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How companies responded to the violations on the Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet December 2005

This page was last updated on 20 February 2006.

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.

Response is awaited to:

  • UK government to abandon mothers to baby food companies?

See below for response to:

Nestlé CEO launches blatant violation in China


Baby Milk Action exposed how Nestlé CEO, Peter Brabeck-Letmathé personally launched a promotion in China putting health workers in retail outlets to target parents to rebuild Nestlé's baby food market (click here). Nestlé had earlier provoked a consumer boycott in China after refusing to remove its Neslac milks from sale despite the authorities finding too-high levels of iodine.

In our exposé we stated: "Article 5.5 of the International Code explicitly prohibits companies from targetting pregnant women and mothers of infants and young children. UNICEF has informed Baby Milk Action that young children are defined as up to 3 years of age and the prohibition is absolute (click here for UNICEF's letter). Companies cannot use a milk for older babies as an excuse for the contact."

In a response Nestlé's Senior Policy Advisor, Beverley Mirando, admits to the violation. As anticipated she claims that baby milks and foods other than infant formula were used to initiate the contact.

The violation was actually worse than first believed as Ms Mirando admits that the staff in the 'Nutrition Corners' in retail outlets targetted 'pregnant and lactating women' with 'nutritional supplements'. Suggesting that a mother has to use expensive supplements to breastfeed successfully is one of the strategies Nestlé uses to undermine breastfeeding.

Our suggested letter to Mr. Brabeck was as follows:

I am disturbed to read that Nestlé is placing doctors in supermarkets in China to promote Nestlé Neslac formulas direct to parents. As you know Article 5.5 of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes prohibits seeking: “direct or indirect contact of any kind with pregnant women or with mothers of infants and young children.”

According to UNICEF's Legal Officer, who advises on interpretation of the the World Health Assembly measures: “Any form of contact with mothers of children under the age of three years is prohibited, irrespective of the motivation behind the contact."

It appears from media reports that you are closely associated with this strategy. How can you reconcile your stated commitment to take action against violations of the Code, when you yourself are responsible? I call on you to stop the promotions in China immediately and revise your instructions to staff to bring them into line with the Code and Resolutions.

Your past assurances that Nestlé complies with the marketing standards is undermined by your refusal to participate in the independent, expert Tribunal proposed by Baby Milk Action. Your Senior Policy Advisor, Beverley Mirando, has recently said Nestlé will now consider taking part. Can you confirm you have changed your policy and will accept Baby Milk Action's invitation?

Ms. Mirando's letter to campaign supporters is as follows. Baby Milk Action's comments are given [****thus****]:

Dear ***

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
DevelopingWorldIssues/ and

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****].

Yours sincerely,

Beverley Mirando
Senior Policy Adviser

Please keep writing to Nestlé about these cases. Click here for a suggested letter about the China case. Click here for a letter about the tribunal.