to light when the spy who infiltrated a Swiss group was exposed.

That group was working on a broad range of issues and there are concerns other than baby milk marketing. A good starting point for those wanting information on Nestlé is the Nestlé Critics site at:

A report submitted to the UN in June 2009 has brief overviews of the main concerns and can be downloaded at:

For an overview of the baby milk issue and campaign resources see our Nestlé-Free Zone page. This includes code for a logo and link-back for declaring your site or blog a Nestlé-Free Zone. See:

I realise I've not covered everything and already this is a long response, but I hope these links and information on our site, particularly in the 'codewatch' and 'your questions answered' sections will help.

I'd also recommend taking a look at UNICEF's film of the situation in the Philippines at:

Best wishes,

Mike Brady
Campaigns and Networking Coordinator
Baby Milk Action