Wednesday, November 14, 2012

WHO regrets PAHO linking with Nestle

As Reuters reported on 19 October 2012, the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) has linked with various junk food companies, including Nestlé.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has today released a statement distancing itself from the decision to accept money from the food and beverage industry, a decision it describes as "unfortunate".

Moves in 2011 by the WHO Director General to set up a multi-stakeholder public health forum were opposed by Member States and public interest organisations such as Baby Milk Action and the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), leading to WHO to take a clearer stand on conflicts of interest.

WHO's statement on PAHO's link to Nestlé and other companies states:

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the importance of working with the private sector. However since part of our work involves setting norms, standards and guidelines for public health, we have very strict guidelines for accepting money from the private sector. 

WHO does not accept funds from the food and beverage industry for its noncommunicable diseases work. 

It is unfortunate that the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO-WHO) has accepted money from the food and beverage industry.

PAHO - while it is a WHO regional office for the Americas – is, unlike the other regional offices, also the health agency of the Organization of American States. Therefore in some areas, PAHO has its own operating guidelines. Not all PAHO guidelines are aligned with WHO. One such area is collaboration with the private sector.

Nestlé systematically undermines public health messages by, for example, claiming its formula 'protects' babies, when babies fed on formula are more likely to become sick than breastfed babies and, in conditions of poverty more likely to die (example below, Nestlé advertising Nan formula on television in Armenia in 2011). It also refuses to bring instructions on preparing formula into line with WHO guidance, so denying parents information on how to reduce the risks from the possible intrinsic contamination of powdered infant formula, which is not a sterile product.

Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action said:

"It is welcome that WHO has come out against PAHO linking with the food and beverage industry. Nestlé is desparate to undermine controls on its marketing practices, which contribute to the unnecessary death and suffering of infants around the world and to the global rise in obesity and non-communicable diseases. As I speak, it is attempting to undermine strong baby milk regulations introduced in the Philippines. Nestlé invests heavily in trying to promote itself as a "health, nutrition and wellness" company to distract from its unethical marketing of baby milks and the high sugar, salt and fat content of many of its junk foods. It also attempts to sponsor civil society organisations, health workers, government programmes and UN initiatives to neutralise them as critics or regulators and to gain kudos by association. Governments should govern and corporations should follow the rules. It is very welcome that WHO Member States rejected a proposal last year to set up a multi-stakeholder forum that the same junk food companies were clamouring to be part of. 

Baby Milk Action helped to set up the Conflicts of Interest (COI) Coalition and invites other concerned organisation to endorse the statement calling on public interest organisations to put the public interest first and maintain their independence from the corporate sector. See:

The intervention by Patti Rundall, Policy Director of Baby Milk Action, at the World Health Organisation Executive Board meeting in 2011 regarding the proposed multi-stakeholder forum, which has since died a natural death, raises some of the key issues about conflicts of interest with particular reference to infant feeding. See:

Monday, November 05, 2012

Hipp on BBC Radio 4 You and Yours - ignoring safety guidance on making up formula

A representative of the Hipp baby food company was interviewed on BBC Radio 4 You and Yours programme on 5 November 2012, together with Dr. Helen Crawley of the First Steps Nutrition Trust (click here to listen again).

The discussion was about the refusal of Hipp to provide correct guidance on how to reconstitute its powdered infant formula. The facts, as Dr. Crawley explained, are clear. The Department of Health confirmed its guidance had not changed, despite Hipp claiming in the programme that it had been given permission to flout the guidance.

Infant Formula ExplainedPowdered formula is not sterile and may contain harmful pathogens, such as cronobacter sakazakii (previously known as enterobacter sakazakii) and salmonella. Although studies have found contamination levels as high as 14% of tins (research cited by the US Food and Drugs Administation), ill effects are very rare, but can included meningitis and death.

The risks can be reduced by killing the bacteria by reconstituting the formula with water above 70 deg. C. In practice this temperature can be achieved by boiling a full kettle and allowing it to cool, but for no more than 30 minutes. The formula should then be allowed to cool to a safe temperature before feeding. The following resources provide this information:

The Department of Health Guide to Bottle Feeding booklet includes the instructions - click here.

A clear leaflet to follow if you are using formula (Hipp or any other) or advising parents, can be downloaded from the Department of Health - click here.

The World Health Organisation Guidelines for the safe preparation, storage and handling of powdered infant formula are also clear about using water above 70 deg. C. Its report includes background information on the risks and the reasons for the guidance - click here.

