Thank you for your e-mail enquiring about the alleged use of doctors in grocery stores by Nestlé China in promoting breast-milk substitutes. [****the complaint was specifically about seeking direct contact with mothers of infants and young children, prohibited by Article 5.5****]. We take each allegation of violation of the WHO Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes very seriously and make detailed investigations, based on the information given and have thoroughly investigated this charge.
Enhancing the knowledge about iron-fortified infant cereals for children over six months and vitamin and mineral-enriched powdered milk for children aged one year and older was part of our communication in 2005 [****This is apparently an admission that Nestlé was indeed promoting the Neslac formula for older babies****]. The programme apparently referred to in the allegation consisted of a Nutrition Corner where the following products were displayed in addition to the infant cereals and children's milks: vitamin-enriched UHT milk, milk enriched with Omega 3 lipids, adult cereals, family breakfast cereals, bottled water and a nutritional supplement for pregnant and lactating mothers [****Nutritional supplements appeared in the 1990s and suggest a mother needs the expensive products to breastfeed****]. No infant formula or follow-on formula was displayed.
This program was staffed by health professionals, some of whom had medical degrees [****Again an admission that our violation report was correct****]. These people have no relation whatsoever to the marketing of our breast-milk substitute products (infant formula, follow-on formula). In fact they had to sign a statement that they would not promote infant formula to those with whom they came into contact [****Even if true, which is not proven, this does not negate Nestlé's obligations under Article 5.5, as UNICEF's letter makes clear****].
The WHO Code clearly distinguishes between breast-milk substitutes and complementary foods and makes clear that the Code only applies to products marketed as breast-milk substitutes. The Chinese regulations do likewise. Neither iron-fortified infant cereals nor milks for children aged one and over are formulated to be, nor marketed as, breast-milk substitutes.
In addition, the milks for children one year and above show children drinking from a feeding cup, a normal cup or a glass. The name of the product label design and label colour are completely different from that of our formula products so that confusion with breast-milk substitutes is virtually impossible.
I trust this demonstrates that the products promoted in China were not breast-milk substitutes but products essential to better health for children aged one year and over using staff knowledgeably qualified and subject to professional codes of conduct in addition to our own strict rules [****Nestlé's 'strict rules' permit targetting of 'pregnant and lactating women', just one of the ways they fall short of the World Health Assembly measures (see Nestlé's Public Relations Machine Exposed for more details). Note also that in a radio interview in November 2005 Ms Mirando claimed, without qualification, that Nestlé does not seek direct contact with mothers. Click here for the interview****].
For information on the developing world/infant formula please see www.nestle.co.uk/ourResponsibility/
DevelopingWorldIssues/ and www.babymilk.nestle.com
I would like to clarify the question relating to an independent public Nestlé "tribunal" that was brought up at the radio interview by the University of East Anglia Students’ Union with me on Monday, November 21, 2005
It is clear that I have said we believe in constructive dialogue and constructive engagement, but if it is part of a political agenda we would say no.
As you will note, our position that we would not attend remains unchanged.
Our decision not to participate in such a "tribunal" remains unaltered [****Ms Mirando actually said: "Well we do believe in constructive dialogue, in constructive engagement, and if this sort of public hearing will lead to that constructive dialogue we are willing to do so." She then raised concerns about the composition of the panel. She was asked: "But hypothetically it is something you would be happy to do under the correct circumstances?" and replied "Yes, under the correct circumstances, if the panel is independent we may consider it." Baby Milk Action asked Mr. Brabeck to set out what was meant by 'the correct circumstances', but received no response from him. Ms Mirando instead responded stating outright rejection of the proposal. See A tape recording reveals how senior Nestlé executive misled students in failed attempt to overturn boycott for full details****].
Senior Policy Adviser