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Issue number 31, July 2002

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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Nestlé lawyers try to silence media

Following the PR disaster over the Perrier Comedy Awards last August (see Boycott News 30), Nestlé’s attempt to look good by sponsoring the Hay-on-Wye Literary Festival, once more backfired and resulted in many more people becoming aware of its irresponsible practices.

In 1999 PR firm Saatchi & Saatchi advised Nestlé to "aggressively advertise its links with charities and good causes” precisely to avoid bad publicity and to build " a surplus account for the times when you have a crisis." (Marketing Week, Feb 1999).

The Hay Festival (1- 9th June) was dubbed the “Woodstock of the mind” by President Clinton when he was guest speaker last year. This year, Festival Director Peter Florence, made a crucial error, believing Nestlé’s claims that criticisms were out of date and not contacting Baby Milk Action. By allowing Nestlé to be a sponsor at the last minute (after the acts and other sponsors had been signed up) he generated a wave of bad publicity worldwide. It started with the Independent on Sunday (IoS) on 28th April quoting Mark Thomas and Will Self, urging ‘self-respecting’ authors to stay away.'

“Nestlé? I’d rather meet Rose West.” Germaine Greer, quoted in the Independent on Sunday 9th June Rose West was convicted as a serial killer in 1994.

Leading feminist author and long-time endorser of the boycott, Germaine Greer, and Booker-Prize nominee, Jim Crace, both decided to cancel their appearances at Hay. Others such as Afro Celt Sound System and Helen Fielding (author of Bridget Jones’ Diary) raised concerns during performances.

Nestlé UK sent its PR team Hilary Parsons and Beverley Mirando, to meet James Morrison, from the IoS, once again hoping that ‘dialogue’ would do. Failing to convince him, Nestlé’s lawyers sent a letter alleging that the IoS lacked ‘objectivity’ and had run a campaign to ‘damage’ Nestlé. The IoS refused to be silenced and the next day published an even longer exposé with the headline “Multi-national on the defensive...Nestlé sends in lawyers as Hay controversy Grows.”

According to the Daily Telegraph (27 May) Dr Greer “was being told on all sides that Nestlé had cleaned up its act. But after 40 years of irresponsibility I doubted this, so I had a look at the WHO’s pronouncements which Nestlé claims exonerates it - but they don't.”

This prompted Hilary Parsons to write to DR Greer demanding to know why she had questioned Nestle’s policies. She was “concerned and puzzled” because she [Ms Parsons] wasn’t aware of any [WHO policies] that mentioned Nestlé specifically. “Incandescent with rage” at the tone of the letter, DR Greer said she felt like “a supply teacher” being “carpeted” by a “headmistress.” She suggested Nestlé managers accompany her to Brazil, where she had witnessed impoverished mothers feeding babies infant formula. (See IoS 9th June).

Hay travels

Ignoring the boycott in 19 other countries, Nestlé often claims that it is only a few campaigners in the UK who are concerned about its activities. James Achanyi-Fontem, the coordinator of the Nestlé Boycott in Cameroon, attended a media seminar workshop in Haifa, Israel, and pasted our press release about the Hay Festival on the notice board with a comment about Cameroon's participation in the Boycott. He also used it in his presentation on media strategies and social change. As a result, journalists and public relations officers from Kenya, China, Tanzania, Turkey, Macedonia, Thailand, Philippines, Georgia, India, Ghana, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, El Salvador, Eritrea , Zambia, Ethiopia and Poland have starting digging into the role Nestlé is playing in developing countries.

James says:

“Nestlé will have to understand that the Boycott not a hidden agenda, but an international issue on debate. When people understand that our Cameroon group is not working alone, they immediately declare it is something to take seriously and investigate in their respective countries.”

Media wars

In his defence of Nestlé, Hay Festival Director, Peter Florence, referred to an article in the Guardian finance pages (29th March) which, unusually for the paper, suggested that it was time to end the boycott (see Your Questions Answered section). Nestlé displayed this article on a huge overhead at its AGM (see below). As a co-sponsor of the Hay Festival, the Guardian singularly failed to cover the Hay story in any depth, but following a critique in Private Eye (31 May) the Guardian issued a statement distancing itself from the Nestlé sponsorship.