Baby Milk Action produced the Infant Formula Explained DVD on behalf of the Baby Feeding Law Group (consisting of leading UK health professional and mother support groups), which includes a short film for parents on how to reconstitute powdered formula correctly to reduce the risks - click here.

Despite the clear guidance for parents from the Department of Health and WHO, Hipp told Radio 4 that the guidance is unclear.
Why is Hipp putting babies at risk by telling people to use water at a lower temperature on its labels?

It comes down to its own profits and marketing campaigns. Hipp's current advertising and promotion is based on so-called probiotics added to its formula. There is no proven benefit of adding probiotics to formula, despite the impression given by Hipp in advertising such as that shown below (left, advertising to health workers, exposed on Baby Milk Action's Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet September 2012).

The First Steps Nutrition Trust guide to Infant Milks in the UK was updated in November 2012 to include information on Hipp's new probiotic formula and states:

A few clinical trials have shown health benefits for specific bacterial strains, however, on the strength of a review of randomised control trials in healthy term infants, the ESPGHAN (European Society of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition) Committee on Nutrition have found that there is too much uncertainty to draw any reliable conclusions on the efficacy of probiotics in infant milks. They did not recommend their routine use in formula milks for infants.

Water hot enough to kill harmful pathogens will also kill the probiotic bacteria and this is the reason Hipp is trying to hide the risks and ignore the safety guidance.

However, in doing so, Hipp is showing its contempt for the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations (2007), adopted by the four countries of the UK. The Guidance Notes from the Food Standards Agency that accompany the Regulations and "shows how the regulations should be interpreted" is also very clear:

Labelling relating to the preparation, storage and disposal of infant formula and follow-on formula

24. Regulation 17 (1)(d) and 18(1)(d) require that instructions are provided for appropriate preparation, storage and disposal of the product. The Agency recommends that these instructions should include information noting that:

• Powdered infant formulae and follow-on formulae are not sterile, and as such can contain harmful bacteria. It is therefore important to be very careful when preparing formula to reduce the risks. Boiled tap water (not bottled water) cooled for no more than 30 minutes should be used to prepare infant feeds.

• All equipment used for feeding and preparing feed must be thoroughly cleaned and sterilised before use, and bottles should be made up fresh for each feed, as storing made-up formula milk may increase the chance of a baby becoming ill.

25. Further advice about the preparation and storage of formula can be found at the website below: (advice to consumers) 4123674 (advice to health professionals)

The links mentioned in the Guidance Notes take you to the Department of Health booklet on formula feeding mentioned above, which states:

Bacteria in infant formula

Even when tins and packets of powdered infant formula are sealed, they can sometimes contain bacteria such as Cronobacter sakazakii (formerly know as Enterobacter sakazakii) and more rarely Salmonella. Although these bacteria are very rare, the infections they cause can be life-threatening.

To reduce the risk of infection, make up each feed as your baby needs it, using boiled water at a temperature of 70oC or above. Water at this temperature will kill any harmful bacteria that may be present.

Unfortunately, the regulatory authorities in the UK are not acting to enforce the regulations.

As Baby Milk Action also recently reported, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is also failing to protect babies and their families in the UK when it comes to misleading claims made in advertisements. For example, it refuses to even investigate advertisments like that shown above. See our 24 October 2012 press release.

What can you do?
  • Direct people using formula to the above guidance so they know how to prepare it correctly.
  • Join Baby Milk Action (or send gift membership to a friend or collague).
  • Support our Campaign for Ethical Marketing.
  • Report examples of questionable promotion to the Baby Feeding Law Group monitoring project, which Baby Milk Action coordinates - click here.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

A message of thanks from Philippines campaigners

Gloria and Miguel
During International Nestle-Free Week 2012 (29 October - 4 November) people have been sending messages to Nestle about its systematic violations of baby milk marketing rules and signing a petition of solidarity with the people of the Philippines. A message of thanks has just been received from campaigners in the Philippines (see below).

Nestle-Free Week is a time for for people who boycott Nestlé over the way it pushes baby milk to do more to promote the boycott - and for those who don't boycott to give it a go.

Above: Gloria joined the successful campaign with her son Miguel in 2007. Mothers and babies need your help again. Please sign the petition of solidarity. This is helping bring attention to this issue - see, for example, this report in the Philippines on 23 October 2012.

