Friday, February 26, 2010

Nestlé's friendly MP stands down

Mr Tom Levitt, Member of Parliament for Buxton, has announced he is standing down at the next election.

Nestlé bottles Buxton water in the town and has befriended its MP with free tickets to the Wimbledon tennis tournament and a free trip to South Africa.

After the trip, Mr. Levitt praised Nestlé and suggested it should no longer be criticised for issues he said were 30 years in the past. In the Buxton Advertiser today, he is again quoted defending his friends at Nestlé:

There is a short quote from me in the article and I have posted a follow-up to the editor as follows:


It is a disgrace that Mr. Levitt continues to claim regarding Nestlé baby milk marketing : "Nestle is amongst the most ethical of traders in this field."

He has been provided with information showing that while he was enjoying his free trip to South Africa, Nestlé was advertising infant formula in supermarkets - a practice so shocking that even its competitors in the Infant Feeding Association tried unsuccessfully to stop it. The voluntary Advertising Standards Authority, part-funded by Nestlé advertising revenue, cleared the practice, meaning all companies may resort to advertising, something prohibited by the international marketing standards Nestlé claims to follow. Nestlé drives down standards.

Mr. Levitt ignores the fact that the Department of Health in South Africa told Nestlé to stop making claims about its formula that undermine breastfeeding - and the fact it says it was not asked for an opinion by the ASA about the Nestlé supermarket advertising as normally happens with issues impacting on health.

Nestlé is currently promoting its formula with the claim it 'protects' babies and refuses to stop misleading mothers; infants fed on formula are more likely to become sick than breastfed babies and, in conditions of poverty, more likely to die. This is not an issue from 30 to 40 years ago as Mr. Levitt likes to claim when defending his free Wimbledon tickets and other Nestlé benefits.

See our Campaign for Ethical Marketing.

The article picks up on a report in Private Eye that Mr. Levitt is heading for a consultancy with Nestlé, something they both deny in the Buxton Advertiser article.

We will watch closely. There is a history of Nestlé paying back people who have defended it. Lord Nazir Ahmed cropped up several times when former Nestlé Pakistan employee, Syed Aamir Raza, exposed practices such as bribing of doctors, which were substantiated by internal company documents. Lord Ahmed arrived uninvited at the European Parliament Public Hearing into the affair, which Nestlé boycotted. When he was unable to speak there, he wrote to Members of the European Parliament offering to brief them.

Aamir had met with Lord Ahmed asking for his help - a meeting I attended - and he was originally enthusiastic. However, a proposed public meeting never went ahead and Lord Ahmed then announced he had conducted an independent investigation in Pakistan which had found Nestlé was doing nothing wrong and that Aamir was trying to blackmail Nestlé. Two years later it emerged that the trip Lord Ahmed made to Pakistan had been organised and paid for by Nestlé and that he was being taken on by the company as a consultant. I took part in a head-to-head interview with Lord Ahmed on the BBC radio when his financial links with Nestlé were revealed. You can listen to the recording at:

Lord Ahmed again came to Nestlé's defence in 2003 when the TUC (Trade Union Congress) refused Nestlé a stand at their annual conference (Nestlé was one of two corporations that regularly exhibited, always amidst controversy - the other being British Nuclear Fuels). We had offered to debate with Nestlé in previous years and it refused - now denied its customary platform it agreed. Lord Ahmed was in the audience and to his lasting shame, stood up and told the audience that Aamir was living happily in Canada and his campaign exposing Nestlé had been about finding a way to leave Pakistan. I pointed out that Aamir was without his wife and children who he had not seen since leaving Pakistan three years before - he was unable to return home after threats from doctors implicated by the internal documents in accepting bribes and after shots were fired at his home, narrowly missing his brother. As Lord Ahmed attacked Aamir in this underhand way, Aamir was indeed in Canada, but distraught as his mother was ill with cancer. Aamir was separated from his wife and children for seven years and he never saw either of his parents again, who both passed away. There are many issues involved in Aamir's case. You can read his evidence here:

Another case of someone claiming to be independent but turning out to have financial links with Nestlé, revolves around an article published in the British Journal of Midwifery. Nestlé has widely distributed an off-print of the article, without the substantial right-to-reply from Baby Milk Action exposing some of the many errors and misrepresentations in the article. You can find a detailed analysis on our archive site. This provides an in-depth history of the campaign, with reference to source documents which can be downloaded from the site. See:

Nestlé claims the article was written by 'independent midwives'. In reality the lead author was Chris Sidgwick who worked with Nestlé on a video that was distributed to UK health workers in breach of UK law, something that Trading Standards has raised with Nestlé several times. Not only did the authors enjoy an all-expenses-paid trip to Switzerland for 'fact-finding' at Nestlé's HQ, Chris's organisation, HCP Study Events, received funding from the Nestlé Nutrtion Institute. It still does, and Chris crops up from time to time inviting health journalists on jollies to Switzerland on Nestlé's behalf and students to drop their support for the boycott. We have contacted her to discuss her work for Nestlé, but have never received a reply. See:

