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Issue number 30, December 2001

Boycott Summary

The International Nestlé Boycott is in effect in 20 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.



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Tap into the talent

'The Perrier Comedy Awards, the UK’s most sought after award for up and coming comedians, unexpectedly caught public attention for a very different reason at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Comedian Rob Newman started what became a media circus surrounding a boycott of the awards when people realised that Perrier was a Nestlé brand and embroiled in global controversy. In an article by Louise Rimmer in Scotland on Sunday, Rob Newman said “I would certainly urge comedians at the Fringe to boycott the awards this year because of the involvement of Nestlé.”

(Cartoon: Frank Boyle - first appeared in the Edinburgh Evening News 23/08/01. Copyright exists on this cartoon - please contact us if you would like to reproduce it.)
Click here for larger version


In the ensuing press coverage the boycott was featured in most of the local and national papers, radio and TV stations. On the BBC’s Six O’clock News, comedian Victoria Wood, supporting the boycott, regretted the way that Perrier had become a corporate event.

Past recipients and other celebrities added their support including Emma Thompson, Steve Coogan, Zoe Wannamaker and Julie Christie. Mark Thomas wrote a feature article in the New Statesman.

As a corporate-free alternative to the Perrier, the Edinburgh-based, Out of the Blue Trust set up the Tap Water Awards at the Bongo Club, which attracted over 100 entrants who were boycotting the Perrier. It is hoped that the Tap Water Awards will continue in future years to give talented new artists the chance to express themselves without being linked to a brand promotion. Emma Thompson has offered to support the 2002 Tap Water Awards.

Emma Thompson and Steve Coogan recorded special video interviews while in Edinburgh which are available here. Steve Coogan had been asked to present the Perrier Awards, but when asked for his comment during what was described as a ‘shambolic’ live Channel 4 TV broadcast, he urged people to “Boycott Nestlé.”

Nestlé bought Perrier in 1992, and has since become the world’s leading producer of bottled water. A major part of its strategy is promotion of the bottled water brand, Pure Life, in the developing world.

Concerns about the undermining of natural water supplies by bottled water companies have been raised by numerous organisations, including the World Wildlife Fund and Save America’s Water.

FTSE4Good excludes Nestlé

The FTSE4Good ethical indices were launched this summer, with Nestlé and other violators of the International Code and Resolutions being excluded from the relevant lists (Nestlé is in the ‘starting universe’ of international lists and has been excluded from these).

Section 8 of the selection criteria for social issues and stakeholder relations states:

"Companies must not have breached the infant formula manufacturing section of the International Code on Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes according to the International Baby Food Action Network [IBFAN]."

FTSE4Good is an index for "socially responsible investment" designed by FTSE, one of the world's leading global index providers.

According to the FTSE4Good website:

"FTSE4Good is a series of benchmark and tradable indices facilitating investment in companies with good records of corporate social responsibility. FTSE4Good is unique - there is no other socially responsible index quite like it. Independently defined and researched, FTSE4Good sets an objective global standard for socially responsible investment.”

See IBFAN Press Release 13th July 2001

Nestlé and Foot and Mouth

ENestle’s powerful lobbying of governments around the world has been implicated in the overturning of many decisions in the past, but last April it was the turn of the British Government to feel the might of Nestlé pressure.

An exposé by John Vidal in the Guardian (8 Sept) revealed that Nestlé had headed up a powerful business lobby that had managed to stop the British Government from implementing a vaccination programme to deal with the Foot and Mouth crisis.

The minutes from a meeting between Tony Blair and representatives from farmers’ unions and industry state: "The Prime Minister said the Government increasingly believed that vaccination of dairy cattle should be introduced in Cumbria, and possibly in Devon."

However Nestlé, which operates a factory in Dalston, Cumbria where its powdered milk is produced (75% of which is exported to developing countries), vigorously opposed the government’s decision. The Guardian reports that Peter Blackburn, then CEO of Nestlé UK and president of the Food and Drinks Federation, was ‘fiercely’ lobbying ministers, civil servants and Nick Brown, then Agriculture Secretary.