In the Philippines Nestle is leading an attempt to bring in a new law to replace regulations introduced in 2007 to stop companies advertising baby milks and targeting pregnant women and new mothers. Campaigners in the Philippines call it Nestle's Monster Bill. The Philippines Department of Health, UNICEF and WHO said in September:

"The draft House Bill... aims to support multinational companies while damaging the Filipino society: families, the mothers and children."

Questions are being asked about the influence Nestle is using to gain support from the Department of Trade and politicians who are facing an election next year.

On 4 September 2012, Baby Milk Action received the following message from MOM CARE - Movement Opposing Milk Code Amendments and Revision, the new name from the Breastfeeding Consortium in the Philippines.

"Thank you for your commitment to the campaign.

Thank you for your kindheartedness.

Nestle never sleeps and greedy Nestle will never stop amassing profits from the poor people in the Philippines who have large families as their consumers.

Nestle leads IPNAP a conglomerate of Nestle-Wyeth, Mead Johnson, Abbott and Fonterra multinational milk companies who dangle gifts of any sorts especially to the lawmakers/lawbreakers in Philippine Congress to weaken the Milk Code law and replace with a pro-Nestle vested interest Monster Bill. Now, it is election time for politicians and the big question how much influence peddling was contributed to the election money bag?

Recently, IPNAP's government ally the Department of Trade and Industry was on the news last week "DTI bucks the amendment Bill in the name of informed choice for lactating mothers". DTI mimics Nestle stand. Nestle style is to sow confusion by letting the Department of Health and DTI fight each other. DOH issued a media statement with UNICEF and WHO, "ban babymilk ads till 36 months old" IPNAP and DTI chorused, "ban babymilk ads till 6 months old" thereafter free wheeling promo lies.

We call on our global partners to defend breastfeeding vigilantly because Nestle creeps in every legislative process to wreck breastfeeding initiatives in every country. Nestle masquerade as pro-breastfeeding but in truth undermines it by pushing policymakers to make a law that will favor their economic interest and not the consumers.

They bleed the consumers to illness, poverty and death.

Playing with national legislation is their new trick in Vietnam, Kenya, Hongkong, Philippines etc.

Keep Nestle away from your home, away from your life, away from your generation's future.

It is not good food, good life as Nestle promise, it is in fact Bad life after all."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Comment on UNICEF breastfeeding report: Preventing disease and saving resources

UNICEF has published a report today called: "Preventing Disease and Saving Resources: the potential contribution of increasing breastfeeding rates in the UK". 

UNICEF'S press release states: "The report findings show that for just five illnesses, moderate increases in breastfeeding would translate into cost savings for the NHS of £40 million and tens of thousands of fewer hospital admissions and GP consultations."

Here's a quick response from me, Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action:

"This report is very welcome. The finding that babies who are not breastfed are more likely to become ill and require hospital and other medical treatment is neither surprising or new. The big question is will the present Government act when others have failed to do so in the past? Unfortunately, the current administration has taken steps backwards by, for example, scrapping the Infant Feeding Coordinator posts at the Department of Health despite these being one of the initiatives included in the Global Strategy on Infant and Young Child Feeding, which the UK claims to support. Some of the countries that have followed the strategy, including prohibiting the promotion of breastmilk substitutes in line with internationally agreed minimum marketing standards, have seen marked increases in breastfeeding rates, Brazil being a particularly good example. Of course, in parts of the world without the same level of health service support babies who are not breastfed are not only more likely to become ill, but more likely to die.

"Stopping baby milk company promotion has to be part of the public health policy response to this unnecessary illness and suffering. That is not to say that mothers who use formula should be made to feel guilty for doing so. Formula should be available for those who need it and everyone benefits if there is accurate independent information on infant feeding, instead of promotion from baby milk companies with a vested interest in selling their products. Don't forget, the millions companies spend on their promotion campaigns ultimately goes onto the price they charge for formula."

The following advertisements all appeared in the same health worker journal showing how each of the companies claims its formula is closer to breastmilk than the other brands. They cannot all be telling the truth. Unfortunately, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) refuses to investigate advertising in health journals. When Baby Milk Action has brought complaints about follow-on formula advertising to the public, the ASA has ruled against the claims that Aptamil and SMA are the best formulas. The claims do not stand up to scrutiny. Baby milk companies have shown they cannot be trusted to provide accurate information to parents or health workers. See:

The Government has known about the health and financial impact for years of course. For example, in 2006 the National Institute for Clinical Excellence costed the savings to the NHS from a modest increase in breastfeeding rates (a 10% increase in initiation) and found many thousands of babies would not suffer illness and millions would be saved.

