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How companies responded to the violations on the Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet February 2004

This page was last updated on 3 March 2004.

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:


Nutricia promotion in China planned for March


Numico , parent of Nutricia, has indicated that it intends to press ahead with a prohibited promotion for its 'Kissing my Baby' range of baby milk in China. The Head of Nutricia China, Marc de Rouw, explained in a television programme how the company is promoting the brand by giving away 50,000 CDs of Dutch songs for children when mothers buy Nutricia baby foods. The CD has a pack-shot of one of the 'Kissing my Baby' formulas on its cover.

People complaining via the Numico website have received the following response, which is given in its entirety. Baby Milk Action's response is given below this.

Please may I refer to your e-mail of 27 February to Numico regarding our WHO Code compliance in China.

First of all we regret very much that the announcement of our baby food promotion activity in China has led to a misunderstanding on your side. I can assure you that the activities referred to in you letter are in full compliance with the code as this only regards products outside the range of breastmilk substitues and all the texts used for this activity have been approved beforehand by Chinese authorities. In no country Numico would ever make advertising or promotion for starter infant formula, intended for babies younger than 6 months when the mother is not allowed or in a position to breastfeed Right from the beginning in 1981 Royal Numico has endorsed the WHO Code and we have taken responsibility for the primary aim of the Code. As a general principle, we want to ensure that all our marketing and promotional activities contribute to the general goal of providing safe and appropriate nutrition for infants by the protection of breastfeeding and by ensuring the proper use of breast milk substitutes, when these become necessary. In this connection I want to emphasise that all our baby food branches, in more than 65 countries, abide by the Code or local interpretation of the Code, whichever are applicable. In these counties our starter infant formula will contain a statement to the effect that breastfeeding is the ideal source of nutrition for infants and the professional advice should be sought before using starter infant formula and no direct advertising or promotion of this product is allowed. This also counts for China. Actually Numico supports the efforts by the Chinese Government to implement the WHO code as appropriate. This can be illustrated by our active participation in the recent IFM conference on infant feeding in Beijing on 20 February 2004, discussing regulatory issues to protect breastfeeding and current science on good nutrition for young children, infants and for pre-terms (see attachment 1).

Furthermore we participate in the promotion of the establishment of an industry association in China to stimulate the right discipline on marketing practises among all players in the market.

Finally I want to inform you that regarding WHO Code compliance Numico maintains briefing programmes for expatriate and local employees (also our independent distributors are covered). They are all made aware of the importance of adhering to WHO code. Code monitoring activities are establishment in various markets to make sure that this discipline is well maintained. In addition Numico has established an independent Advisory Committee on Ethical Affairs to audit evaluation reports of our marketing practises. Of course compliance is best achievable if instructions on marketing practises are clearly defined by national legislation. This not only provides clarity on interpretations but also brings along official supervision that laws are maintained. In countries without clear Code legislation our employees have to comply strictly with the Numico directive, based on the WHO Code. (See attachment 2). In these countries we also welcome the monitoring activities of NGO's reported directly to our company (as recommended by WHO). Any notification of a violence of the Code will have an immediate followed -up and when a violation can be established corrective measures will be taken.

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Klaas de Jong Corporate
Director Regulatory Affairs

cc WHO Geneve
MOH Beijing



This response is totally inadequate and further demonstrates Numico's contempt for the regulations.

Numico claims that the text of its promotion has been approved by the Chinese authorities. According to the news report, it is the text of the songs on the CD which have been approved by the Ministry of Culture! It is clear from the law that the promotion is prohibited. Companies are, in any case, required to abide by the provisions of the International Code independently of government measures (Article 11.3).

Baby Milk Action's suggested letter to the man ultimately responsible for the malpractice Jan Bennink, CEO, NUMICO (Nutricia, Milupa, Cow&Gate), PO Box 1, 2700 MA Zoetermeer, The Netherlands. Fax: +31 79 353 9620 (You could cut and paste the text below into your letter or into the Numico on-line comment form - click here):

Dear Mr. Bennick,

I have received a reply to my message to you concerning the promotion of "Kissing my Baby" formulas in China.

The reply it totally inadequate and further demonstrates Numico's contempt for the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly and the Chinese regulations.

You argue that the promotion is not for a breastmilk substitute for use by infants under 6 months. However, the promotion is for the "Kissing my Baby" brand which is used for infant formula from birth. Promoting formulas for use for infants over six months with the same name, promotes all formulas with the same name. It is clear that Numico well understands and intends this to be the case as in the television news report regarding the promotion, Nutricia's Director, Marc de Rouw, showed the CD with the full range of products, including formula for use from birth.

World Health Assembly Resolution 49.15 states that there should be measures: "to ensure that complementary foods are not marketed for or used in ways that undermine exclusive and sustained breast-feeding." If Numico wishes to classify the specific "Kissing my Baby" formula prictured on the CD as a complementary food, then the marketing should not undermine breastfeeding. The use of the common brand name undermines breastfeeding as so, even viewed as a complementary food promotion, it is prohibited.

You have sent a copy of "NUMICO Guiding Principles for the Marketing of Infant Formula" suggesting that these demonstrate NUMICO's commitment to the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. Without commenting in detail, it is sufficient to note that Numico restricts its guidelines to infant formula, whereas the International Code is for all breastmilk substitutes. As you are no doubt aware the scope of the Code is (Article 2): "breastmilk substitutes, including infant formula; other milk products, foods and beverages, including bottle-fed complementary foods, when marketed or otherwise represented to be suitable, with or without modification, for use as a partial or total replacement of breast-milk."

Your guidelines explicitly exclude any product that is not marketed for use under 6 months of age and this institutionalised disrespect for the Code is allowing promotions such as that in China to proceed. I ask you once again, when will Numico make the necessary systematic changes to bring an end to such violations?

As your response serves to bring your company further into disrespute, I ask you to reconsider and immediately halt this promotion before it does further damage to infant feeding practices in China.

We have not yet received a response from the European Commission as to whether it will enforce the Council Resolution on the marketing of breastmilk substitutes by EU companies outside the European Union.