Meanwhile in its Minx column, the Daily Telegraph commenting on the Hay story challenged the Independent to live up to its name. The owner of the Independent is Tony O’Reilly, Heinz Billionaire. (Heinz is the manufacturer of Farley’s baby foods and milks - another Code violator. See Update 31).

Red Cross, Nestlé and Hay

An event at the Hay Festival entitled, ‘Good Business: A Moral Maze’, posed the question:

“If you want to change the world environmentally or socially, are established multinational corporations a better bet than any coalition of here-today-and-gone-tomorrow national governments?"

No one on the panel was in a position to give a truly independent view, so, apart from a few questions, Nestlé’s Niels Christiansen had a free run to present his company as a positive force in society and a credible partner in sustainable development. In response to questions about corporate funding Nicholas Young of British Red Cross Society (BRCS) admitted: “Beggars can’t be choosers. I do have to sup with the devil. But I do it with a long spoon.”

From left: Peter Florence (Festival Director), Steve Hilton (author of "Good Business" and advisor to businesses) Nicholas Young (Chair, British Red Cross) Niels Christiansen (Vice President, Nestlé)

Just 4 days later a Nestlé donation of $1.92 million to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) for its AIDS programme was made public. To reporters in Geneva, Nestlé CEO, Peter Brabeck denied that Nestlé was looking for good publicity saying: "The money is just the tip of the iceberg. The important part is the values that stand behind it.”

  • Nestlé’s £250,000 donation to the British Red Cross in 1999 proved controversial and prompted widespread criticism. Many considered it had a negative effect on the organisation. Subsequently, BRCS commissioned an analysis of the factors affecting the reputation of charities engaging in corporate partnerships. Increasingly, charities are recognising that Nestlé sponsorship is risky and inappropriate, especially for projects involving children or development. We regret that the IFRC does not share this view and does not seem to have considered the overall impact its decision could have on infant health.

Baby Milk Action does not want to undermine the good work of Red Cross, but if you have an opinion about the Nestlé sponsorship why not write to: Didier J Cherpitel, Sec. Gen, International Federation of Red Cross, PO Box 372, CH-1211, Geneva 19, Switzerland. Tel: +41 (22) 733 0395.

Shut up and eat GE baby food! Greenpeace Vs Nestlé

Greenpeace is calling on Nestlé to stop selling genetically contaminated food, including baby food, in several Asian countries. Testing in Thailand, the Philippines and China/Hong Kong has repeatedly shown contamination in Nestlé products, which, despite local opposition, has refused to stop the use of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients, or to label GE food.

At Nestlé’s HQ in Vevey, Switzerland, Greenpeace activists force-fed baby dolls with Nestlé’s Asian GE foods. In Thailand GE baby food was dumped at Nestlé’s head office in Bangkok, while in a football stadium in Hong Kong, Greenpeace activists made a gigantic X over the Nestlé logo using 10,000 petition postcards “...the Hong Kong public have become sick and tired of the lack of action by food companies such as Nestlé. Nestlé should not be allowed to continue trampling on the rights of consumers to access GE-free food. This company has the worst record and the worst attitude” said Greenpeace China.

In May, Greenpeace met Nestlé with disappointing results. Nestlé said they “take into consideration local needs, cultural differences and consumer preferences.”

Greenpeace Thailand stated:

“Nestlé is practising a cowardly policy: It avoids GE ingredients only in the countries where labelling is required but continues to sneak them into countries that do not yet have adequate labelling legislation. Nestlé must quit its double standards and adopt a single policy of no GE."

Bangkok Post June 7th Nestlé's headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand. Greenpeace activists are blindfolded as they hold a protest banner against Nestlé's sale of GE (genetically engineered) products in Thailand.

Shut up and drink bottled water

Nestlé is the world’s largest manufacturer of bottled water, with over 50 brands and 16% of a fast growing $33.7 billion market. Nestlé faces criticism about its damage to the environment and local eco-systems in many countries.

The promotion of bottled water can undermine commitment to the provision of affordable piped water. Irresponsible promotion and labelling and brand names such as ‘Pure Life' can falsely imply sterility, undermining breastfeeding and safety messages about boiling water for babies.

At Nestlé’s AGM, its French Perrier workers also complained about job losses and the dramatic fall in English sales of Perrier, made worse by the use of plastic bottles (supplied by Coca-Cola). Nestlé responded with promises to sell 3-5 million bottles of Perrier in China! Using its new Sustainability Review, Nestlé tried to divert attention away to the large amount of water used by agriculture, referring to its plan (devised with Danone) to reduce water usage (in plants) through genetic engineering.