As UNICEF points out, the National Infant Feeding Survey tells us that 90% of mothers who stopped breastfeeding their babies by the time they were 6 weeks old wanted to breastfeed for longer. With greater support, many would have been able to do so, fewer babies would have become sick or even died and there would have been cost savings.

It is not just about support, of course. Breastfeeding is the normal way to feed a child. Denying a child breastmilk and giving it an alternative type of milk, even one processed to the best of current knowledge, is inevitably not going to be as beneficial. Breastmilk is a living substance and is a continuation of the nurture a mother has provided to her child through the placenta.

Formula is sometimes described a fourth best after breastfeeding, the mother's expressed breastmilk and donor breastmilk. Formula can save lives when breastmilk is unavailable either from the mother or donors, but modified cow's milk will always have limitations. In the UK, composition of formula is closely regulated so that those on the market have the ingredients known to be necessary. As scientific knowledge changes, the regulations are updated to change the composition. Mothers who do not breastfeed, or carers without access to breastmilk, can base their choice on their baby's preference and/or cost. Every company tries to claim its formula is better than the other brands, but this is marketing hype designed to inflate prices.

So aside from the short and long-term health impacts, financially the public is suffering a double whammy. As more tax money goes to paying for the care of babies who are not breastfed, parents who use formula are paying over the odds as prices are inflated to pay for the multi-million pound marketing campaigns run by the baby milk companies.

Based on figures from dairy farmers, the proportion of the selling price of formula that goes towards promotion and profit is between 53% and 80%. That means parents who use formula for 12 months are paying anything between about £231 and £884 towards promotion and profit. See:

The latest marketing strategy of the baby milk companies is to claim they are friends of breastfeeding, wanting to offer advice and support to mothers. Danone claims that 3,000 mothers are signing up to its Cow & Gate branded baby club every week.

We have seen that companies have ostensibly given up on the first 6 months period, promoting their follow-on milk for use after breastfeeding for six months. This follows campaigns exposing their misleading claims and public health messages about the importance of breastfeeding. But companies ignore the fact that it is exclusive breastfeeding that is recommended for 6 months, with breastfeeding continuing beyond this age with the introduction of complementary foods. Companies also break the UK Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations (2007) and associated Guidance Notes by using the same brand names for follow-on milks and infant formula for use from birth and making the brand the focus of the advertising. See examples in the Baby Feeding Law Group monitoring project:
Involving baby milk companies in breastfeeding promotion is like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop. We receive complaints about the outrageous emails mothers have received from companies. For example, Pfizer/Wyeth has promoted its SMA brand in an email headed: "How is feeding going?". It then plants seeds of doubt about breastfeeding:

"If you’re breastfeeding, do you sometimes wonder if your baby is getting enough milk?"

Although purporting to offer supportive advice, it highlights negatives:

"Feeling sore? .... If the pain continues or your nipples start to crack or bleed...."

Wyeth suggests people contact their midwife or public health nurse, "or call the SMA Careline".

After all that comes the closing punch: "Thinking of bottle feeding?" This is accompanied by an advertisement for SMA infant formula (which it is illegal to advertise) and the idealising claim (also prohibited) boasting the formula has "a new fat blend closer to that of breast milk".

The information that babies fed on the formula are more likely to become sick, be hospitalised and cost the NHS money treat is missing. As is the fact that these email marketing campaigns, the Careline, the cuddly toys, free gifts, free lunches for health workers and so on all go onto the price of formula.

What do parents really need? A free bear from Danone branded with its Aptamil formula name and logo (left) paid for by premiums on the price of formula - or accurate independent information on infant feeding from the health care system, no company promotion and cheaper formula?

Not for nothing are mothers supporting Baby Milk Action's "No promotion, cheaper formula" campaign. It doesn't matter if they are breastfeeding or using formula.
Everyone benefits by stopping baby milk company promotion:

So why doesn't the Government act?

Why didn't it act in 2006 when the law was last revised and all health professional organisations, mother support groups and its own Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition called on it to prohibit company advertising, promotion and claims?

Why does it ignore the repeated calls from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to implement the internationally agreed minimum marketing standards, which companies should already be abiding by in the UK?

These are very good questions. Ask your Member of Parliament.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Infant Sleep Information Source

The September 2012 issue of Breastfeeding Briefs from the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) is on the theme of "Sleeping with the baby". It is guest edited by Dr Helen Ball who has researched and written extensively on this theme.

