6 September 2001
Maternal Child Health
P.O. Box 8616
Annelies Allain has asked me to respond to your
letter of 3 August 2001.
are pleased to see Wyeth make a written commitment
to uphold the Code as required by Article
11.3 but judging by the violations we have
documented worldwide, we can only surmise that
your internal mechanisms to ensure Code compliance
are not functioning as they should. From the
evidence reported to us, Wyeth is one of the
most aggressive violators of the Code. The Breaking
the Rules(BTR) report aside, we received
reports from at least 2 governments in the past
months, one in Asia and the other in Africa,
that Wyeth has been systematically violating
their National Codes.
Milk Action comment: For details of the South
African Advertising Standards Authority ruling
against Wyeth see the Campaign for Ethical
Marketing action sheet, September/October
us to list the sources of our discontent.
preference to interpret the term "breastmilk
substitutes" to mean only "infant
formula" distorts the Code and the historical
events and documents which led to its adoption
by the World Health Assembly. There is no justification
for the term "breastmilk substitutes"
to be so narrowly confined. If the Code was
meant to apply to infant formula alone, the
wording of Article 2 would be that the Code
applies to "infant formula" full stop.
But it is not. The Code applies to all breastmilk
substitutes "marketed or otherwise represented
to be suitable... for use as a partial
or total replacement of breastmilk" and
infant formula is just one variety out of a
range of infant feeding products.
Milk Action comment: This point was also made
by UNICEF's Legal Officer in a submission to
the European Parliament Public Hearing into
Nestlé's marketing malpractice in November
the full text of UNICEF's submission]
Subsequent World Health Assembly Resolutions
enjoy the same status as the Code. You must
surely be aware of the global public health
recommendations in WHA Resolution
47.5 (1994) and lately in WHA
54.2 (2001) that call for infants to be
exclusively breastfed for 6 months with continued
breastfeeding for 2 years and beyond. By promoting
follow-up formula, Wyeth breaches the Code and
relevant World Health Assembly Resolutions.
going on Wyeth's narrow interpretation, the
company's marketing behaviour is found wanting
as witnessed by the promotion for S26, SMA and
other infant formulas in the countries we monitored
in. You have conveniently ignored our recorded
evidence in relation to infant formula. It is
not sufficient to proclaim your support of the
Code. We have compiled sufficient evidence to
prove that Wyeth's deeds are not matched by
your few complaints on the BTR report in specific
countries, we take issue with your general rebuttals
and have the following points to make:
States - The Code is of universal application
and applies to both manufacturers and distributors.
For a marketing device which breaks all the
rules, please refer to the website www.parentschoiceformula.com.
which purportedly is meant for the US market
but accessible worldwide.
-We are aware that as of January 21, 2000, Wyeth's
infant formula business in Canada belongs to
Nestlé. However, our monitors did find
supplies of Wyeth's Nursoy and SMA AR in health
care facilities in Canada. Why this is so is
beyond us. Did Wyeth carry out a total recall
of its products after the acquisition by Nestlé?
Could it be that the products our monitors came
across are excess supplies prior to the takeover?
These are questions only Wyeth can answer. Our
monitors only report what they see.
- You misconstrue us. We reported the posters
because they were found in the work places of
midwives and paediatricians not because they
relate to infant formula. In this regard, we
rely on Article
6.3 of the Code which disallows the distribution
of materials provided by companies in health
Kong - You call Mr. Carrot a "product-related"
symbol. Such promotional symbols are not permitted
in health care facilities under Article
6.2 and 6.3.
You gave gold S-26 Carrot symbols to mothers
in Hong Kong. Clearly, S-26 is a formula, the
product Mr. Carrot is "related" to.
forbids any such gifts. Putting a mortarboard
on Mr. Carrot to imply that babies will have
high IQs from Wyeth's formula is also objectionable
and forbidden under Article
complaint that the BTR harps on your activities
in a "developed market" like Hong
Kong implies that babies in Hong Kong deserves
less than the best. There is no justification
at all to exclude Hong Kong or any other country
from full compliance with the Code and subsequent
Resolutions. The preamble of the Code speaks
of the right of every child to be adequately
nourished. This right is also entrenched in
the main human rights instruments. The best
way to ensure its fulfilment is through breastfeeding.
The promotion of your products undermines this
right. Simply stating in fine print that breastfeeding
is best in all your literature does not mean
a thing if overshadowing that statement is an
image of a high IQ Mr. S-26 Carrot or of a smart
graduate baby with a can of your formula. Your
literature promotes S-26. The corollary is that
it discourages breastfeeding.
Milk Action comment: In its submission to the
European Parliament Public Hearing into Nestlé's
marketing malpractice in November 2000, UNICEF
stressed that the International Code
and Resolutions apply to all countries. See
the full text of UNICEF's submission]
and Taiwan - Precisely because local regulations
do not permit samples, the evidence we found
is all the more damning. We stand by our report
and think honest internal investigation will
reveal the same evidence or worse.
- We think it strange that you are denying responsibility
for your agents or as you put it - affiliates
- when they are marketing your products. The
Code applies to all those in your employ as
well as those acting as your agents or distributors.
Unsubstantiated claims in Bolivia, Mexico
and the UAE - Article
5.5 bans all kinds of direct and indirect
contact with pregnant women and mothers. Wyeth
was found to seek direct contact in the countries
you mention and our report is based on feedback
from mothers and monitors who are out in the
field. By the way, our report states "baby
expo" in Mexico; the baby club is in Hong
Kong. In view of the many yellow leaflets inviting
mothers to join the Wyeth Baby Club which are
still floating in health care facilities in
Hong Kong, we welcome your comments.
meetings - Our statements come under the
heading "Stretching the Rules" which
says what it means. In making our stand we rely
- Thank you for acknowledging that Wyeth produces
and distributes SMA posters. It would help to
know why your team of experts allows such promotional
material in breach of Article
5.1. Our records say that posters were seen
on display in rural Akwatia, Ghana, in a monitoring
exercise carried out on 8/8/2000. No doubt,
your distributors will know exactly which shops
in Ghana have the posters and it would be good
to have them removed.
response answers your specific complaints on
the BTR. You counted only 48 entries for Wyeth.
To avoid being repetitive in the BTR, we combine
violations we found in different places if they
concern the same product in the same country.
But even going on the number of times a specific
violation is mentioned, we count 46 instances
which mention your "infant formula"
products: S-26, SMA, Nursoy, Parent's Choice,
Baby Mil and Baby Soy. Since you did not say
anything about these 46 entries, we take it
that the reports on these violations are justified
and that you will take action on them.
trust you will look into setting right Wyeth's
internal mechanism so that in future no more
violations of the Code will occur. Monitoring
is not our favourite activity but we take our
responsibility under Article
11.4 seriously and will continue the surveillance.
Yeong Joo Kean