number 26, December 1999
The International Nestlé
Boycott is in effect in 19 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.
joins the boycott
The Bulgarian IBFAN
group, Women and Mothers Against Violence, launched the Nestlé
Boycott in their country on 12th August because of Nestlé's violations
of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes
and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly.
The boycott is now active in 19 countries.
Nestlé is claiming
that the Bulgarian Government has verified that its activities
comply with the marketing requirements, but the letter from the
Bulgarian Ministry of Health which Nestlé is circulating does
not go this far. The letter only states that the Ministry of Health
is not aware of violations of an EU Directive (which is more limited
than the International Code and
Resolutions and does not apply to Bulgaria). Nestlé is apparently
telling governments that they must go no further than the Directive
in protecting infant health, which is untrue even for countries
within the European Union.
Dr. Roumjana Modeva,
President of the Bulgarian IBFAN group, said:
"We have reported
many Nestlé violations to the Ministry of Health. People change
in the Ministry very often and we will contact the person who
wrote the letter Nestlé is circulating. We have not been able
to stop the violations and so we have had to launch the Nestlé
Boycott. We also want to support mothers and babies in other
countries where Nestlé is aggressive."
Nestlé violations in
Bulgaria include direct promotion to mothers.
eclipsed by Mark Thomas
Mark Thomas tried very hard to fulfil his "moral duty" to present
evidence of violations to Nestlé representatives, but they did
not appear to want to know.
Mark first encountered Nestlé
at its launch of a neon advert in Piccadilly Circus, on 11th August,
the day of the solar eclipse. Baby Milk Action's Rapid Response
Network was also there, giving out leaflets.
Mark Thomas focused on one
aspect of Nestle's marketing - its labelling. Nestlé's infant
formula labels in many countries are not in appropriate languages
and Nestlé's follow-on milks (which are unsuitable for new-born
infants) often share the same brand name and packaging as infant
Mark tried to present evidence
to Nestlé staff, including information about Nestlé's attempt
to "economically blackmail" the Zimbabwean Government. In a taped
interview, Timothy Stamps, Minister of Health of Zimbabwe said:
"They called a meeting...to
try and tell Parliamentarians that if we went ahead with putting
the Code into regulation they would remove themselves from Zimbabwe.
We knew this to be an idle threat."
Mark travelled to Nestlé's
Swiss Headquarters in Vevey, where Corporate Affairs Manager,
Geoffrey Fookes, refused to meet him and an assistant, Mr Rank,
dismissed the evidence as "your interpretation." Hilary
Parsons, Nestlé (UK), refused to withdraw Nestlé ‘s"Charter" which
claims that Nestlé complies with the International Code.
Tess Kingham MP and Richard
Howitt MEP also appeared on the programme. Richard Howitt said
he would raise with the European Parliament and Commission some
of the examples which violated the EU Export Directive and Resolution.
Mr. Howitt is calling for Nestlé to be first in the spotlight
at forthcoming public hearings in the European Parliament.
The Mark Thomas Product,
Channel 4, 5 October 1999 (http://www.channel4.com/mark_thomas/nestle1.html).
Chairman attacks codes of conduct
In February 1999 the French
investigative programme Le Vrai Journal focused on Nestlé.
The Minister of Health in Gabon was interviewed about Nestlé's
promotional activities at health facilities. The Ministry had
been calling on Nestlé to stop such promotion since 1991, describing
them as "flagrant violations." The journalist Ferrucion
Petraco also appeared in the programme and recounted an interview
with Helmut Maucher, Nestlé Chairman, which took place in September
1998. Mr. Maucher said of the International Code:
"Codes like this, codes
of conduct slow down business; codes of ethics have never worked,
there are too many cultural differences; when there is competition,
they (codes) are not observed; when they are too general, they
are no use, if on the other hand, they are too detailed, they
are difficult to apply. What's more, they prevent competition."
