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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.

Read company responses received so far

Nestlé launches infant formula promotion campaign in southern Africa, violating Resolution on HIV

Violation Reference


Promotion of infant formula


Nestlé is using the suffering of infants infected with HIV as a cover to launch promotion of infant formula in southern Africa. Research has shown that exclusively breastfed infants are at no more risk of infection than artificially-fed infants. Increased risk arises when breastfeeding mothers introduce formula or other substances (see Update 29). This is more likely to happen following the irresponsible promotion launched by Nestlé.

For many years Baby Milk Action has been calling for independent research into the risks of mother-to-child-transmission of HIV through breastfeeding. The importance of this was acknowledged at the World Health Assembly this year in Resolution 54.2.

6-month-old Roath Chamrouen abandoned at birth and HIV-positive, cared for at Phnom Penh Nutrition Centre, Cambodia, Photo taken from the Bangkok Post, August 11, 1999. See IBFAN's briefing paper on The International Code, HIV and Breastfeeding.

Resolution 54.2 calls on Member States:

"to recognize and assess the available scientific evidence on the balance of risk of HIV transmission through breastfeeding compared with the risk of not breastfeeding, and the need for independent research in this connection; ... and that those who choose [options other than breastfeeding] should be encouraged to use them free from commercial influences;"

Governments barely had time to act on the Resolution when Nestlé announced a new infant formula promotion campaign in southern Africa which violates many aspects of the Resolution (see Business Report, South Africa, 3rd August 2001). Nestlé is launching a "Nutrition Institute". According to Nestlé's Ferdinand Haschke, "The long term goal is to improve nutrition in southern and east Africa, in particular nutrition used in the HIV vertical transmission programme through infant formula."

Nestlé is promoting its Nan Pelargon formula in southern Africa and claiming that its high acidity means it will destroy infections in unsafe water. Independent health experts asked by Baby Milk Action suggest that such a claim cannot be supported.

Nestlé's initiative undermines the requirement that mothers receive independent advice 'free from commercial influence.' Nestlé's press statements suggesting its formula can be used with unsafe water is a thinly-disguised promotion strategy and puts all infants at risk.

Nestlé ignores research evidence from South Africa which has shown that exclusively breastfed infants of HIV-infected mothers are at no more risk of infection than exclusively artificially-fed infants. Increased risk occurs when breastfeeding mothers introduce other substances. UNICEF has estimated that in the last 20 years 1.7 million babies may have contracted HIV from their mother's breastmilk, while, in the same time, 30 million babies have died because they were not breastfed. Breastfed infants are at much lesser risk of diarrhoearial disease, respiratory infections and other illnesses and their mothers also experience health advantages.

Suggested letter to the man responsible: Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, CEO, Nestlé S.A., Av. Nestlé 55, CH-1800 Vevey, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 21 924 2813.

As you know, the World Health Assembly adopted Resolution 54.2 in May 2001 stressing the "need for independent research" into "the balance of risk of HIV transmission through breastfeeding compared with the risk of not breastfeeding."

The Resolution also states that mothers who decide not to breastfed and choose other options "should be encouraged to use them free from commercial influences."

It is very disappointing that Nestlé almost immediately decided to violate the Resolution by launching a "Nutrition Institute" in southern Africa to promote Nan Pelargon formula to health workers for HIV interventions. By definition, Nestlé's information is not independent.

It is also very disturbing that Nestlé staff are promoting Nan Pelargon infant formula in the media as suitable for use where water supplies are unsafe.

Will Nestlé take full responsibility for all deaths that occur through misuse of this formula?

I request you abide by Resolution 54.2 and stop these promotion campaigns immediately.


Wyeth's aggressive promotion in South Africa

Violation Reference
Widespread and systematic violations


Wyeth's unethical promotion - (left) SMA Gold "now even closer to breastmilk", idealizing text because as an inert substance it is still far away. (Right) In store promotion for the re-labelled SMA products in South Africa.

Wyeth formulas have been marketed in southern Africa under licence by Infacare. Wyeth has always denied any responsibility for labelling and other violations. However, it is now marketing its brands directly and has used this change to launch an aggressive promotion campaign, which has provoked a number of complaints. Nestlé, which has launched its own infant formula promotion campaign in southern Africa recently (see above), also reported Wyeth to the authorities. This demonstrates the fierce and dirty war taking place between baby food companies - in the US Wyeth observed a voluntary ban on advertising until Nestlé took it and other companies to court and began advertising itself!

Magazine advertisements in South Africa for Wyeth's S-26 brands (see left) which undermined breastfeeding and idealized artificial infant feeding were censured by the South African Advertising Standards Authority in May 2001. In a written submission the Department of Health stated the:

"picture and text 'our babies are about to have a face lift... implicates that babies will 'have a face-lift' with the breastmilk substitutes and therefore negates the superiority of breastmilk... In this regard, the Department of Health, which is the principal custodian on child survival issues, urges Wyeth to desist from contravening the Code."

A television advertisement showed a baby playing with a computer followed by a voice-over: "Because I have changed my infant formula to S-26 Promil Gold this computer is child's play". This implies that babies fed on S-26 formula will be more intelligent. Wyeth wrote to the ASA disputing that S-26 Promil Gold comes within the scope of the South African Code of Ethics as it is promoted for use from 6 months. This ignores the fact that it will still replace that part of a child's diet best provided by breastmilk - breastfeeding is recommended into the second year of life and beyond by the World Health Organisation. The S-26 brand name is used for Wyeth's infant formula as well as follow-on formula and advertising one product serves to advertise them all.

Suggested letter to the man responsible: Mr. John R Stafford, CEO, Wyeth, PO Box 8616, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19101, USA. Fax: +1 610 688 6228.


Wyeth has recently been censured by the South African Advertising Standards Authority for its promotion of S-26 products following a complaint by Nestlé and others. It is disappointing that Wyeth has opposed the ruling. Can you confirm that Wyeth will now accept the ruling and stop its unethical and irresponsible promotion of these products?

Wyeth attempted to argue that S-26 Promil Gold does not come within the scope of the South African Code of Ethics and similarly misrepresents the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant World Health Assembly Resolutions.

The recent IBFAN monitoring report, Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules 2001, demonstrates that Wyeth violates these measures in many other respects.

This attitude may soon result in Wyeth and its parent, American Home Products, being targetted by an action similar to the popular Nestlé boycott, which is now active in 20 countries.

Boycott action will be less likely if Wyeth indicates that it will accept the baby food marketing policy of the World Health Organisation (as set by the World Health Assembly Resolutions).

Will you please provide a clear statement accepting that the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant World Health Assembly Resolutions are minimum requirements for all countries?




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