Mr Blackburn said that a vaccination plan could have risked Nestlé’s exports of powdered milk and even threatened closure of its Dalston plant. Mr Blackburn wrote to Mr Blair saying that British food exports worth $8bn would be compromised by a vaccination policy.

The Government’s plans to vaccinate were all in place: 500,000 vaccines had been distributed and a team of civilian volunteers trained to help, when the plans were suddenly shelved.
Sadly, the farmers, rather than the industry lobbyists got all the blame.

While other countries such as Argentina and the Netherlands used vaccination, the UK had to fall back on culling. Over 5 million animals have been killed and burnt on pyres at a cost of £2.7 bn, while much of the countryside has been closed. Some rural businesses face bankruptcy (tourism fell by 17% in July, for example).

Ask your Member of Parliament to raise questions about Nestlé’s influence over UK government policy.

Graduating with Honours

After years of refusing to debate with Baby Milk Action Nestlé has been urging university unions all over the country to ‘open dialogue’ with the company over the past few months.

We had hoped that this new approach by Nestlé might indicate a change in policy. Unfortunately it has proved to be merely a new PR tack. At the first debate, Nestlé rejected our plan to save infant lives and ultimately end the boycott (see Boycott News 29).

Nestlé is clearly worried about its recruitment of quality graduates, as evidenced by an interview with Peter Blackburn, Nestlé UK’s CEO (Guardian 21 April).

At the debates Nestlé attempts to suggest that its malpractice is a thing of the past, though it falls silent when asked if it accepts the devasting impact this has had on infants and breastfeeding cultures. Nestlé also neglects to mention its opposition to the introduction of the marketing code and responds to documentary evidence of present-day violations with denials and claims that the Code and Resolutions don’t apply in circumstances of its own choosing.

We have had many comments from students who have attended the debates, saying how Nestlé just didn’t have a defence. This response from a student at Liverpool sums up what many have been saying:

“As debates go it was quite poor as the Nestlé reps presented such a poor case, or more likely they just didn't have one. However what they did attempt to say came across poorly. When questions came from the floor, regarding points made by Baby Milk Action reps, asking what Nestlé's response was they often refused to answer directly, making a point about something only slightly (or not at all) relevant which they hoped to present positively. Towards the end of the discussion they resorted to interrupting your speakers!”

Another broken promise

Nestlé gave a public undertaking to students at Liverpool University on 12th November 2001 that it would write, within the week, to José Serra, Minister of Health, Brazil, supporting the public release of the government's independent monitoring report from last year.

We would like the report, which is understood to name and shame companies including Nestlé, to enter the public domain.

Nestlé told Baby Milk Action afterwards that writing the letter would depend on the approval of Nestlé Vice-President, Niels Christiansen.

At the next debate Nestlé had back-tracked and said that it would not call for the release of the report. We can only assume that Mr. Christiansen vetoed the letter. Strengthened regulations have now been published in Brazil, we welcome these and hope the government will continue its independent monitoring and release the results (also see Update 30 and Boycott News 29).

Shanghai’d by Nestlé

Nestlé’s latest PR approach to tackling its malpractice has included a range of glossy new brochures which contain its same tired denials and deceit. Infant Feeding in the Developing World proudly shows off Nestlé’s efforts to promote breastfeeding in China (complete with Nestlé logo and unhappy-looking mothers). At the same time Nestlé promotion for its infant and follow-on formulas are made freely available to mothers.

The leaflet pictured here promotes Nan 1 & Nan 2 with idealising pictures and text: "Nan - Healthy Baby - Excel One Level Up In Future". The leaflet does state that "Breastmilk is Infant's Best Food" but its goes on to state how too much phosphorus as found in cow's milk and "ordinary formula" can cause problems. While "Nestlé Nan 1 - [is] the only formula low in phosphorus so that you can be far away from the annoyance of feeding problems." It claims Nan uses a "unique technique to remove excess phosphorus in cow's milk, so that the phosporus level is close to breastmilk.”

These promotional materials were made available to mothers in health clinics in Shanghai and are clear violations, not only of the International Code and Resolutions, but also of Nestle’s own inadequate internal policies.

