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Issue number 24, February 1999


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.



  1. Can these men be trusted to run the world's largest food company?
  2. Nestle statements on monitoring
  3. Advertising Standards Authority warns Nestlé about claiming to be ethical
  4. Nestlé's battle against the ASA ruling
  5. Our rock-solid case against Nestlé
  6. 60 years of Nescafe
  7. York diocese accepts Nestlé money
  8. Tartex update
  9. Nestlé targets UK health workers

Can these men be trusted to run the world's largest food company?

The Nestlé Group Managers - questions are being asked following an embarassing ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority and the failure of subsidiary companies to act on management instructions.

"Nestlé is to appeal against a highly embarrassing judgement which effectively throws out its claims to be an ethical and responsible marketer of baby milk." so said Marketing Week on 4th February 1999.

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) examined evidence submitted by Baby Milk Action and Nestlé for nearly two years after we complained about an anti-boycott advertisement. All of our complaints were upheld (more details below). Baby Milk Action has written to Nestlé's CEO, Peter Brabeck (fifth from left), asking if Nestlé will stop making similar claims in publications, letters and meetings and will change its marketing policies and practices.

Lack of communication

Nestlé took nearly two weeks to register an appeal against the ASA decision, by which time we had distributed an embargoed press release with the ASA's agreement. The ASA specifically asked us to attach the full complaint report to the press release. Nestlé's David Hudson was informed of these facts by the ASA. Yet days later a Nestlé spokeswoman told reporters that Nestlé was 'surprised' that we had distributed the report. Our solicitors have written to Mr. Hudson, who is Nestlé's Communications Director.

Instructions not followed

It is not only Nestlé's marketing which is at fault. It seems to have problems implementing instructions. Two recent examples:

  • Following a Baby Milk Action campaign Nestlé gave a written undertaking to stop promoting artificial infant feeding in advertisements for its bottled water. This failed to happen and we continued the campaign. Nestlé then wrote, "In line with our previously stated commitment, we instructed Perrier Vittel to stop advertising Valvert as appropriate for bottle-feeding. We have asked them to explain why these instructions have not yet been implemented."
  • Nestlé claims that it "does not use pictures of babies on its infant formula packages" and that "Nestlé international auditors regularly assess Code compliance in our Companies around the world."
    In December 1998 we exposed that Nestlé was marketing Piltti infant formula in the Ukraine with an infant picture (the violation came to light at an NGO Capacity Building Seminar we conducted in Moscow the previous month). Nestlé responded, "We have a very strict policy on labelling of infant formula... the product in question was acquired from another company just last year and we are in the process of adapting the labels to meet Nestlé's stricter standards." This does not acknowledge a key fact: the labels have clearly been re-printed at some time as they include the Nestlé name. Why wasn't Nestlé's "strict policy on labelling" followed when this was done?

Nestlé statements on monitoring

  • "We are grateful to you [Baby Milk Action] for sharing your correspondence with the Chief of Health Services in Malawi, and hope that with this help an agreed solution can soon be found regarding use of the local language."
  • "Monitoring by third parties... simply leads to more confusion and controversy."
  • "The only sensible way to make progress is for governments to implement the aims and principles of the International Code."
  • "The exclusion of any industry representation [from the proposed Pakistan Infant Feeding Board] is in conflict... with the principle of resolving problems through dialogue and good faith."
  • "Our activities in Gabon conform with the International Code [letter to Ministry of Health refusing to abide by a Ministerial decision banning promotion of products at health facilities]."
  • "IBFAN is usurping the sovereignty of national governments."
  • "In view of the fact that I am now replying to your fourth letter [on separate Code violations] I do not think that further dialogue will be to our mutual benefit [to a member of the public who acted on Nestlé's invitation to draw its attention to marketing activities which do not conform with Nestlé's "Charter"]."

Advertising Standards Authority warns Nestlé about claiming to be ethical

Marketing Week broke the story of Baby Milk Action's battle at the ASA with Nestlé. The ASA warned Nestlé not to repeat claims made in its 1996 anti-boycott advertisement.

Nestlé has been warned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) not to repeat claims made in the 1996 anti-boycott advertisement following one of the longest ever investigations by the organisation. In October 1996 Nestlé placed the advertisement in the Oxford Independent newspaper dismissing accusations made about Nestlé's marketing of baby foods. Baby Milk Action registered complaints with the ASA concerning three statements and all complaints have been upheld by the ASA Council. Nestlé has appealed against the decision.