Pillaging in Brazil

In the Swiss paper, Le Courrier (16 June 2002) Franklin Frederik of the Brazilian Movement of Water Citizenship accuses Nestlé of “pillaging” the ‘circuito das Aguas’, (a Brazilian geological marvel) and “destroying an ecosystem which took nature thousands of years to create.”

Ignoring Indian tribes

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by three American Indian tribes to stop Nestlé’s Ice Mountain Spring bottled water company from withdrawing spring water from the Great Lakes. Under a 1986 Act authority to protect the Great Lakes lies with state governments, not private individuals. A second lawsuit (against Nestlé) by Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation seeks legislation to give the state more control over its water resources. (AP, May 31)

Also see the briefing paper, Bottled Water and Infant Feeding.

Tap Water Awards 2002

The non-corporate alternative to the Perrier Comedy Awards will take place at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August. Contact Suzy Merrell (tel: 0131 556 5204) or Baby Milk Action.

Nestlé Chief on the defensive at AGM

How effective is the boycott? If Nestlé’s efforts to counter it are any measure, then it is very effective. Update readers will be aware that Nestlé often uses its sponsorship of ‘humanitarian’ causes in its PR. This year it added several new publications and initiatives to its portfolio prior to its shareholder meeting in April.

Since non-Swiss nationals were allowed to own shares, much of the time devoted to questions from the floor has been about baby food marketing. In 2001, in answer to a question from Baby Milk Action, Chief Executive, Peter Brabeck, had promised support for the promotion and protection of exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months. A similar claim was made in Nestlé’s Code ‘Action’ Report in September 2001.

Meanwhile far away from Swiss eyes, promotion was stepped up in India for Cerelac and Neslac for use from 4 months of age with weekly advertisements in magazines and newspapers.
A few months later, another booklet was launched, Infant Feeding in the Developing World, featuring Beverley Mirando, of Nestlé (UK) Corporate Affairs Department, speaking of her experience in Sri Lanka (see below).

Just prior to the 2002 shareholder meeting, Mr. Brabeck, announced that Nestlé would be introducing an ombudsman system so that staff could denounce violations. This was referred to in yet another skillfully and presented brochure, Nestlé’s Sustainability Review, launched at the AGM.

In March, the UK media (the Guardian, Private Eye) had started to expose the financial links between Lord Ahmed and Nestlé and the case of the whistleblower from Pakistan, Syed Aamar Raza (see below). At the AGM Peter Brabeck failed to answer questions about what the ombudsman system would mean for Aamar. He admitted that Lord Ahmed would become a consultant for Nestlé UK and said he could not see how a Member of the House of Lords could be corrupted.

Mr Brabeck attempted to divert questions about the environmental impact of Nestlé’s bottled water business, by presenting it as a percentage of the total amount of water used globally (see above). One shareholder insisted that Nestlé be more transparent about the exact number of litres used and the salaries of its management.

Once more Nestlé made a promise to respect WHO’s recommendation on exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months.

  • Peter Brabeck dropped the word ‘ethics’ from Nestlé’s vocabulary at the 2001 AGM. Responding to criticisms about this Nestlé (UK) suggested that Mr. Brabeck was speaking in a foreign language and had not known what he was saying. We thought Mr. Brabeck prided himself on his multi-lingual abilities.

Buy a share - make your voice heard

Although no company has ever taken action as a result of a majority shareholder vote on a human rights or environmental resolution, by buying a share in a company you can make your voice heard. Last year the Nestlé share price was reduced by a factor of 10, so the current market value of one share is now ONLY £166. Nestlé boasts that its shareholders have additional rights over shareholders of companies registered in many other countries, but fails to mention that you currently need £166 million worth of shares before you can place an item on the Nestlé agenda, but you can speak from the floor with one share.

Further reading: CornerHouse: Financial Market Lobbying: a new Political Space for activists. email:
Friends of the Earth: Guide to Shareholder Activism

The truth comes out at the Nestlé debates

Over the last 15 months, Baby Milk Action has taken part in 13 public debates or meetings on the baby food issue where Nestlé’s UK Corporate Affairs team have been present. This follows Nestlé’s decision to ‘engage’ with its critics. Previously it refused to debate or meet in public with Baby Milk Action. Most of the debates have been at student unions and the results have been overwhelmingly in favour of the boycott.

