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How companies responded to the violations highlighted on the Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet June/August 2001

This page was last updated on 10 March 2003.

Please keep writing to the companies concerned (background information, contact details and suggested letters are given on the action sheet). Please forward any responses you receive to us, even if they are the same as the ones given here.

Responses to:

Inappropriate promotion of Nestlé whole milks as baby food

See the action sheet for full details. Baby Milk Action's suggested letter was as follows:

You have highlighted the role of Nestlé’s internal baby food marketing auditors in your recently published Sustainability Review.

It is very disturbing to see the auditors turning a blind eye to the Nido whole milk displayed in the baby food section of the shop they are pictured visiting in Argentina. Nestlé is well aware that the use of such milks for infant feeding is dangerous to health. On your own website on the infant feeding issue you hold mothers responsible for using inappropriate substances such as whole milks for infant feeding and the consequent ill health.

Independent monitoring by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) shows that the promotion of Nestlé whole milks for infant feeding is widespread. You have already been informed of this. Will you give a public undertaking to ensure that this practice is stopped immediately?

The Nestlé Instructions on baby food marketing used by your auditors are clearly part of the problem. These instructions have been criticised in the past by IBFAN and UNICEF, but you have not made the required changes to bring them into line with the World Health Assembly marketing requirements. Will you give a public undertaking to do so?

You claim to discipline staff who violate the marketing requirements for breastmilk substitutes. Will you discipline whoever is responsible for placing the Ninho advertisement in Brazil during the football World Cup without the warning phrase required by Brazilian regulations. Will you discipline the staff who are allowing whole milks to be promoted in South America for infant feeding and who conducted a Sustainability Review which turns a blind eye to these practices?

Nestlé's response

Baby Milk Action has not received a response directly from Nestlé, but recently noticed the following statement had been posted on Nestlé's anti-boycott site

Baby Milk Action comments are on the statement in red. We stand by our campaign against Nestlé's irresponsible marketing and encourage supporters to send further letters to Nestlé. See the January - March 2003 action sheet.

Baby Milk Action (BMA) confuses whole-milk with infant formula

[Baby Milk Action comment: It is poor mothers who are using inappropriate whole milk for infant feeding. Rather than taking appropriate action to reduce such occurrences, Nestlé hides behind its bogus interpretation of the World Health Assembly's marketing requirements to continue with business as usual, putting its own profits before infant health.]

In its latest website release, the Non Governmental Organisation Baby Milk Action (BMA) has again provided misleading information about Nestlé infant food marketing.

BMA states that, in Argentina: Nestlé's Sustainability Review shows the company's internal auditors standing in front of a shop display for baby food which includes whole milks. Why do the auditors do this?.

The product branded Nido to which BMA refers is , in fact, a whole milk for children, and not an infant formula according to the international Codex Alimentarius food standards. Pediatric authorities indicate that, past the age of 10 to 12 months, children are able to digest whole cow's milk. According to international pediatric consensus, no specially formulated breast milk substitute is needed past this age.

More importantly in this case, Nido whole milk is not promoted at all as a breastmilk substitute, as 1) the graphic on the front of the label clearly shows a glass of milk, not a feeding bottle or infant feeding cup or anything picture/symbol that can suggest to the consumer that the product is suitable for babies; and 2) the child shown on the back of the label is well over the age of 1, when breast-milk substitutes are not necessary. The product contains no instructions for converting the product to a breast-milk substitute, nor in any way infers that it is appropriate as a breast-milk substitute.

[Baby Milk Action comment: The picture in Nestlé's publication shows the whole milk alongside Nan infant formula in a section labelled 'baby food'. Nestlé knows mothers are using it in place of the much more expensive infant formula, but refuses to remove it from the baby food section.]

The WHO Code Publication (WHO, 2000)* states that products must be specifically marketed as breast-milk substitutes in order to be considered as such. "During the first four to six months of life, breast milk alone is usually adequate to sustain the normal infant’s nutritional requirements. Breast milk may be replaced (substituted for) during this period by bona fide breast-milk substitutes, including infant formula. Any other food, such as cow’s milk, fruit juices, cereals, vegetables, or any other fuuid, solid or semi-solid food intended for infant and given after this initial period, can no longer be consider as a replacement for breast milk (or as its bona fide substitute).(…) So long as the manufacturers and distributors of the products do not promote them as being suitable for use as partial or total replacements for breast milk, the code’s provisions concerning limitations on advertising and other promotional activities do not apply to these products."

Unfortunately, Baby Milk Action continues to attempt to apply the WHO Code to products which are not marketed as breast-milk substitutes, in contradiction to the WHO Code itself.

[Baby Milk Action comment: Nestlé makes no reference to World Health Assembly Resolution 49.15, which refers to complementary foods - see Janaury - March 2003 action sheet].

In addition, BMA states that Nestlé is trying to promote whole cow’s milk as a breast milk substitute.. This is non-sensical. Nestlé manufactures and sells infant formula (breast-milk substitutes) and follow-on formula starting at 6 months. Why would the company want to promote other non-suitable products to feed infants in competition with its own products?

[Baby Milk Action comment: A study in Brazil, where Nestlé's promotion of whole milks alongside much more expensive infant formula is commonplace, found that 70% of poor mothers who use powdered milk for infant feeding are using whole milk, rather than infant formula. Why does Nestlé refuse to take the whole milk out of the infant feeding section as we are requesting? Presumably because it welcomes these extra sales to mothers who cannot afford infant formula, regardless of the impact on health. The use of any powdered milk is symptomatic of the destruction of the breastfeeding culture that has taken place in Brazil over decades since the entry of Nestlé into the country.]

Nestlé calls on Baby Milk action to stop this misleading campaign which undermines governments and companies in their efforts to advance the implementation of the WHO Code, based on the decisions which governments have made regarding what is a breast milk substitute.

[Baby Milk Action comment: It is curious that Nestlé makes its 'call' via its website without writing to us directly on the issue. Our campaign will continue until Nestlé decides it will take action to protect infant health rather than resorting to bogus and misleading arguments to defend its practices.]

* The Code is currently printed by WHO exactly as it was in 1981, when it was first published.

[Baby Milk Action comment: Here Nestlé confirms its refusal to respect or even acknowledge Resolution 49.15 adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1996.]