Nestlé has even tried to use its cheque book to bring Nelson Mandela into its fold, offering half a million pounds just for a photo-opportunity. Nestlé persuaded Lord Richard Attenborough to put the offer to former President Mandela. The Nelson Mandela Children's Fund rejected the sum. i.Africa reported:

"In a statement it [Mandela's Children's Fund] reiterated the position it took in 2000 regarding a donation Nestle proposed to the Fund. In July 2000 the Fund was approached by Nestle, to contribute towards its Aids Orphan Appeal, a theme it had adopted for Mandela's birthday celebration with the children in that year

"However given the Nestle debacle in relation to HIV/Aids infected mothers and their campaign on promoting formula milk as opposed to breast milk and the disadvantages they put out publicly regarding breast feeding, the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund declined the donation.""

Nestlé's Chairman has been open in saying that the company only supports good causes if it benefits shareholders. See:

Nestlé is no doubt pleased that Mr. Levitt has parroted its PR about its baby food marketing following his trip, refused our offer to meet and ignored the evidence we have sent to him. I don't know the source of the Private Eye report on the alleged consultancy agreement, and would not wish to doubt Mr. Levitt's word, but it certainly reflects the way Nestlé works.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Updates and Campaign blog available on our new-look site

Our new-look website is gradually taking over from our present site. The present site will remain as an archive.

You can now find Update 42 on the new site at:

There will be a duplicate of this campaign blog on the new site. This is the first entry! See:

Monday, February 15, 2010

New-style email alerts - sign up now and tell us what you think

Here's a new innovation: html email alerts. I'm just sending the first one out.

You can subscribe to alerts and view the online archive, including the first html alert, at:

Take a look and click on the link telling me if you like it or not.

This is a screenshot of it (note that clicking the links on this won't work)

If you are not on our email alert list, you can sign up via our new-look website that is coming online section by section (our old site will continue while we make the switch over and as an archive.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Boycott Nestlé leaflet for Fairtrade Fortnight

Fairtrade Fortnight is taking place from 22 February to 7 March. If you would like to support this, you can find out more at:

As you may know, Nestlé has gained Fairtrade certification for 4-finger KitKat. There are 6,000 farmers benefiting, gaining about an extra £400,000 per year from the Fairtrade premium. Nesté's has already received global publicity for this sum, which is a fraction of the price of its curent £43 million Nescafé UK advertising campaign. But much of the coverage is undeserved as Fairtrade KitKat involves just 1% of the cocoa Nestlé purchases while it is criticised for failing to deliver on its promise to end child slavery in the supply chain for the rest by 2006.

You can find a simple leaflet with facts that Nestlé executives do not want you to know about Nestlé and cocoa - and its pushing of baby milk. Why not download it, print it back-to-back to make A5 copies and use them on your Fairtrade stall if you are having one, or give to friends.

Nestlé is the worst of the baby food companies. As it boasts about the new Fairtrade logo added to KitKat, we are campaigning to force it to remove new logos from its infant formula that claims this 'protects' babies - it does not, babies fed on it are more likely to become sick than breastfed babies and, in conditions of poverty, are more likely to die.

Nestlé is not only trying to improve its image by promoting its Fairtrade KitKat, it is about to embark on a multi-million pound campaign in cyberspace. See:

Nestlé is one of the world's four most boycotted companies because people like you spread the word. This is why Nestlé is stepping up its spending on trying to improve its image. And this is why we need your help more than ever - with the financial crisis we have lost some members and had to cut staff hours. By becoming a member, sending a donation or buying something from our online shop, you help to keep us operating. See:

The more we can do, the more cases of aggressive pushing of formula we can stop (by Nestlé and other companies) and the more laws we can bring in and defend (there are over 70 countries now with laws). The more people support the boycott, the more Nestlé has to spend trying to counter it, which tips the balance towards it actually making the changes required to bring its practices into line with the marketing requirements adopted by the World Health Assembly. Join those sending messages to Nestlé about its 'protect' logos and eventually it will drop them as it has with many of the other strategies we have exposed. See:

So if you can, please click here. We don't need the millions Nestlé spends to have an impact. Membership starts at just £7 and every member makes a big difference.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Nestlé plans offensive in cyberspace to 'counter criticism'

Nestle has an abysmal image. According to PR Week: "Nestle received a 'positivity' score in social media of just 12 out of 100 in an audit by Yomego Social Media Reputation." Is it responding by agreeing to our four-point plan for ending the boycott over its baby food marketing? No. It's hiring more PR experts.

See PR Week (3 February 2010): Nestle Briefs Agencies For Online Charm Offensive To Counter Criticism.

