Note: Nestlé has just spent a fortune launching a 'shared value' report boasting of its "positive impact on millions of people across the world" - click here.
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Nestlé: systematic violations and broken promises
The latest global monitoring report from the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) was published in November 2007. It is called Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules 2007 and includes monitoring results from 67 countries gathered in the period since the last round-up report (June 2004 to October 2007).
The results show Nestlé and other companies continue to violate the International Code and Resolutions in a systematic and institutionalised way. Nestlé violations stand out as particularly widespread, unsurprising as it is the market leader, and bad in terms of the provisions of the Code that are broken. The company claims to support these measures in its own list of developing countries (it does not undertake to abide by them elsewhere despite the fact the Code makes no distinction between countries), but the results show that it does not do so.
Here are just a few examples from the report:
• In Indonesia a number of hospitals receive discounts from Nestlé for Lactogen 1, Nan 1 and Pre Nan 1 infant formulas. Health workers give free samples to mothers. Nestlé pays to be allowed to supply free Nan infant formula to newborns in a hospital in Saudi Arabia. In Hungary mothers receive samples of Beba 2 formula through the mail (we campaigned on this in 1999 and will continue to press for action).
• In China Nestlé provides wrist bands for new borns with the Nestlé name and logo as used on formula
(on some other products a small version of the logo appears with the customer services number, but not on the front of the label - the logo is only used like this on formula. Click here for more details).
Nestlé Nutritionist, Zelda Wilson, recently admitted when trying to convince a student union to end their support for the Nestlé boycott that the purpose of these low-value gifts: "is to keep the company name and products in people’s mind."
Keeping the company name and products in people's mind
Nestlé has admitted gifts such as this hand towel in Indonesia are intended "to keep the company name and products in people's mind."
The similarity with the label of Lactogen infant formula, also from Indonesia, reveals how the strategy is designed to work.
When the product is not mentioned by name, the gifts reflect the pack colours and use the Nestlé logo and name in the form that ONLY appears on the front of formula packaging.
The same tactic is used with the wrist band from China shown above which has the Nestlé logo and name, as used on formula, with the child's birth details.
• Nestlé provides magazine subscriptions (which include Nestlé advertisements) in Lebanon. In Saudi Arabia health workers receive invitations to gala events including free dinners in fancy hotels.
• In China Lactogen formula information leaflets are displayed in the nursing centre of the maternity ward of a hospital in Hefei. A card found in a doctor's office in Xianyang promotes Nan infant formula with the text: "Added DHA/AA makes the formula closer to breastmilk and promotes the development of the baby's brain". In advertisements in Malaysia Nestlé claims its Lactogen formula provides optimal brain development and visual acuity. These claims that were found not to be supported by the evidence in an independent Cochrane Library review of the ingredients.
• Nestlé claims it does not promote complementary foods before 6 months of age (it changed its policy after a 9-year campaign), but monitoring finds it continues to do so in some countries and in others down-plays the age of use information and uses pictures of young babies. In February 2008 it was reported it is launching a range of products called NutriNes, which: "will be aimed at infants over the age of four months."
Will Nestlé's new Chief Executive Officer, Paul Bulcke, change Nestlé's policies and practices?
Nestlé's Chief Executive Officer, Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, is to stand down in April 2008, though he will continue as Chairman. In the past he has claimed to 'personally investigate any hint of a violation' of the marketing requirements for baby foods. Yet evidence suggests that investigations do not in reality take place (click here for an example) , or Nestlé dismisses complaints by misrepresenting the provisions of the Code and Resolutions. Audits Nestlé pays for are done against its own Instructions instead of the Code and Resolutions.
For example, fliers for mothers promoting Lactogen formula found in Bangladesh and reported by The Guardian newspaper in 2007 are a clear violation of the Code, whether viewed as advertisements, educational material or information for health workers (violating Articles 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the Code). Similar fliers are reported in the Breaking the Rules 2007 in the United Arab Emirates promoting Nan infant formula. The practice will clearly continue while Nestlé refuses to accept the provisions of the Code.