Dr Ball explains:
Over the past year, my colleague Dr Charlotte Russell and I have been working with several organisations in the UK (La Leche League, National Childbirth Trust, UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative) to produce an infant sleep information website (ISIS) that aims to inform parents and health care providers about the research evidence available on where and how babies sleep ( This editorial will summarise some of the issues we discuss on the site, and consider how the latest research is informing parents and healthcare providers.
The editorial is a fascinating overview of questions relating to co-sleeping, possible positive and negative impacts on breastfeeding and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and the latest evidence and advice.

You can download the issue of Breastfeeding Briefs below from the IBFAN site (where you will also find past issues) - click here.

There is information for health workers and resources for parents and carers on the ISIS site:

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Formula advertising in the British Journal of Midwifery

The British Journal of Midwifery has published a letter from Baby Milk Action after a member of its editorial board defended accepting infant formula advertising, which has been criticised by readers. Professor Lewis suggested that concerns about such advertising are due to "enmity and distrust" and suggested the priority should be on "resolving differences".

My letter is reproduced below.

In the guest editorial "Breast is best but choice is paramount" published in BJM 20(6), Prof. Lewis suggests that "concern and conflict must at some point give way to careful consideration, cooperation and hopefully, conciliation", but then attacks Baby Milk Action with bogus arguments. Indeed, the title of the editorial and its suggestion that stopping advertising restricts choice or denies information is itself bogus. Advertising, branded free gifts and branded competitions are not providing information, they are strategies designed to sell products.

The article states: "there is little evidence that Baby Milk Action are willing to acknowledge any positive changes within the food and infant feeding industry and against such enmity and distrust all future opportunities for an alliance and attainment of our wider aspirations for improved infant feeding is likely to founder." 

Baby Milk Action, which works to protect the right of all pregnant women and mothers to accurate, independent information, does acknowledge positive changes. For example, we welcomed Danone’s statement that it had taken action to stop 50% of the violations of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly in the last global monitoring report produced by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN). We continue to communicate with Danone over ongoing systematic violations and it recently agreed to stop distributing materials in the health care system targeted at parents. While we publicly welcome these steps, we will continue to call for full compliance with the International Code and Resolutions, and for Danone to stop targeting health workers and parents in violation of these measures.

We are also in ongoing communication with Nestlé. Nestlé executives agreed to act on only 3% of violations (four out of 130) in the last monitoring report. I attended the Nestlé shareholder meeting this year and began by welcoming the fact that Nestlé had dropped a claim that one of its formula milks is "The new 'gold standard' in infant nutrition" after we campaigned on this. However, Nestlé continues to be the worst of the companies in terms of the scale and scope of violations and also takes the lead in opposing or undermining implementation of the Code and Resolutions in legislation. It is for this reason that it is the target of a boycott. The article refers to FTSE4Good without mentioning that Nestlé was only included in this ethical listing because the relevant criteria were weakened in September 2010 as no companies are complying with the previous criteria and FTSE wanted to bring some onto the list.
Article 7.2 of the Code states: "Information provided by manufacturers and distributors to health professionals regarding products within the scope of this Code should be restricted to scientific and factual matters". Formula advertising self-evidently does not provide scientific and factual information.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld complains about formula advertising to the public, but refuses to consider complaints about advertising in professional journals on the grounds they should self-regulate. It is welcome to learn that there are health workers calling on the BJM to stop accepting formula advertising. This does not prohibit proper peer-reviewed scientific articles on formula appearing.

There is much more that could be said, but to finish, the article argues that various actors are "caught up on the particulars of the Code rather than finding a resolution for our differences." It is entirely sensible to expect companies to abide by these internationally agreed minimum standards for marketing of nutritional products for the most vulnerable people on the planet - babies. Putting priority on "resolving differences" with baby food companies, which in the BJM case coincidently involves profiting financially from the relationship, does a disservice to babies, their carers and readers of the BJM.

Yours sincerely,

Mike Brady
Campaigns and Networking Coordinator
Baby Milk Action

In a further response, Professor Lewis comments: "The ASA... accepts that adverts in healthcare journals are aimed at professionals who should be capable of considering the information and making up their own minds as to it benefits or disadvantage to the ways in which they practice – Baby Milk Action rather sadly, does not credit midwives with that capacity."

So if I understand this argument correctly, the British Journal of Midwifery abdicates its editorial responsibility and justifies pocketing money from baby food companies for publishing misleading advertising on the grounds that it is the responsibility of midwives to disregard it. To which I can only think, surely that's no way to run a journal.