In January 1999 the ASA warned Nestlé not to repeat the following claims as made in the advertisement:

  • "Even before the World Health Organisation International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes was introduced in 1981, Nestlé marketed infant formula ethically and responsibly, and has done so ever since."
  • "The Nestlé Charter concerns Nestlé's commitment to the WHO International Code in developing countries."
  • "Naturally they [Nestlé employees] do not provide free supplies [of baby milk] to hospitals for use with healthy infants."
If you find Nestlé repeating these claims, please send the evidence to Baby Milk Action

Nestlé's battle against the ASA ruling

Baby Milk Action provided a wealth of evidence in support of its complaints about Nestlé's claims, with the support of IBFAN and other partners. Under the advertising code of conduct, advertisers should have on file evidence to support their claims and have to provide this evidence within a week of a challenge. Nestlé spent nearly two years attempting to justify its claims.

  • 19th August 1997: We receive a draft recommendation after an ASA investigation lasting 5 months.
  • 16th December 1997: We receive a second draft. The ASA explains that it has been considering Nestlé's comments on the original draft recommendation. We are told the new recommendation will go the ASA Council in January 1998.
  • 7th April 1998: The ASA sends a third draft produced following a review by the General Media Review Panel requested by Nestlé. We are told that the revised recommendation will go forward to the ASA Council. The recommendation now notes Nestlé's failure to prove the claims true, rather than Baby Milk Action's success in proving them false. Baby Milk Action asks for our evidence of free supplies for healthy infants to be included.
  • 16th April 1998: The ASA responds to our request by telling us that it is not prepared to allow the progress of the investigation to be delayed further. Baby Milk Action complains.
  • 20th April 1998: The ASA says it will not enter into any more correspondence which will delay further the conclusion of this case.
  • 30th June 1998: The ASA sends draft number four. The delay has arisen, we are informed, because the Nestlé has, through its solicitors, vigorously disputed the draft recommendation. This draft is to go to the ASA Council.
  • 8th July 1998: We are informed that because of on-going correspondence with Nestlé's solicitors, the case will not be discussed by the ASA Council at their next meeting.
  • 20th November 1998: We receive draft number five. The ASA states that it has considered a substantial amount of further material from Nestlé and does not intend to further delay putting this matter to the ASA Council for a decision.
  • 14th January 1999: We are informed that the ASA Council of Authority discussed the case at their January meeting and, after extensive discussion and consideration, ruled that the complaint adjudication will be published on 10 February 1999.
  • 28th January 1999: The ASA sends us a fax indicating that as a result of an appeal received from Nestlé, the adjudication will now not be published as previously advised.
  • 11th February 1999: We are still waiting for the ASA Chairman to inform us if the Nestlé appeal will even be heard. Marketing Week magazine asks Marjorie Thompson of the Saatchi & Saatchi public relations company what Nestlé should do: "She suggests the way to counteract the bad publicity is to go on the offensive by using advertising showing the benefits of Nestlé's financial contributions to charities, such as Kids Club Network."

Our rock-solid case against Nestlé

In 1995 Baby Milk Action was called on to defend claims made in this boycott advertisement.

The ASA found in favour of Baby Milk Action. The claims were:

"Over 4,000 babies die every day in poor countries because they're not breastfed. That's not conjecture, it's UNICEF fact."

"They [Nestlé] aggressively promote their baby milks, breaking a World Health Organisation code of marketing."

60 years of Nescafé

In October 1998 we launched our Rapid Response Network to target Nestlé's nationwide Nescafé promotion campaign and published leafleting guidelines. This is an ideal opportunity to raise awareness and hit Nescafé sales. It is already beginning to have results. Leafleters in Milton Keynes interested the local press and received good coverage and in Cambridge the Manager of Sainsburys closed down the Nescafé promotion in his car park because our information was "upsetting" his customers.

If you hear of a Nescafé promotion in your town please telephone us and we will alert the Rapid Response Network (RRN). If you wish to join the RRN let us know.

York diocese accepts Nestlé money

The Church of England in York continues to accept money from Nestlé despite of the 1997 Synod resolution affirming the conclusions of the report Cracking the Code. This report concluded that companies, including Nestlé, violate the International Code and Resolutions "in a systematic rather than one-off manner."

York Council of Churches accepted £100,000 from Nestlé after the Synod vote and now York Diocese has reportedly accepted £10,000 from the company towards its monthly magazine.

Tartex update

Tartex tells us that "most" of its products are manufactured in a factory which Nestlé has sold. However, we are leaving Tartex on the boycott list until Tartex can state that no products are manufactured by Nestlé. Send a letter of encouragement to:

Hans-Bunte-Str. 8a,
(Fax: +49 761 5157 498)

Nestlé targets UK health workers

Last year health workers were invited to subscribe to the journal Professional Care of Mother & Child. Those who expressed an interest were then given the "excellent news" that Nestlé was offering to fund the subscriptions of a "substantial number" of healthcare professionals.