enters UK baby food market
In August 1999 Nestlé launched a range of complementary ("weaning")
foods in the UK. The Junior range of foods uses the Blue
Bear logo familiar in many other countries. Nestlé is planning
to spend as much in the last four months of 1999 on its media
campaign promoting the products in the UK as each of its main
competitors will spend in the whole year. A major part of Nestlé's
plan is believed to be direct marketing to mothers. Promotional
techniques include a link with Tumble Tots children's clubs,
where free samples are to be distributed. Nestlé also markets
specialist infant formula and other breastmilk substitutes in
the UK and is expected to launch a wider range next year. It has
been building links with healthworkers by offering them free gifts
and sponsoring events. Nestlé was asked by Baby Milk Action to
give an undertaking that it will abide by all relevant Resolutions
of the World Health Assembly in the UK now and in the future.
Nestlé pointedly failed to do so.
Nestlé's promotional techniques violate Article
5.5 of the International Code
which forbids "direct or indirect contact of any kind with
pregnant women or with mothers of infants and young children."
The promotional events for these products present an ideal leafleting
opportunity for boycott supporters. Contact Baby Milk Action for
leaflets and/or to join the Nestlé Boycott Rapid Response Network.
free supplies in Argentina
Following a campaign by Baby Milk Action's partners in Argentina,
Nestlé has stated that it will no longer provide free supplies
of infant formula and other breastmilk substitutes to health facilities.
Distribution of free supplies has been very effective in persuading
mothers and health workers to favour artificial infant feeding
and is banned by the World Health Assembly. Nestlé's undertaking,
however, is for one year only. Nestlé Argentina says that it will
now only donate free supplies for "exceptional social cases"
- the position set out in Nestlé's "Charter". So, prior to June
1999, Nestlé Argentina's policy was breaking the "Charter", the
Code and the Government policy. Baby Milk Action calls on the
Government to introduce enforceable legislation to stop Nestlé
resuming the practice next year.
- In May 1999 the
UK Advertising Standards Authority upheld Baby Milk Action's
complaint about a Nestlé anti-boycott advertisement. Nestlé
had claimed: "Naturally they [Nestlé employees] do not provide
free supplies [of baby milk] to hospitals for use with healthy
infants." Nestlé's marketing in Argentina provides fresh
evidence that this is untrue.
violations in Russia and the Ukraine
In Boycott News 24 we exposed Nestlé's
Piltti infant formula, which had an infant picture on the
pack even though this is banned by the International Code
and Nestlé's own "Charter". Nestlé claimed
it had only recently bought the company and had not had time to
change the labels. This was shown to be untrue as the labels had
already been changed to include the Nestlé name.
Now the labels have been changed again (See the Campaign for
Ethical Marketing action sheet November
1999). Nestlé has now added a ship logo to the labels
and is producing self-adhesive transfers bearing this logo and
the Piltti name, which advertise the product. Nestlé is
backing this promotion with a website (see http://www.piltti.ru/),
gift packs to mothers and sponsorship of paediatric events. Distributors
are also being offered promotional items for Bona infant
formula, including pens, bags, 'baby passports', brochures and
posters. These promotional strategies not only violate the International
Code, they again violate Nestlé's "Charter" which
claims: "Nestlé does not advertise infant formula
to the public."
reacts to ASA ruling
The ruling against Nestlé
by the Advertising Standards Authority prompted Peter Brabeck,
Chief Executive of Nestlé S.A. (Swiss HQ) to take personal
charge of tackling the boycott (see Boycott
Rather than addressing our
legitimate concerns he seems to be following the advice of the
marketing experts, Saatchi & Saatchi. Marketing Week asked Marjorie
Thompson of the agency what Nestlé should do: "She suggests
the way to counteract the bad publicity is to go on the offensive
showing the benefits of Nestlé's financial contributions to charities,
such as Kids Club Network which provides after-school care for
Kids Club offensive
Following Saatchi and Saatchi's
advice, Nestlé is sponsoring a series of Kids Club events around
Nestlé is promoting its link
with Kids Club in its public relations materials and has achieved
national press coverage for its Nescafé Kids Club Challenge. Kids
Club has stated it keeps the situation under review.