Nestlé's contempt for the Code is sometimes breathtaking. Article 5.3 states explictly "there should be no point-of-sale advertising". Even Nestlé's own policy, which is weaker than the Code, states it does not: "advertise or promote infant formula to the public". Yet this shelf talker for Nestlé formulas appeared in Johannesburg in December 2007.
It not only promotes infant formula, but the labels on the 'new improved' products it is advertising contain idealizing claims that violate Article 9 of the Code, such as the 'protect' logo, boasting of the claimed effect of added ingredients. UPDATE: April action - Help South Africa to stop Nestlé and others pushing formula.
The ingredients used in the marketing strategy include what Nestlé sometimes markets as 'brain building blocks' and 'prebiotics' - claims that are illegal in the UK and many other countries. Small print saying to contact a healthcare professional does not excuse a blatant violation of the Code and the Nestlé Instructions the company publishes in its Public Relations materials.
Nestlé has also said it will not advertise or promote follow-on milk that is similarly labelled to infant formula. Here it is promoting both. The labels of the follow-on milk are designed to be similar to the infant formula to make them cross-promotional, something that is soon to be illegal in the UK and other European countries (and would already be illegal if the Infant and Dietetic Food Association, to which Nestlé belongs, hadn't had these measures delayed for two years - click here).
Suggested letter to Mr Paul Dulke, Chief Executive designate, Nestlé S.A. Avenue Nestlé 55, Vevey 1800, Switzerland. Fax: +41 21 924 4800. Or see the comment form at www.nestle.com
In anticipation of you being approved as Chief Executive Officer by shareholders, I would like to welcome you to the post and call for one of your first acts to be to end your predecessors strategy of violating the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant World Health Assembly Resolutions.
While Mr. Brabeck claimed to investigate any hint of a violation of these measures, the latest monitoring report and other evidence from the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) shows Nestlé continues prohibited practices such as promoting formula in health facilities and retail outlets, giving gifts to health workes (which your Zelda Wilson recently admitted are intended to promote products) and giving free samples and free or reduced cost supplies.
Labels contain idealizing text and images, while failing to warn those who do use powdered formula that it is not sterile and the simple steps to reduce the risks.
Your expected appointment offers Nestlé a new opportunity to accept the four-point plan put to it by coordinators of the international Nestlé boycott and I would encourage you to do so.
Until such I time, I will continue to boycott Nestlé products.
UPDATE: Nestlé is defending the advertising of infant formula in South Africa, while claiming the Code is its minimum standard. We see these as inconsistent positions. What do you think? Take our poll by clicking here.
Danone/NUMICO and the Code
The bad news from the Breaking the Rules 2007 report is that Nestlé is driving down standards.
As NUMICO (the owner of Nutricia, Milupa and Cow&Gate brands) tries to compete, particularly in Asia, the number of violations has increased.
Some recent good news is that Danone, new owners of NUMICO and itself a violator of the Code and Resolutions, has responded to a recent letter from Baby Milk Action. We wrote to it with a four-point plan similar to that put to Nestlé to bring its baby food marketing activities into line. While Nestlé has rejected the plan, Danone responded:
"The Group is well aware of the extremely important issues associated with this activity, and is looking to conduct a root and branch review of its corporate mission in the baby foods field."
We are looking for a written commitment to the Code and Resolutions before meeting.
Suggested letter to the man responsible: Frank Riboud, CEO, Danone, 7 rue de Teheran, 75381 Paris, France. Fax: +33 1 42 25 67 16 or via www.danone.com
I understand from Baby Milk Action that Danone is conducting a 'root and branch review' of its activities in the baby foods field following its takeover of NUMICO.
This is welcome news and I encourage you to accept the proposals put to you by Baby Milk Action for coming into compliance with the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions.
In particular I ask that you accept, in writing, the validity of these measures as minimum requirements for all countries and that the policies and practices of Danone and NUMICO need to change.
This will provide a basis for further discussion.
can be a Code Monitor.