Take a look at our September 2012 Campaign for Ethical Marketing to see how companies target healthworkers. And please let us know if you find Danone's leaflets in health facilities anywhere in the world.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Rachel's Dairy added to Nestlé boycott list

Rachel's Dairy has been added to the Nestlé boycott list as it is now owned by Lactalais Nestlé Chilled Dairy (LNCD).

Lactalis purchased Rachel's Dairy in August 2010. In May 2012, the organic yoghurt and dairy product company, was moved into LNCD, which is a joint venture with Nestlé. Lactalis owns 60% of LNCD and Nestlé 40%.

Nestlé puts its own profits before health as it pushes its baby foods using strategies that violate internationally agreed marketing standards and is found to be the worst of the companies in terms of scale and scope of its violations. The boycott helps to force changes in Nestlé practices by raising awareness of Nestlé practices and giving it a financial reason to change.

Nestlé is one of the four most boycotted companies on the planet, according to GMI Poll. Wholefood shops and other retailers are now delisting Rachel's Dairy.

While this will impact on Nestlé profits, it is LNCD that is threatening jobs at Rachel's Dairy as Lactalis moves the business into the joint venture. Lactalis told the BBC in May 2012: "These changes will strengthen and help sustain Rachel's success for the future, and secure the long term business relationships with local farmers and the area." See: Jobs under threat at Aberystwyth dairy firm Rachel's

Friday, August 03, 2012

SMA formula pricing

Wyeth is embarking on yet another national advertising campaign for its SMA formula.

This must be costing millions of pounds - a bill ultimately paid by those who buy formula.

The subvert below made me think about how much mark up there is on formula.

Companies won't reveal the breakdown of their costs, so the calculation below is based on speculation.

A 250 ml bottle of Wyeth's new SMA ready-to-feed formula costs 89 pence.

The dairy farmer will have received less than 7 pence for the milk (according to Farmers for Action farmers currently receive 27 pence per litre for milk from processors - click here).

Changing the fat content, pasteurising, packaging and distributing whole milk costs about 3 pence for 250 ml (Farmers for Action figures suggest 27 pence processing costs for 2.3 litres). Let's speculate and say that changing the protein content, adding vitamins, extracts from algae (LCPs) and other additives triples the processing costs of formula milk compared with whole milk. That would be 9 pence for 250 ml. This would make the total cost of the milk and production 16 pence per 250 ml.

The remaining 73 pence of the 89 pence selling price will be split between company and retailer profit and the costs of marketing, including advertising campaigns, baby clubs, "carelines", events for health workers, and other promotion.

Although marketing figures are hard to come by, it is known that Wyeth awarded a contract for £2 million to a PR agency in 2008 for targeting pregnant women, new mothers and health workers. In 2012 it must surely have already spent far more than this, having run two national billboard advertising and mass media campaigns by the end of July and planned the SMA Baby Know How roadshow to launch its new formula packaging (which was cancelled following protests).

Wyeth already has a criminal conviction for breaking advertising regulations and complaints have been upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority. Its Self-serving Marketing Activities benefit no-one and inflate prices through the costs of these and by positioning the product with misleading, idealising claims.

All formulas on the UK market have to comply with composition regulations and optional ingredients (which have been added to most formulas) have no proven benefit, so there is no health advantage from buying more expensive formula.

Formula is said to have the highest profit margins of any product on the supermarket shelves. For example, New Zealand’s Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee stated in October 2010: "A kilo of infant formula is worth ten times the value of a kilo of milk powder, so it’s obvious which product New Zealand should be selling."

These are obviously rough calculations, but not for nothing are hundreds of people signing the 'No promotion - Cheaper formula' petition on at:

If you can help improve this calculation, please contact Baby Milk Action.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Something nestling in the Baby Milk Action office

Many thanks to supporter Nigel Harrison for creating the MyMeter iPhone app for Baby Milk Action.
This is a fun detector simulator. Watch the film clip to see what it does and how it works.

You can download the app from the app store by clicking here.

You could use it as a fun way to raise the Nestlé boycott.

The beauty of the boycott is wherever you see Nestlé's products, that is an opportunity to talk about the way Nestlé pushes its baby milks in violation of international marketing standards. There is a potted explanation of the boycott below.