At Edinburgh University in May, Nestlé’s credibility was shattered when a group of South African visitors joined the audience and watched Nestlé’s Senior Policy Advisor, Beverley Mirando and its Head of Corporate Affairs, Hilary Parsons, claim again and again that the Code is strictly followed in all developing countries. The group asked who was responsible for monitoring in South Africa, because they had repeatedly seen Nestlé baby milk advertised on TV and Nestlé baby milk labels in English only. Beverley Mirando tried to explain that there was no monitoring committee in South Africa and only a voluntary agreement with industry. She then said that she had been ‘informed’ that the labels were in four languages which were perhaps “under the lid?” This was greeted with incredulous laughter from the students.

Eventually she conceded that, “this should not be happening” and asked for more information. Yet again, a vote taken showed that all but a very few supported the boycott. At the University of Warwick debate in March the motion to end the boycott was withdrawn by its proposer after Nestlé had put its case, so unconvincing are the company's arguments.

Is artificial feeding sustainable development?

Ms. Mirando suggests that those who criticise Nestlé’s baby food marketing activities do not understand the reality of living and working in a developing country. In every presentation she quickly moves the discussion away from marketing practices to the issue of working women, falsely implying that the International Code prevents formula being sold. She suggests that as women join the workforce they have to use infant formula and it is unfair to deny mothers access to it. She cites her own experience where, even with the benefit of a chauffeur driven car, she was unable to continue breastfeeding when she returned to work.

  • While mothers often face impossible choices when they return to work, this does not excuse irresponsible marketing. Employers have a responsibility under International Labour Organisation Conventions to provide creche facilities and permit working mothers to have breastfeeding breaks. Nestlé could ensure that all its workplaces conform to this standard, rather than, as it does in the Philippines, providing free infant formula to its employees.

  • Breastfeeding rates in Scandinavia are over 90%. Nestlé undermines such breastfeeding cultures by suggesting that artificial feeding is the inevitable consequence of development.

  • In her presentations Ms. Mirando highlights the frequent power cuts in Colombo, but fails to mention the impact this might have on formula preparation.

Nestlé in Sri Lanka

Ms Mirando insists that concerns about Nestlé are simply not an issue in Sri Lanka. This is blatantly untrue. There is a national campaign against Nestlé involving over 350 Sri Lankan NGOs and demonstrations with hundreds of mothers. They complain about Nestlé’s attack on the breastfeeding culture and its virtual destruction of the national milk industry. See the Your Question's Answered section.

Time to accept responsibility

Nestlé’s new strategy is to admit to some malpractice, but to claim that apart from a few individual errors (blamed on staff) problems lie in the distant past. On occasion it says its policies were revised in 1996. This raises some questions:

  • If it admits wrong doing in the past, will it offer compensation for the babies that have died or suffered as a result?

  • Why have the policy changes been so small and why are they still not in line with the WHA Resolutions?

  • If Nestlé is serious about putting infant health first, why won’t it accept our Four Point Plan and, as a first step, admit in writing that its marketing policy and practice should meet World Health Assembly requirements in all countries?

  • If Nestlé could not be trusted before, why should we trust it now? The Nestlé Boycott was suspended in 1984 after promises by Nestlé to abide by the Code. It was resumed in 1989 when monitoring showed they meant nothing. New promises must be monitored for 18 months before any action is taken to end the current boycott. We are still waiting for the first step.

What will Nestlé’s ‘ombudsman’ do...

Nestlé has received praise in some quarters for launching an ‘ombudsman’ system so that staff members can complain about violations of the International Code and Resolutions. However, while this may be a genuine attempt to improve marketing practices, Baby Milk Action questions whether the ‘ombudsman’ system will have any impact when we consider the facts about Nestlé's past behavior. See the April/June Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet for further details.

...about these violations?

Nestlé markets breastmilk substitutes in nearly every country in the world. Hundreds of published violations of the Code from just 14 countries (condensed into a table format because of the sheer volume) were brought to Nestlé's attention last year through the report Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules 2001. Nestlé dismissed the vast majority of the violations as invalid.

Here we show you just a few of the violations that have come to light since the report.