Cereal promotion in schools
Nestlé is promoting its breakfast
cereals and polishing its image through a "box-top" scheme. By
collecting tokens off packets of the products, schools can raise
money. We are aware of a number of schools who have turned down
this offer - both out of support for the baby milk campaign and
because of concern over the high-sugar and salt content in some
cereals. Contact Baby Milk Action if you would like a sample letter
and leaflets to oppose a Nestlé promotion in your school.
Nestlé is the target of protests
in many countries for diverse reasons. As well as its baby milk
marketing malpractice, Nestlé is criticised for the way it treats
its employees, for involvement in oppression of native populations,
unfair trade, undermining the democratic process and other issues.
Baby Milk Action has limited resources for highlighting these
issues, but we can direct callers to other campaigning groups.
Similarly, if you are arranging
a demonstration or action against Nestlé, you may wish to include
information on the baby milk issue.
Baby Milk Action can provide
leaflets, posters and briefing materials. Please give us notice
and, if possible, send a donation to help cover our costs.
Baby Milk Action is committed
to non-violent protest and calls on all our supporters to refrain
from violence to people and damage to property. Our leafleting
guidelines were published with Boycott
News 23 - we stress that leafleters should be careful not
to cause an obstruction and that it is best to offer leaflets
and not to take offence if they are refused.
Briefing materials are available
from Baby Milk Action and published on this website. Baby
Milk Action stands by everything it publishes and has supporting
evidence. If challenged by Nestlé or others, please contact us.
We can help you prepare responses. Baby Milk Action will also
step in if there is a legal challenge to any statements you have
taken from our material, as long as the meaning has not been changed.
Only make statements beyond those made by Baby Milk Action if
you have your own evidence.
Staff need convincing
In general Nestlé staff are
not aware of both sides of the argument in the baby milk issue
and may have only read the public relations materials distributed
by Nestlé management. Such materials contain untrue and discredited
statements (see Nestlé's Public Relations
If we can convince Nestlé
staff that the management should abide by the International
Code and Resolutions, they become valuable allies. We plan
to picket Nestlé factories and offices (contact us to become involved).
We believe that staff should encourage their employers to behave
responsibly and that they should be protected if exposing malpractice.
Tartex has confirmed that
its vegetable paté in tubes continues to be made by Nestlé and
the contract runs until 2002. We continue to list these products
and we call on Tartex to cut all links with Nestlé. This is having
some success - Tartex Vessen patés in tins are no longer made
by Nestlé. Tartex has asked us to make this clear to boycotters.
may know all about you
A search of the Data Protection
Register indicates that Nestlé has applied to keep extensive details
on members of the public (conduct your own search on the Internet:
www.dpr.gov.uk). Nestlé is legally required to release information
to you. Contact Nestlé to find out if they are storing anything
on you regarding your: marriage or partnership; family, household
members; travel, movement details; leisure activities, interests;
membership of voluntary, charitable bodies; academic record; membership
of committees; career history; creditworthiness and others.
Send a letter headed "Subject
Access" to Mr. Blackburn, Chief Executive, Nestlé, St. George's
House, Croydon, Surrey, CR9 1NR giving your name and address details.
Keep a copy - Nestlé has 40 days to reply.
recruitment hits snag
Cambridge University Students'
Union (CUSU) and People and Planet group held a demonstration
at a Nestlé graduate recruitment event in November, causing it
to be cancelled. CUSU President, Tristan Jones, told The Cambridge
Student newspaper: "It gives a clear message to Nestlé that
they are not welcome in Cambridge." Leeds and Oxford Universitites
held similar peaceful protests resulting in Nestlé's departure.
press - Nestlé donates a million
Nestlé has announced it is
entering into "partnerships" worth £1 million with four UK charities:
Kids Club Network, Macmillan Cancer Relief, British Red Cross
and Shelter. This is described by Nestlé as a "branded community
investment programme," meaning it is an opportunity to promote
Nescafé coffee as well as support good works.
While Baby Milk Action does
not wish to undermine the work of these charities, we regret that
they are allowing their good names to be used as part of Nestlé's
attempt to buy a caring image following the damning ruling against
it by the Advertising Standards Authority.