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How companies responded to the violations highlighted on the Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet September/October 2001

This page was last updated on 26 October 2001.

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:

Wyeth - Breaking the Rules 2001

See the action sheet for full details. Baby Milk Action's suggested letter was as follows:

Wyeth has recently been censured by the South African Advertising Standards Authority for its promotion of S-26 products following a complaint by Nestlé and others. It is disappointing that Wyeth has opposed the ruling. Can you confirm that Wyeth will now accept the ruling and stop its unethical and irresponsible promotion of these products?

Wyeth attempted to argue that S-26 Promil Gold does not come within the scope of the South African Code of Ethics and similarly misrepresents the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant World Health Assembly Resolutions.

The recent IBFAN monitoring report, Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules 2001, demonstrates that Wyeth violates these measures in many other respects.

This attitude may soon result in Wyeth and its parent, American Home Products, being targetted by an action similar to the popular Nestlé boycott, which is now active in 20 countries.

Boycott action will be less likely if Wyeth indicates that it will accept the baby food marketing policy of the World Health Organisation (as set by the World Health Assembly Resolutions).

Will you please provide a clear statement accepting that the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant World Health Assembly Resolutions are minimum requirements for all countries?

Wyeth's response

The following response was sent to a campaigner by Wyeth on 18th October 2001. It is reproduced in its entirety.

Wyeth refers to its blatant advertising and promotion (some of which are described on the action sheet) as "factual company and brand change announcements". Wyeth also claims that it "promptly ended all of the announcements" after the Advertising Standards Authority ruled its promotion was violating the South African Code.

It is welcome if Wyeth has now removed its advertisments. However, we note that Wyeth disputed that its advertisements violated the South African Code. For example, in its response to the ASA regarding television advertisements (18 May 2001) Wyeth argued, as it so often does, that its follow-on milks are not breastmilk substitutes and so can be advertised.

Breastfeeding is recommended into the second year of life and beyond and follow-on milks clearly substitute for breastmilk even when used for infants older than 6 months. Therefore, they come within the scope of the International Code. This point was made by UNICEF's Legal Officer in a submission to the European Parliament Public Hearing into Nestlé's marketing malpractice in November 2000. (See the full text of UNICEF's submission).

Wyeth's stated commitment to the Code should be read in the context of the violations exposed by the Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules 2001 monitoring report and Wyeth's response to the report.

We are asking Wyeth to accept the World Health Assembly position that the International Code and Resolutions are minimum requirements for all countries. Wyeth does not do so in this letter. Please keep writing to Wyeth (see contact details on the action sheet).

Your e-mail to American Home Products Corporation has been referred to me for a reply.

Wyeth recently re-acquired its nutritional business in South Africa resulting in a change in company name and product brand names available in the market. As part of this acquisition, Wyeth had placed factual company and brand change announcements in the market.

Subsequently, the South African Advertising Standards Authority ruled that these announcements conflicted with the South African Code ("Code"). Wyeth promptly ended all of the announcements and scheduled a series of discussions with the health authorities to clarify the scope and implementation of the Code which is based on the World Health Organization Code.

Wyeth has confirmed its commitment to abide by the Code to the South African health authorities and the Advertising Standards Authority. We have assured them of our cooperation and have been engaged in regular dialogue with the South African health authorities both at the national and provincial levels.
[Baby Milk Action comment: It is well documented that when the industry 'dialogues' it attempts to undermine the implementation of the Code and Resolutions. It then uses the fact it is meeting in its public relations strategy. See the Cornerhose briefing paper Engineering of Consent].

Please be assured that we remain committed to implementing the Code.


Beverly Halchak
Senior Director
Maternal-Child Health