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Responses to the violations on the Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet September 2006

This page was last updated on 24 January 2007.

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:


Nestlé and the Indian law on sponsorship


Baby Milk Action and supporters contacted Nestlé over illegal promotional activities in India. These breach the Infant Milk Act (1992 amended 2003). See the original report here.

In its reply Nestlé admits to some of the charges, but claims its activities are legal. Strangely in doing so it refers to a law which was superseded 3 years before.

It also denies leaflets were distributed to mothers at a clinic. The doctor who reported this has confirmed what took place. Did Nestlé Chief Executive, Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, really act on his claim to personally investigate any hint of a violation?

The suggested letter was as follows.

As you know World Health Assembly Resolution 58.32 calls for care: "to ensure that financial support and other incentives for programmes and health professionals working in infant and young-child health do not create conflicts of interest."

One of the countries to act on this requirement is India, where the Infant Milk Substitutes Act prohibits: "any contribution or pecuniary benefit to a health worker or any association of health workers, including funding of seminar, meeting, conferences, educational course, contest, fellowship, research work or sponsorship."

However it is reported that Nestlé is sponsoring and attempting to sponsor such events in India.

In addition it is reported that leaflets for Lactogen infant formula have been distributed direct to parents. As you know seeking direct contact with mothers and producing and distributing promotional literature is prohibited.

I request that you respect the World Health Assembly measures and the Indian Law and change your policies and practices immediately.


The reply Baby Milk Action received from Nestlé (dated 7 November 2006) is given below in its entirety. Click here to download a scan of the letter. Comments from Baby Milk Action appear [****like this****].



Dear Mike,

We refer to your e-mail addressed to Mr. Peter Brabeck-Letmathe alleging that Nestlé India has violated the Indian regulations governing the marketing of breast-milk substitutes [Provision of the Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles and Infant Foods (Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution) Act 1992] hereafter referred as the "IMS Act".
[****Baby Milk Action comment: It is curious that Nestlé refers to old legislation. This was amended in 2003 to update it and include the ban on commercial sponsorship of health workers and events. Nestlé opposed the changes, so it is certainly aware of them.****]

Firstly, the allegation that scientific symposiums organised by Nestlé in India are illegal. Those symposiums aim at fostering and facilitating sharing of scientific knowledge to and between doctors on topics totally unrelated to infant nutrition products such as "Common Liver Diseases" or "Current Trends on Paediatric Cardiology". No participant or any medical body is provided any pecuniary benefit in relation to those scientific symposiums. There is, therefore, no violation of the law, neither in the contents of the symposiums nor in the way they are organised. [****Baby Milk Action comment: Nestlé admits to holding particular events, but claims they are permitted. The law is very clear in stating that the ban includes 'funding of seminar, meeting, conferences, educational course, contest, fellowship, research work or sponsorship'. Symposia clearly come within this description. The law specifies that companies manufacturing or distributing products within its scope are prohibited from funding such events, it does not say they can organise them if they promise not to refer to infant formula. Nestlé also sponsored cultural and sporting events for medical students, but does not reply on this point.****]

Secondly, investigations carried out show that the leaflets carrying infant product information destined to health professionals were not handed out by a Nestlé employee to parents in a clinic in Srinagar as alleged. The leaflets are intended for, and provided to, health workers as allowed by the IMS Act. [****Baby Milk Action comment: As our partners in India have confirmed the report with the doctor who seized 'hundreds of pamphlets' from a Nestlé sales representative, 'who was distributing them to parents' (see below). Why does Nestlé send a sales representative to a clinic with hundreds of leaflets if they are only for health professionals? Should we believe the doctor or Nestlé's Head of Corporate Affairs?****]

It's the policy of our colleagues in Nestlé India to act in strict conformity with both the IMS Act and the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. This policy has been embodied in a charter for compliance and distributed both internally and externally to all those dealing with infant products. This demonstrates our commitment to the WHO Code/national legislation no matter what country we are located in. [****Baby Milk Action comment: It is disappointing that Nestlé continues with this discredited claim. The Advertising Standards Authority investigated Nestlé's Charter after it made a similar claim in an anti-boycott advertisement and published a ruling in 1999 upholding all of Baby Milk Action's complaints. It said that while the Charter does indeed refer to the International Code, Nestlé claim that it shows it is committed to the Code has not been demonstrated. The Charter does not reflect all the provisions of the Code and Resolutions and monitoring evidence, such as the leaflets seized in India, demonstrates it is not followed.****]

Yours faithfully,

Beverley Mirando
Senior Policy Adviser



So, in summary:

  1. Nestlé appears to have forgotten the Indian law was amended in 2003.

  2. By its own admission it is organising symposia, which are clearly prohibited by the law, which states

    “Section 9(2): No producer, supplier or distributor referred to in sub-section (1), shall offer or give any contribution or pecuniary benefit to a health worker or any association of health workers, including funding of seminar, meeting, conferences, educational course, contest, fellowship, research work or sponsorship.”

  3. No response is given to the report of sponsorship of other cultural and sporting events contained in the full document from our partners. Nestlé clearly referred to this as it names the clinic where leaflets were being distributed.

  4. Chief Executive, Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, claims he personally investigates any hint of a violation. So presumably it is his investigation which has accepted the report from the doctor in India of leaflets being handed to parents is false. We see no reason to doubt the story of the doctor, who supplied samples of the leaflets to our partners (pictured in their report). On 24 January we received the following message via our partners in India from the doctor (who is named in the original report):

  5. Thanks for projecting & taking serious note of the complaint against the Nestle I had reported 0n 18/3 06.

    1. on 18/3 06 a sales representative of Nestle introduced himself as Mr.Soruve entered in my chamber of SKIMS Medical college hospital Srinagar and made his official call. After detailing his products he left my room.

    2. After some time I left my room and entered nearby immunization room.

    3. To my surprise what I found Mr. Soruve with multiple bundles of pamphlets in Urdu and English and was distributing the same to parents.

    4. The pamphlets had a message regarding advantages of breast feeding on one side and on other side depicted various diagrams of nestle products including Lactogen & cerelac, Nestum etc and detailing how to reconstitute these products.

    5. He had already distributed pamphlets to 8-10 parents as per information of attending vaccinator in the chamber.

    6. I snatched about 5 bundles of pamphlets from him, still lying with me and asked Mr. Soruve to leave the chamber and reminded him about IMS act.

    7. Mr. Soruve apologized and left the room.

    8. Since then I have never seen any representative of Nestle attending our hospital.

  6. Mr. Brabeck offers no explanation as to why the doctor was able to seize hundreds of copies of the leaflet. If the medical representative was providing copies for health professionals at the clinic, they would not have been in this quantity. It also appears the investigation did not include speaking with the doctor who made the complaint.

The actions of Nestlé in India and the inadequate response from Nestlé does not demonstrate a willingness to abide by the International Code and Resolutions and national laws.

Should we believe Nestlé's Chief Executive Officer and Head of Corporate Affairs or the doctor who seized the leaflets and provided samples to our partners?

We would like to go through this case and others more fully with Nestlé. Unfortunately it appears to have adopted a policy of refusing to debate its baby food marketing activities with Baby Milk Action, despite claiming to be an 'accountable' and 'transparent' company. Why? We believe it is because it has lost every past debate as we provide evidence from people on the ground to counter its claims to abide by the marketing requirements. For further information see the blog entry: Nestlé, transparency and its refusal to debate.