Nestle is embarking on an emergency online PR campaign to restore its reputation amid sustained criticism on the internet.

The world's largest foods company is ramping up its efforts to monitor online opinion, including looking for an agency to handle its worldwide 'buzz' monitoring.

The action comes as Nestle continues to encounter vociferous online opposition on a range of issues, from traditional concerns about its formula milk, to newer attacks on its digital marketing efforts.


Nestle received a 'positivity' score in social media of just 12 out of 100 in an audit by Yomego Social Media Reputation. Kraft scored 32.

The research firm analysed Nestle over three months. The low score is driven by anti-Nestle sentiment on blogs and Twitter.

Nestle's social media 'noise' level scored a relatively high 68. Rival Coca-Cola has a 'noise' score of 92.
---extracts end

Nestlé is one of the world's most boycotted companies according to its Global Public Affairs Manager Dr. Gayle Crozier Willi. It has been embarrassed to find information about its human rights abuses and other concerns divulged and talked about on the internet.

The internet advertising company claimed last month that Nestlé is amongst the companies paying celebrities US$10,000 a time to post positive tweets on Twitter, according to See:

In 2008 Nestlé attempted to hi-jack the Nestlé Critics site just days before its launch with a legal action claiming ownership of the domain name. The launch went ahead with a different domain name, but the original, which had already been publicised, was retained for 6 months so people had the opportunity to update their bookmarks. It was not handed over to Nestlé on the grounds it might attempt to undermine the launch by posting bogus information on the domain - not so paranoid when you consider that Nestlé has been exposed for employing a former MI6 officer to run a spying operation infiltrating Swiss campaign groups.

Nestlé subsequently launched a 500-page legal action for the domain name. As it had not bothered to answer our letter regarding decision to use a different domain name for the launch, this was seen as an attempt at harassment. It was also a waste of shareholder money as we had no need of the domain name after the successful launch of the new address.

The Nestlé Critics site serves as a portal for various campaigns on Nestlé malpractice:

The groups involved in the Nestlé Critics site have filed cases with the UN Global Compact calling for Nestlé to be excluded from this voluntary corporate social responsibility initiative for egregious violations and bringing it into disrepute. A exposé of Nestlé is one of the most popular downloads on our site. The case is ongoing. See:

Nestlé has arranged in the past for misinformation on its activities to be placed in the media by inviting journalists on all-expenses-paid trips to its head office in Switzerland. In 2008 it recruited Dr. Miriam Stoppard, a well-known media doctor, to make the invitation. See:

Then last year, Nestlé tried to influence parenting bloggers in the US by flying 20 of them to a 5-star hotel in California and setting up a tweet channel on Twitter for them to relate their experiences. This became a fully-fledged PR disaster for the company as people raised questions on the tweet channel about Nestlé malpractice and some of the bloggers invited questions to put to Nestlé executives. Briefly Nestlé appeared on the channel to try to take control, but left after an hour. Baby Milk Action had become aware of the event through traffic to our sites and offered to take part in a tweet debate with Nestlé, which was ignored.

Nestlé did respond to a blogger who had written an open letter to the attendees calling on them to reconsider, but the responses were so transparently dishonest that they added to the anger in cyberspace and led to a spontaneous Halloween boycott in the US, boosting International Nestlé-Free Week, which Baby Milk Action promotes at that time.

Nestlé's PR disaster fuelled many blogs and entered the mainstream media with, for example, an article in the LA Times:

There are already tools for corporations to check their reputations in cyberspace and we find some are used to track our sites. See:

Nestlé's move comes as it also attempts to improve its image by certifying 4-bar KitKat chocolate in the UK as Fairtrade, providing another focus for exposing Nestlé malpractice. Only 1% of Nestlé's cocoa purchase is involved and it is criticised for failing to deliver on a promise to end child slavery in its cocoa supply chain by 2006.

The addition of the Fairtrade mark to KitKat may bring Nestlé some good publicity, but it has also apparently damaged the credibility of the Fairtrade mark:

Whoever wins Nestlé's PR contract will have a lot to do. Please let us know if you see signs of their activity.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Information on formula from Baby Milk Action

A while ago I wrote a blog asking: "Which infant formula is best?"

People asked for additional information. There is a vacuum of objective information on formula and the differences between brands with different ingredients. We have been calling on the health authorities to provide this.

While we shall continue to campaign, I've bowed to the demand and put together a short film for mothers and other intending to use formula that explains the regulations for formula sold in the UK, the legally-required ingredients and the optional ingredients found in some formulas, but not others.

I don't go over the specific brands on the market at the present time as they keep changing, so it will be necessary to look at the labels, but I will add a page that can be kept updated.

You can find this information on our new-look website, which is under development. It is necessary to register (free of charge) to see the full film.


Comments can be left on that site. I very much welcome feedback.