So much for auditors

A picture in Nestlé’s new Sustainability Review (in the section “Infant formula marketing audit in Argentina”) shows its internal auditors apparently turning a blind eye to the Nido whole milk on display in the baby food and milk section (Alimento Bebe). Nestlé knows that its Nan infant formula is expensive and that mothers often use whole milk instead. Allowing this to happen, as it does in many countries, risks infant health. See the Your Question Answered section for a Gallery of Shame showing promotion of whole milk for infant feeding.

Nestlé dumps free supplies in Bangkok

On 1st May 2002, just by chance, UNICEF staff visited a major hospital in Bangkok and found boxes and boxes of donated Nestlé’s Bear Brand Prebio 2 follow-on formula, each carton with a sticker in Thai saying "for scientific evaluation only." None of the staff seemed to be sure why the samples were donated, but the excuse was given that they might be for mothers infected with HIV.

The International Code allows health professionals to receive a sample for evaluation, but it appears, from the quantities donated, that Nestlé intended them to be passed on to mothers, as they were in this hospital.

Also mothers infected with HIV in Thailand are provided with free formula which is purchased through the Ministry of Public Health in a bidding process and made available to all hospitals. There is therefore no need for hospitals to accept free supplies from companies.

  • In 1997 when the General Synod of the Church of England was debating whether to resume its support for the Nestlé boycott, it discussed the IGBM report, Cracking the Code, which found that 26% of the mothers interviewed in Thailand received free samples (mostly from Nestlé and Mead Johnson). Nestlé claimed this was because of HIV infection. UNICEF confirmed that this was not true and that in any case, the HIV infection rate in Thailand then (and now) is less than 3%.

Mark keeps his eyes open

After making several programmes about Nestlé, satirist Mark Thomas, on location last summer in the Kurdish region of Batman, South-East Turkey, found this tin of Nestlé infant formula on sale.

The Kurdish women in the region cannot read Turkish and often can’t speak it. Turkish Law only requires Turkish, but companies should, under the International Code, use an appropriate language (Article 9.2) independently of government action. (Article 11.3).

Lord Ahmed - Nestlé consultant

Most people who have the privilege to meet Nestlé whistleblower Syed Aamar Raza are utterly convinced by his evidence and are aware of his courage in defending infant health. One person who clearly was not, is the Labour Peer, Lord Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham.

Baby Milk Action and Aamar had tea with Lord Ahmed in the House of Lords in February 2000 and asked for his help in publicising Aamar’s evidence of Nestlé malpractice. We were very pleased when Lord Ahmed immediately offered to conduct a public meeting in London, to be organised by the Daily Jang newspaper. Soon after, however,the News on Sunday (March 12 2000) reported that Lord Ahmed had been “approached by a very well-known Pakistani millionaire business-man, asking him to “please not pursue” the matter.” The public meeting never took place and we heard nothing more from Lord Ahmed until November 2000 when he attempted to intervene in support of Nestlé at the European Parliament Public Hearing, which Nestlé itself refused to attend (see Boycott News 29).

Meanwhile, whenever questions about Aamar’s allegations were raised, Nestlé quoted Lord Ahmed’s claim that they were unfounded. With no concrete proof, it was difficult to know how to respond. Then, at last, on 19th March, 2002, the Guardian, followed by Private Eye, broke the story about the financial links between Lord Ahmed and Nestlé.

Interviewed on the BBC Asian Network, Lord Ahmed denied being an apologist for Nestlé, but defended the company at length, claiming that he had conducted his own investigation in Pakistan and that none of the 140 million Pakistanis had any complaints about Nestlé, only people in Canada and Cambridge. He failed to inform listeners that his 'fact-finding' trip to Pakistan had been organised and financed by Nestlé. But he did indicate that he would be becoming a paid advisor to Nestlé.
In the interview Lord Ahmed referred to a tape which he claimed substantiates Nestlé’s allegation that Aamar was a blackmailer. Aamar and Baby Milk Action have been asking for substantiation of this allegation and a copy of the tape for over two years, but so far we have had no response from Nestlé. Nestlé admitted to the German media that it obtained the tape using illegal means. (Click here to listen to Lord Ahmed's head-to-head with Baby Milk Action's Mike Brady).

