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Responses to the violations highlighted on the
Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet November 2003

This page was last updated on 26 April 2004.

Responses to:

Nestlé’s idealising leaflets in Egypt and Vietnam

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.

Nestlé's idealising leaflets in Egypt and Vietnam

We exposed Nestlé leaflets in Vietnam and Egypt which promote Nestlé infant formulas in an idealising way. We also exposed a Nestlé advertisement in South Africa which encouraged mothers to attend talks on the 'Nestlé Developmental Nutrition Plan' given by the 'Nestlé Baby-Care Friends'.

The response below was sent to Baby Milk Action four months after we wrote to Nestlé. It is likely that we have only received a response as members of the public have also complained to Nestlé, prompted by our Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet. Many thanks for your help in calling Nestlé to account.

Unfortunately the response from Nestlé's Senior Policy Advisor, Beverley Mirando, demonstrates either ignorance or deliberate dishonesty about the provisions of the Code and Resolutions. At present the company has no intention of stopping these violations. Please keep up the pressure on Nestlé to abide by its resposibilities by supporting our letter-writing campaigns and the Nestlé boycott.

We reproduce Beverley Mirando's letter below in its entirety. Baby Milk Action's comments appear [***thus***].

Dear Mike,

Thank you for your e-mail dated November 27, the delay in replying is regretted.

As stated in your e-mail, we are permitted to provide "scientific and factual information" to healthcare professionals. The information provided in the leaflets referred to in Vietnam and Egypt is for healthcare professionals, namely paediatricians and doctors. The contents of the leaflet are backed by research. Due to the size of the leaflet being small, this information is produced as a summary. [***Baby Milk Action comment: Part of the reason for the shortage of space used to excuse lack of scientific and factual information is that much of the leaflets are made up of pack shots and, in the case of the Vietnam leaflet, a cartoon baby with the claim that the formula promotes good development of bones, brain and body. Analysis of company materials demonstrates that health claims are rarely supported by the research which is said to back them.***]

Healthcare professionals in the developing world are very professional, well-qualified (large numbers have British qualifications) and very responsible in their duty towards improving the health and nutritional well-being of both mother and child, and are quite capable of deciding and judging as to what use can be made of the information provided, information that is based on research. Healthcare professionals in the developed world are seen to exercise their rôle of being responsble for mothers through to infants.... but why is it that a difference is made between healthcare professionals in the developing world who are perceived as being unable to carry out the same responsibility? [***Baby Milk Action comment: Baby Milk Action and the World Health Assembly marketing requirements do not discriminate between health workers, mothers and infants in developing and developed countries. All have a right to objective information and the marketing requirements apply equally in all countries. This issue has been stressed repeatedly, at the Public Hearing into Nestlé malpractice at the European Parliament in November 2000 and in the four-point plan that Baby Milk Action has put to Nestlé to save infant lives and ultimately end the boycott. Nestlé refuses to accept the Code and Resolutions apply to all countries and its own policy applies only to developing countries as defined by the company instead of all countries.***]

As far as Vietnam is concerned, the local authorities are routinely monitoring the trading and use of breastmilk substitutes in that country, and for the fourth consecutive year, Vietnam's State Inspectorate has again in February 2004 concluded that Nestlé's marketing practices are in total compliance with the national implementation of the WHO Code [***Baby Milk Action comment: Nestlé's comments should not be taken at face value. The Vietnam Ministry of Health and Save the Children have exposed Nestlé violations in a 2002 report(click here).***]

Regarding South Africa, your website refers only to the first page of the information which carries pictures of weaning products and products for toddlers. The next page of the document depicts very clearly that the talk is about introduction of solid foods for babies having reached the recommended weaning age, i.e. from six months onwards. [***Baby Milk Action comment: This is totally incorrect. The website refers to a newspaper advertisement headlined 'Hey mums, Nestlé Blue Bear and the Baby-Care Friends are in town' and not to a 'document'.***].

The products concerned are not infant formula but complementary foods and foods for growing babies (beyond one year of age). The main purpose of these talks is to inform mothers about appropriate weaning practices, not to induce them to stop breast-feeding or to promote infant formula. [***Baby Milk Action comment: Article 5.5 of the International Code makes it clear that companies 'should not seek direct or indirect contact of any kind with pregnant women or with mothers of infants and young children'. Young children are up to three years of age. It is clear from the advertisments and Ms Mirando's letter that the events are promoting Nestlé products for young children. UNICEF has stated clearly that it makes no difference if the contact is sought using complementary foods as a justification (click here to read UNICEF's letter - especially if your name is Beverley Mirando). As well as encouraging mothers to meet the Nestlé 'Baby-Care Friends' the advertisement says: 'Nestlé wants to hear from you' and asks mother to call its 'dedicated customer care line'.***].

In addition, the clinic sisters responsible for giving the presentation are all independent qualified nurses who have experience in handling queries and concerns of mothers about appropriate complementary feeding. In terms of the WHO Code, it is only health professionals who can speak to mothers and this is what this Nestlé programme aims to achieve. [***Baby Milk Action comment: The advertisment says, 'You'll receive an absorbing 15-minute talk on baby feeding and be taken through the Nestlé Development Nutrition Plan, conducted by a qualified clinic sister.' How can the clinic sister, one of the 'Nestlé Baby-Care Friends' be described as 'independent' by Ms. Mirando? The positions taken by Nestlé's Senior Policy Advisor demonstrates the systematic and institutionalised disrespect for the Code and Resolutions by the company.***]

I trust this answers your queries. [***Baby Milk Action comment: Please keep sending messages to Nestlé's Chief Executive, Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, calling for him to stop violating the Code and Resolutions.***]

Yours sincerely,

Beverley Mirando
Senior Policy Adviser