Red Cross / Nestlé link ends

  We are delighted that the Nestlé sponsorship of the British Red Cross (BRC) has come to an end. At our meeting with the BRC (reported Boycott News 29) we discussed ways in which we could work together in the future if the sponsorship was to stop.

£30m for a crick in the neck!

To boost its flagging sales Nescafé has had a makeover - a £30m makeover!

To get a kink in a jar cost Nestlé an estimated £20m on design and another £10m promoting it. The Sunday Times (Oct 14) commented:

“This dedication to wasting money does give the firm a place alongside Pepsi turning blue and British Airways painting its tail fins. It is fortunate for Nescafé that the world is not about to slip into a recession and that we are not on the brink of a war - otherwise, the expense might have appeared foolish.”

Setting the standard

Social commitment and Nestlé might be regarded as a joke by many people, but Nestlé regards itself in a very different light. More than its own social commitment, Nestlé sees itself as being in a position to congratulate others for their philanthropic gestures. The Nestlé social commitment awards are up for grabs again this year, and companies and organisations who want to show off their commitment to charitable causes are invited to apply. Last year’s recipient was Tesco’s marketing strategy ‘Computers for Schools.’ IBFAN won’t apply for the award.

Work Ethics

Applying for a job with Nestlé might be the last thing on many people’s minds, but some residents recently applied for posts at a new Nestlé Café opening up in Bristol. When asked by managers in the interview if they had any questions, the ‘applicants’ replied ‘quite a few in fact about Nestlé’s marketing practices of baby milk.’ The Indymedia website reported that the interviews ‘went a bit wrong.’

  • If you work for Nestlé, or know someone who does, why not contact us for a ‘Face the Fax’ information sheet with questions to ask Nestlé management.


Greenpeace supporters have protested about Nestlé’s use of GM ingredients in its baby foods in Thailand, Italy and in Hong Kong where two peaceful protesters were arrested (see the Greenpeace China website).

In Sri Lanka more than 300 organisations are campaigning against Nestlé’s aggressive marketing of breastmilk substitutes and its impact on the indigenous dairy industry. This has virtually been destroyed since the liberalisation of the market, enabling Nestlé and other importers to greatly increase the price of the milk it sells. Nestlé’s Special Policy Advisor, Beverly Mirando, is from Sri Lanka and tells people that Nestlé’s practices are simply not a cause for concern in her home country.

A Sri Lankan campaigner commented:

“The situation here is indeed critical as far as milk is concerned. It is definitely wrong to say that nobody in Sri Lanka is bothered about Nestlé's activities - I forward a report of a recent activity that I was part of [report of a demonstration by over 350 mothers] .. these activities are in the midst of the war situation and the political instability that is going on. With all these problems, will we bother to campaign against milk powder multinationals unless it's critical?"

For further details see the 'Your Questions Answered' section.

Woodcraft folk

Woodcraft Folk, the alternative scout movement, has been a long time supporter of the Nestlé boycott. At its international camp this year, supporters put boycott stickers on a Kit-Kat machine on the Scout’s site that they were using. A Guardian article (11th August) featured the vending machine and the young people’s concerns about Nestlé and other corporations. Following this Nestlé asked to meet the Woodcraft Folk. Baby Milk Action agreed to attend in an advisory capacity on condition the meeting was taped.

If Nestlé contacts you for a meeting, let us know. Experience shows there is little point talking with Nestlé as it refuses to accept WHO policy on the marketing of breastmilk susbtitutes and generally refuses to make changes to its marketing practices (see Nestlé rejects four-point plan in Boycott News 29). However, if you decide to meet with Nestlé we can provide up-to-date information on what Nestlé is really doing, put you in contact with our partners in developing countries who see Nestlé malpractice first-hand and we may be able to attend a meeting with you.

Royle KitKat boycott

Actor Ricky Tomlinson who plays Jim Royle in the popular BBC TV sitcom, The Royle Family, added his support to the Boycott in September.

Ricky turned down a £50,000 offer from Nestlé to front the new KitKat adverts. Quoted in the Daily Express,(25 Sept) he says:

“Until they sort out this baby milk problem in the Third World I won’t do anything for them.”

He was also featured in the Big Issue (24-30 Sept).