In a letter to Lord Ahmed in June 2002, Aamar, wrote:

“Lord Ahmed, you have revealed that you have had access to this tape. I appeal to you to obtain a copy of the tape from your new employers, Nestlé, so I can defend myself. You sit in the House of Lords influencing legislation for the people of the UK. Do you not think I too deserve justice? Do you not think I deserve the right to defend myself? Please send me a copy of the tape so I can hold a press conference and explain to the world what Nestlé has done to me.

"I can answer this allegation against me if I am allowed to do so. If your preference is to keep the tape hidden away while you continue to call me a blackmailer you cannot blame me for concluding that you are biased in favour of Nestlé and do not have the best interests of Pakistani children at heart.”

As part of his attack on Aamar on the BBC Asian Network, Lord Ahmed has suggested that Aamar left Pakistan in order to live in the UK. Aamar says in his reply:

“You seem to assume that my purpose from the beginning was always to leave Pakistan. I must ask you to stop making such a claim which bears absolutely no relation to the facts. I have not seen my wife or two young children for over two years and my present living conditions are very difficult as I try to support myself and my family in Pakistan through hard work. It is a great insult that you suggest this is my choice. If I could safely return to Pakistan I would do so immediately.”

In answer to questions about Lord Ahmed at the AGM Peter Brabeck said: “Quite frankly...I really don’t believe that one can corrupt a member of the House of Lords simply by asking him to carry out an independent report... Today we are negotiating with Lord Ahmed, in a totally open way, which is why you have been able to make this reference to Lord Ahmed.”

You can help Aamar in his campaign to respond to the allegation of blackmail by asking Lord Ahmed to obtain a copy of the tape from Nestlé as Aamar is requesting. Write to Lord Ahmed of Rotherham, House of Lords, London, SW1 APW.

Read a summary of Milking Profits and order it from our online Virtual Shop.

Campaign action

Fair enough

Stroud council has become the latest to stop serving Nescafé in its offices – from now on they will be serving Fair Trade tea and coffee. Mayor John Marjoram explained to the local paper Stroud News and Journal that the town is hoping to become an official Fair Trade Town, which will hopefully raise awareness about Fair Trade products.

Sometimes local authorities claim that they cannot support the boycott because of competition guidelines. Why not try this approach to ridding your council of Nestlé products? See for more information.

Talented Ripley

“As part of a Year 13 Environmental Science Class on global production systems and problems with the developing world, we were given a talk on the baby milk issue" writes Daniel, a student at Ripley St Thomas Church of England High School (photo). "Following the talk we decided to take action, we informed the rest of the sixth form, by putting up posters and handing out leaflets. This raised lots of comments about Nestlé, so our next step was to hand out petitions, which received over 50 signatures in support. Through our success in the sixth form we have investigated changing our vending machines. We will find out shortly our results of this investigation."
  • The school has agreed to have another vending machine installed stocked with alternative brands so that the students can boycott the Nestlé vending machine.

Nestlé put to the test

School students in Oxfordshire tested Nestlé’s Senior Policy Advisor Beverley Mirando in February. The group at Lord William’s school in Thame went through every single Nestlé violation in the IBFAN report Breaking the Rules 2001 asking her to account for each one! The meeting was set up to try to rid the school of Nestlé vending machines, and representatives from the Vending machine company, Sodexho, were present at the meeting. The group are still waiting to hear Sodexho’s decision.

One of the students, Mark Ansell, said: "We didn’t expect to get all the hype we received. We’ve managed to publicise the issue throughout the school and we even had an article in the local paper."

St Andrew’s Uni keeps the boycott

Good news from St Andrew’s student union – in a recent referendum two-thirds (64%) of the students voted to keep the boycott in place.

Student Marco Biagi was one of those campaigning for the boycott. He told us:

“Before polling day we were feeling overwhelmed by the sheer weight of pro-Nestlé propaganda spread around town, which was arguing about the validity of the WHO Code. But by the end we had reduced them to having to use ‘Hands off my Kit Kat’ as an argument.”

Richard Howitt launches weekend of action against Nestlé

The EU’s Rapporteur on Corporate Responsibility, Richard Howitt MEP, handed out leaflets in Cambridge on17 May to launch a weekend of action.

Richard said:

“Nestle’s actions are cynical in the extreme. There is clear evidence that they are contributing directly to the ill health and death of children in the developing world, yet they continue to put profits first. They claim to have introduced new policies recently but they still flout World Health Authority codes and children continue to suffer."

