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Issue number 22, June 1998


Boycott Summary

The International Nestlé Boycott is in effect in 18 countries. The boycott will continue until Nestlé ends its irresponsible marketing of breastmilk substitutes world-wide and abides by the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and subsequent Resolutions in policy and practice. The Boycott is supported in the UK by over 100 church, health and consumer groups, over 90 businesses, 80 student unions, 17 local authorities, 12 trade unions, 74 politicians and political parties and many celebrities.



Nestlé and the Church of England -
a lesson in public virtue and private vice

In July 1997 Nestlé feared that the Church of England's governing body, the Synod, would resume its support for the Nestlé boycott. And so Nestlé gave its public support to a weaker motion put before the Synod. In a written statement Nestlé said, "Dr. Baxter's motion requires of us the highest standards." The boycott amendment did not pass. Nestlé breathed a sigh of relief and began a new global assault on measures intended to protect infant health. (See Boycott News 21 for full report of the Synod meeting.)

The Synod took place in York in July 1997 and Nestlé trumpeted its links with York Industrial Chaplaincy (a leaflet provided by Nestlé is shown above). In March 1998 it was announced that York Council of Churches had accepted £100,000 from Nestlé. A representative is quoted in the Church Times (27 March 1998) saying, "At the time I was heartened by the fact that the Nestlé boycott hadn't been reinstated during the most recent Synod debate."

Nestlé says it supports government measures

Dr. Baxter's motion called for the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly to be implemented by governments. It also called on companies to abide by these measures. The subsequent Resolutions are important because they clarify interpretation of the International Code and respond to changes in marketing practices and scientific knowledge. They have the same status as the International Code. Until supporting Dr. Baxter's motion, Nestlé had refused to accept the legitimacy of the subsequent Resolutions. This was an important step forward and Baby Milk Action wrote to Mr. Peter Brabeck, Nestlé CEO, welcoming the move.

Governments under attack

Any sense of optimism was almost immediately destroyed as Nestlé embarked on a concerted attack on government implementation of the International Code and Resolutions. Since the Synod meeting, many governments have come under pressure, including Gabon, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Uganda, Uruguay and Zimbabwe (see the Campaign for Ethical Marketing). In Zimbabwe Nestlé reportedly threatened to disinvest from the country if strong measures were introduced.

Resolutions dismissed

Through the Campaign for ethical marketing action sheets we have asked letter writers to appeal to Nestlé to abide by the statement it made to Synod. We have also highlighted some of the continuing violations of the International Code and Resolutions. One case involved the labelling of complementary foods as for use from 4 months. The World Health Assembly has adopted Resolutions indicating complementary feeding should be fostered from about 6 months of age.

One of those present in Nestlé's international team at Synod, Thad Jackson, responded to a letter writer on behalf of Nestlé's CEO. In his letter dated 26 January 1998, Mr. Jackson dismissed the violation by incorrectly saying, "...activists have unilaterally used WHA Resolutions to claim that such Resolutions change the Code."

UNICEF's Executive Director wrote to Nestlé on 3 November 1997 on this very issue saying, "On the question of the appropriate age for the introduction of complementary foods, we feel bound to adhere to the policy recommendations made by the WHA in Resolution 47.5... This shift from the 'four-to-six' month wording used in previous Resolutions is consistent with on-going scientific investigation."

We have been keeping the Church of England informed of Nestlé's failure to live up to its support for Dr. Baxter's Motion. The Church has shares in Nestlé and we call on it to put pressure on the company to change.

Nestlé's gate-keeper undergoes a miraculous transformation

Thad Jackson, is a familiar name to those who have followed Nestlé's activities over the years. As Nestle's PR spokesman in the US Thad has described himself as the "gate-keeper" on the boycott for years. We asked a journalist to find out how Nestle describes him now. This is what they said: Thad is a microbiologist who has worked in paediatrics in Bangladesh. Because of his strong concern about the use of infant formula in developing countries he has been a thorn in Nestle's side for years. So much so Nestlé has decided to take him on as an independent consultant...

Nestlé's weasel words

Baby Milk Action has published a booklet called Tip of the Iceberg rounding up recent Campaign for ethical marketing action sheets and the responses companies gave when asked to stop the practices described (Contact us for details or view company responses<>here). Here are a few choice quotes from Nestlé.

Malawi's long wait

In 1994 the Government of Malawi asked Nestlé to label products in Chichewa, the national language. Baby Milk Action launched a campaign on this issue in 1993 and, four years later, Nestlé agreed to take action after it was raised from the floor of the shareholders AGM. Baby Milk Action wrote to Nestlé to ask it to act more promptly in future. Nestlé's Corporate Affairs Manager responded, "I already expressed our appreciation to you for drawing our attention again to the language issue in Malawi, and appropriate action was immediately taken.... Monitoring by third parties, using questionable definitions and methodology, simply leads to confusion and controversy."

Unhelpful confirmation

We asked Nestlé if it could inform us whether the Lactogen formula imported to Bangladesh is manufactured in the European Union - its packaging breaks the EC Export Directive. Nestlé Corporate Affairs Manger responded, "I can confirm that such information is not available..."