If you identify a product from the boycott list, you can use the MyMeter app to simulate detecting it. Then give your friend or colleague one of Baby Milk Action's leaflets or boycott cards. You could download the 'Fight the Nestlé monster' leaflet to use. Take a look at the leaflet for ten key facts that Nestlé executives do not want people to know. See:

For the 'Fight the Nestlé monster' t-shirts - click here.

The app has lots of other possible applications. You might like to use it with kids to identify the healthy or unhealthy option between different foods. Of course, you control the signal, so you need to know the facts.

Have fun and tell your friends!

Why boycott Nestlé

Nestlé pushes baby milk using strategies that are prohibited by international marketing standards, so undermining breastfeeding. For example, it claims on labels around the world that its formula 'protects' babies, but it knows that babies who are fed on formula are more likely to become sick than breastfed babies and, in conditions of poverty, more likely to die. According to UNICEF"Improved breastfeeding practices and reduction of artificial feeding could save an estimated 1.5 million children a year."

Nestlé is the worst of the baby food companies and so is the target of a boycott. The latest global monitoring report from the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) has page after page of examples of Nestlé materials that violate the marketing standards adopted by the World Health Assembly.

Some countries, such as India and Brazil, have introduced strong laws and have proved that companies can comply with the marketing requirements when they are forced to. In India companies have been unable to grow the market and in Brazil breastfeeding rates have increased significantly since violations have been stopped. Where companies think they can get away with it, they put their profits first. The boycott gives the global market leader a financial reason to think again.

Nestlé also endangers babies that are fed on formula by refusing to warn that powdered formula is not sterile and may contain harmful bacteria. It refuses to bring its instructions into line with World Health Organisation Guidelines for reducing risks.

Nestlé's 'protect' logos explained

Spoof marketing guru, Mr. Henry Nastie (really Baby Milk Action's Mike Brady) explains all about Nestlé's protect logos. Apart from the awful accent, everything is true.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Nestlé demonstration - Croydon

11:00 - 12:00 Saturday 19 May 2012
Download the flier with map, car park and travel details - click here
Join the virtual demonstration on Facebook - click here

Nestlé refuses to change its baby milk marketing practices - unless there are protests

Baby Milk Action and our partners around the world have been working for over thirty years to protect mothers, babies and their families from the aggressive marketing practices of the baby food companies.

Today over 60 countries had introduced laws to enforce the marketing standards we helped to bring at the World Health Assembly, the world's highest health policy setting body. However, according to industry analysts Euromonitor: "The industry is fighting a rearguard action against regulation on a country-by-country basis".

We monitor the companies and remind them they have a responsibility to respect the marketing standards even where governments have not yet introduced laws. On 19 April, I attended the Nestlé shareholder meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, to ask the company's board and the shareholders to respect the marketing standards and to bring its policies and practices into line. One of the concerns is that Nestlé promotes its formula with the claim it "protects" babies. In truth, babies who are fed on formula are more likely to become sick than breastfed babies and, in conditions of poverty, more likely to die. The clip below from the 2010 demonstration includes and explanation of the logos:

Film clip - Nestle baby milk marketing strategy explained - click here if it is not displayed below.

Mr. Henry Nastie was played by me, Mike Brady of Baby Milk Action. Other people interviewed were campaign supporters who had come to demonstrate at Nestlé (UK) HQ

The response from the Nestlé Chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, at the shareholder meeting was that it is not for Baby Milk Action to tell him what to do. All we are asking is for Nestlé executives to follow the rules.

We need to keep up the pressure, because pressure works. Recently thousands of people emailed the company to complain about it promoting its formula with the claim it is "The new 'Gold Standard' in infant nutrition". As a result, Nestlé discontinued the leaflet with this claim. However, it is refusing to stop the majority (97%) of the violations in the last global monitoring report.

Nestle monster
We are holding a demonstration at Nestlé (UK) HQ in Croydon on Saturday 19 May from 11:00 to 12:00 to say this is just not good enough. Please do come along if you can. You can let us know you are coming by completing our online form - click here.

You might like to wear one of our new "Fight the Nestlé monster". The monster has just grown as it has swallowed Pfizer's infant nutrition business. That means it now owns the SMA brand, which brings it into the UK market. Click here for the t-shirt.

If you can't make it to the demonstration, you can support our other events and campaigns.
Donations are also very welcome and help to keep us operating to hold Nestlé and the rest of the baby food industry to account.

Download the attached leaflet for a map, NCP car parks and other information - click here.

