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Take action to stop these violations of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. The people responsible have names and addresses - call on them to market their products ethically.

The tables below give details of some recent violations. The date when the violation was last reported to Baby Milk Action or confirmed to be current is given. The violation reference is for Baby Milk Action's records. Please quote it if forwarding correspondence to us, if possible.

Nestlé Chief's misleading claims about Malawi labels

Violation Reference
February 2000


Baby Milk Action has been calling on Nestlé to include the national language of Malawi (Chichewa) on its baby milks sold in Malawi since at least 1994. In 1994, Nestlé accused Baby Milk Action of "lack of logic" on the grounds that anyone using the formula could probably read English. Yet the Malawi Government was also asking Nestlé to include Chichewa and Nestlé promised in 1994 that it would do so. Nothing happened.

Baby Milk Action continued campaigning and in 1997 Mr. Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, now Nestlé Chief Executive Officer, told shareholders at the company's Annual General Meeting that Chichewa would be included. Baby Milk Action acknowledged the promise and continued monitoring. The labels still did not appear.

This was one of the labelling concerns taken up by the UK national television programme Mark Thomas Product (5th October 1999 and 13th January 2000). Mr. Brabeck sent a message to Mark Thomas saying that labels with Chichewa would be on the shelves within months. Nestlé's January Code "Action" report (below) repeats this pledge.

Given Nestlé's record, Baby Milk Action has contacted the Ministry of Health in Malawi to check whether it was aware of Nestlé's new labels. In the past the Government had stated that labels for Malawi should show feeding with cups, not bottles. Bottles are harder to sterilise than cups and a baby that learns to suck on a teat may have problems suckling at the breast.

Despite being informed of this requirement, the Nestlé labels do not picture cup-feeding (although it is mentioned in the text). The Ministry of Health confirmed that it had rejected the labels and that it requires Nestlé to add a picture making it clear that a cup and spoon should be used for feeding infants.

In addition, the Ministry of Health stated that the Chichewa text does not include all the required warnings.

Unfortunately, it appears that Nestlé is more concerned with protecting its image in the UK than protecting the infants of Malawi.

Suggested points for a letter to the man responsible: Mr. Peter Brabeck, Chief Executive Officer, Nestlé, 55, av. Nestlé, 1800 Vevey, Switzerland. Fax: +41 21 922 6334:

Nestlé's January Code "Action" Report includes a baby milk label intended for Malawi. Nestlé says these will appear in the shops in the next few months.

Can you explain why Nestlé is planning to introduce these labels onto the market when it is reported that they have been rejected by the Ministry of Health, Malawi? It is reported that the Government requires step 7 of the preparation instructions to include a picture of a mother feeding the product to a child using a cup and spoon.

It is also reported that the Chichewa text does not include all the required warnings.

You said in Nestlé's "Action" Report in October 1999: "I personally review any hint of wrongdoing" that Nestlé's auditors uncover. If this is true, why is this issue still unresolved after at least 6 years and why are you permitting unsatisfactory and unsafe labels to be launched onto the market in Malawi?

Please take immediate action to ensure that the necessary changes are made to the labels. Please make it clear in Nestlé's next "Action" Report that the labels shown in the January issue do not meet the Malawi Government's requirements.

UNICEF critical of Nestlé book - Nestlé begins to apologise (Nestlé's "monitoring" report exposed - No. 5)

(Ref: 00/02)


Nestlé's Chief Executive, Mr. Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, has claimed that governments around the world have verified that Nestlé abides by the Code and is distributing a book called Nestlé implementation of the WHO Code to support his claim.

However, the book is not standing up to scrutiny and appears to be part of a public relations offensive launched in October 1999. The PR offensive is rapidly becoming a PR disaster - the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has written to Mr. Brabeck stating that his claims are not supported by letters reproduced in the Nestlé book as proof. As examples, UNICEF details problems with 21 of the 54 letters. These include Denmark and Oman.

In January Nestlé admitted that it had apologised to the Danish authorities for misrepresenting the letter reproduced in the book (Baby Milk Action first exposed this on the Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet, November 1999). Here we look at the Oman case, which is given prominence in UNICEF's letter.

Suggested points for a letter to the man responsible: Mr. Peter Brabeck, Chief Executive Officer, Nestlé, 55, av. Nestlé, 1800 Vevey, Switzerland. Fax: +41 21 922 6334:

You have claimed: "54 governments or appointed monitoring bodies provided written, official evidence that Nestlé's policies and practices conform with the WHO Code." One of the letters published by Nestlé in the book Nestlé Implementation of the WHO Code to support your claim comes from Oman. Yet it is clear that the letter is only thanking Nestlé's representative for attending a meeting.

  • Can you explain why the letter has been presented as an "official verification" when very clearly it is not?

  • Has Nestlé apologised to the Government of Oman for misrepresenting the letter?

  • Will Nestlé be recalling the book Nestlé Implementation of the WHO Code or issuing a statement to all who have received it correcting your claim?

Labelling violations in Zimbabwe

Violation Reference
Abbott Ross, Wyeth, Infacare
Labelling language
February 2000


Baby Milk Action has received a report of labelling violations in Zimbabwe and has contacted the head offices of the organisations responsible. We have not yet received responses from the companies concerned. As it is often the case that our letters are ignored while members of the public receive replies, we are calling for your assistance. We are treating this as a case study and will report back on what happens in a forthcoming newsletter.

Suggested points for letters to the men responsible:

  • Mr. Duane L. Burnham, CEO, Abbott Laboratories, 1 Abbott Park Road, IL 60064-3500, USA (Fax: +1 847 938 1342)
  • Mr. John R. Stafford, CEO, Wyeth (American Home Products), PO Box 8616, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19101, USA. (Fax: +1 610 688 6228)
  • CEO, Infacare, South African Druggists Ltd., Electron Avenues, PO Box 42, Isando 1600, South Africa (Fax: +27 11 239 3001)

    I understand that breastmilk substitutes manufactured by your company have been found on sale in Zimbabwe without labels including all three required languages: English, Shona and Ndebele.

    Please investigate this issue immediately and ensure that the labels on all your baby food products sold in Zimbabwe conform to the Government's requirements and the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and other relevant measures adopted by the World Health Assembly.

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