Gabon ignored

Nestlé has been trying to persuade the Government of Gabon to allow it to advertise Cerelac on television for years. Not only does the Ministry of Health keep denying permission, it also asks Nestlé to stop promoting Cerelac through free samples, gifts and film shows at health facilities. In a letter dated 8 July 1997 the Ministry told Nestlé that these marketing techniques were, "in flagrant violation of the Ministerial decision of 1991." A letter writer asked Nestlé to abide by the Government requirement. Nestlé responded, "In Gabon there has been a degree of confusion over the scope of the local legislation implementing the WHO Code, which Nestlé has been attempting to clarify with the appropriate authorities."

Nestlé spends over £130 per second attempting to persuade people to buy its products (more than US$7 billion per year). Source: Tribune de Geneve, 17 October 1997

Nestlé's magic fails to work in the US

In August 1997 Nestlé launched its product, Nestlé Magic, a chocolate covered plastic ball containing a small plastic toy in the form of a Disney character in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration declared the product illegal under a 1938 law which bans confectionery containing inedible objects.

Nestlé's reaction will come as no surprise to followers of the baby milk campaign. Instead of admitting it was wrong and changing its practices, Nestlé challenged the law. In September Nestlé lobbied the House of Representatives to have special wording inserted into the Agriculture Appropriation Bill which would have directed the FDA to issue regulations explicitly allowing products like Nestlé Magic.

Representative Rosa DeLauro said Nestlé demonstrated "corporate arrogance and an abdication of corporate responsibility...They tried to pressure every member of the committee." Nestlé wording was put forward by Representative George Nethercutt, whose district includes a Nestlé plant employing 550 people.

Eventually Nestlé capitulated, stopped distribution of the product and issued a statement saying, "Nestlé resolved to withdraw the product until the FDA provides clear standards for products of that type..."

"Healthy fare" too much for Nestlé

Swissair is the first airline to serve organic food, according to a report in "Positive News" (Autumn 1997). The airline produced leaflets advertising 'Natural Gourmet' meals as free of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). There is to be a referendum in Switzerland on whether to allow GMOs and Nestlé joined with chemical giants Novartis and Roche to put pressure on the airline, which pulped the leaflets. The new leaflets do not mention chemicals or GMOs.

Nestlé boycott tops poll

The Nestlé boycott is the most popular consumer boycott in the UK, according to a survey conducted by Ethical Consumer magazine. The results, published in the December issue show that of those readers who expressed a preference for their boycott choice, 78% named Nestlé. McDonalds is the second favourite target, named by 34%.

Product update

Baby Milk Action has to balance its resources between researching unethical baby food marketing and tracking changes in Nestlé product lines for boycotters. Nestlé says on its web site, "We offer at least 8,500 products..." We are, therefore, very grateful when members of the public provide us with product information, particularly when documented. Here are some updates on Nestlé lines.


New in, pet food manufacturer, Spillers, bought by Nestlé for £715 million, making it Nestlé's biggest acquisition since Perrier in 1992. The purchase gives Nestlé 20% of the European pet food market with brands such as Felix, Winalot and Arthur's.


Nestlé own 49% of Gesparal, which controls L'Oreal. The L'Oreal range includes Lancome, Cosmence, Maybelline, Metamorphosis, Plenitude and Biotherm.

Nestlé still profits from Tartex

While Tartex has been sold, our information indicates that this vegetarian paté is still made at Nestlé's Dyna factory. Our German partner organisation has contacted the company now owning Tartex to ask them if and when manufacture will be moved. Until then, we understand Nestlé continues to profit from this product.

A.C. Finken

We can confirm that A.C. Finken, manufacturer of Force Wholewheat Flakes, is owned by Cereal Partners, which is a partnership between General Mills and Nestlé.

New endorsers

  • Bradford Campus Students Union,
  • Trinity College Carmarthen Student Union,
  • Aberdeen College Student Union
  • Penelope's Pantry & Crafts, Hitchin.

Who owns Nestlé?

Nestlé says it has over 200,000 shareholders. The Sunday Times, a newspaper in the UK, reports (24 May) that the largest individual shareholder is thought to be ex-President Suharto of Indonesia.

Chris Patten gives Nestlé lecture

leafleters at the Banqueting House in WhitehallChris Patten, the former Governor of Hong Kong and also a past development Minister, delivered this year's Nestlé Lecture at the Banqueting House in Whitehall.

Our London Group handed out leaflets to the invited audience as they arrived.

Baby Milk Action appealed to Mr. Patten to distance himself from the company. We received a response which sadly mirrored arguments of Nestlé's Corporate Affairs department. Our Indian partners also wrote to Mr. Patten, explaining the damage caused by Nestlé's marketing and their attempts to weaken the Indian Law. Mr. Patten has now withdrawn from the discussion, asking us to refer questions to Nestlé.

The annual demonstration at Nestlé (UK) HQ took place on 23 May in partnership with the World Development - full story next issue.

photo: Sam Milford

Standing up for infant health

Harriet Gunn and Eleanor French, pictured here, spoke on the campaign at the school assembly at St. George's Roman Catholic Primary School, Taunton. The girls, both aged 11, also set up a display which proved very popular after their talk. We will provide information and materials to anyone wishing to follow their example.

photo: C. Gunn