You can scan the OCR code on the leaflet with a smartphone to access the data about the demonstration.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Latest news

While this blog has been a little quiet recently, a lot has been going on elsewhere.

You can catch up by reading Baby Milk Action's latest Update newsletter and Nestlé Boycott News available on the Baby Milk Action website at:

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Another nail in the coffin of satire

I was going to include this expression in a press release sent out yesterday, but no-one in the office understood what it meant.

If you have to explain a joke then it isn't very funny. But here goes.

There is a famous (?) observation by the American musical satirist Tom Lehrer. When Henry Kissinger, President Nixon's Secretary of State during the Vietnam War, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973, Lehrer said: "It was at that moment that satire died."

If satire is pushing the real towards the absurd to make a point, he felt "There was nothing more to say after that."

So what put another nail in the coffin of satire?

The Chairman of Nestlé, Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, is (possibly) to be awarded an honorary degree by the University of Alberta for "the preservation, distribution and management of one of humanity’s most vital resources: water."

Nestlé makes much of reducing its water usage in its Public Relations reports. What it is less forthcoming about - and what the award committee either disregarded or were ignorant of - is Nestlé and Mr. Brabeck are rather better known in human rights and environmental circles for their harmful impact on water.

See our press release for further information and an email campaign asking the University of Alberta not to make itself look foolish by giving a degree to Mr. Brabeck:

You could tell them it puts another nail in the coffin of satire, but I guess they might not understand.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Governments should govern, and corporations should follow the rules

The latest edition of SCN News contains an article written by myself and Patti Rundall, our Policy Director, with this title. See page 51 of

SCN is the United Nations System Standing Committee on Nutrition. The theme of the journal is: Nutrition and Business - How to Engage?

There is a trend being followed by some policy makers at UN, government and civil society level to see working in partnership with corporations as the way to achieve goals relating to nutrition and tackling diet-related ill health, such as Non-Communicable Diseases or NCDs. NCDs include things like heart disease (responsible for 29% of global deaths) and diabetes, which are on the increase as more and more people become overweight and obese.

We see it with the baby milk issue and our latest newsletter, Update 44, examines some specific cases where a desire by policy makers to work with corporations (which sometimes includes accepting funding) has led to the rights of mothers and babies being neglected or even undermined. Baby Milk Action engages with companies such as Nestlé and Danone through ongoing correspondence regarding marketing practices that violate international standards. As we report in Update, Nestlé is not so keen to engage with our proposals for substantive meetings to discuss the need for it to make changes to its policies and practices, or even to resolve disagreements over interpretation of the marketing requirements.

The Editorial to SCN News is generally optimistic about working with corporations, stating, for example:

Nutrition and business interests are overlapping more and more. Businesses are increasingly including product and social innovation as well as sustainability into their core corporate strategies and supply chains. Business is also continuously reaching out to new consumers, including the urban and rural poor, exploring emerging markets and engaging with other nutrition stakeholders. While these overlaps create opportunities for cooperation and convergence of interests for achieving food and nutrition security, they also carry controversy, and sometimes cause heated debate, especially on transparency and accountability issues. There are cases of actual or perceived conflicts of interest that undermine such convergence and diminish trust, jeopardizing potentially fruitful initiatives.

The journal presents some cases of initiatives involving business that are deemed to be successful by the authors and also notes: "Millions of farmers and rural entrepreneurs form the bulk of agricultural production and investments. Private businesses, of all sizes, constitute the food supply chain as it evolves from the farm to the fork."

Like several other peer-reviewed articles in the journal, we warn that there is a failure in governance when it comes to nutrition and the industrialised food sector, which involves some of the world's largest transnational corporations.

Before even considering how to engage with business, we argue that policy makers need to understand that executives have a legal obligation to put their shareholders' interest before all others. If executives aren't looking for some advantage in engaging with policy makers, they are failing in this duty. That is not to question the ethics or morality of executives; it is to state what should be obvious. However, talk of win-win solutions sometimes seems to paint too rosy - or naive - a picture of the relationships.

So we set out and describe five key steps for policy makers to take when considering nutrition, health and other issues and the role of the private sector:

1. Understand the problem and the role played by the private sector

2. Determine the appropriate public-interest response

3. Decide the appropriate relationship with the private sector in this context

4. Identify the extent of conflicts of interest, minimise them and manage those that are consid- ered acceptable or unavoidable

5. If deciding to work with the private sector in some way, avoid the language of partnership, define the relationship clearly and ensure that your original objectives do not get subverted.

Read the full article for further details.