Boycott supporters came together to demonstrate outside Nestlé’s UK Headquarters in Croydon on Saturday 18th May. The day marks the anniversary of the implementation of the International Code and coincides with National Breastfeeding Awareness Week. The boycotters leafleted passers by and used placards and banners to raise awareness. 5,800 petitions were handed in to a Nestlé representative.

Does your MP support the boycott? Why not write and ask them? You can find the name of your MP from

UNISON women reaffirm their support for the boycott

Louise Couling of the Greater London Regional Women's Committee made a powerful speech, mentioning Nestlé whistleblower Syed Aamar Raza, at the National Women's Conference in Cardiff in February, in support of their boycott resolution, which was passed. UNISON has been a longtime supporter of the boycott. It has 1.2 million members, 918,000 of whom are women working in health, local government, education, transport and the voluntary sector. We look forward to working closely with UNISON to end irresponsible marketing everywhere.

Fano’s ethical Carnival

The Nestlé boycott has been launched by national groups in 20 countries. The Italian group had a notable success in having Nestlé dropped as a supplier to the Fano Carnival. Fano is a small town on the Adriatic coast and has been designated by the UN as a "child friendly city".

Traditionally, during the Carnival contest, huge amounts of chocolates are thrown to the public from floats. For many years the Carnival Board has purchased from Perugina, an Italian company fully owned by Nestlé since 1988.

The campaign has been conducted for four years by the Group for an Ethical Carnival, with articles in local newspapers, distribution of more than 12,000 leaflets and booklets, public meetings, non-violent occupations of the Town Council and individual letters to authorities and politicians. Members of the Town Council and of the Provincial Council voted in favour of several amendments to the local legislation.

Eventually, on 24 December 2001, the Chairman of the Board of Managers announced that it would no longer collaborate with Nestlé and that from the 2002 Carnival the chocolates would be acquired through fair trade organisations.

Nestlé attempted to arrange a meeting, but backed away when told this would be in public with company critics present.


Nestlé supports Science Prizes for Women at UNESCO

L’Oreal, part owned by Nestlé, is the sponsor of the L’Oreal-UNESCO "laureates" for established women scientists and also for the "Science prizes for Young Women Scientists." (See

This year’s lavish award ceremony took place at UNESCO’s Head Quarters in Paris on 6th March. The VIP-invitation-only event was complete with red carpet entrance, marquee and extensive TV coverage and had a heavy advertising emphasis on L’Oreal. Whilst the promotion of women in science should be strongly supported, the event appears to be more about the promotion of L’Oreal and cosmetics than women in science and has been criticised by UNESCO insiders. One employee said:

"In view of the fact that other UN organisations express concern at the use of breastmilk substitutes in favour of mothers milk on grounds of nutrition, hygiene and cost, it is surprising that UNESCO, a UN agency with a focus on poverty in the developing countries, allows its good name to be used in this cynical manner by the manufacturer of high-value cosmetics."

The Director General of UNESCO, Mr Koichiro Matsuura awarded the prizes and praised the partnership, expressing a desire to see more partnerships between UNESCO and the private sector, which he said were "rare and too timid."

Write to UNESCO and tell them that you believe this partnership to be inappropriate. Email: at the Women in Science and Technology Department.

Nestlé’s ‘Business Principles’ in doubt

A Chinese refugee in Australia asserts that she and 130 other prisoners in Beijing’s Xin’an labour camp were forced to manufacture more than 100,000 toy rabbits bearing the Nestlé brand. The woman, who spent a year in the camp for practising the banned Falun Gong meditation technique, claims that the prisoners were also regularly beaten, given electric shocks and deprived of sleep.

In response Nestlé confirmed that the company placed an order with Beijing MiQi Toys Co Ltd, for 110,000 rabbits for a Nesquik promotion, but said there is no evidence linking forced labour with Nestlé's business dealings in China. Nestlé Switzerland said: "In line with the Nestlé Corporate Business Principles, Nestlé does not buy products or materials from companies or institutions that use forced labour or involuntary prison labour."

The woman has identified the Nestlé bunnies she made and is calling for independent investigations into company operations in China.

Nestlé and EasyJet in the Baby Milk Action ‘Hall of Shame’

Nestlé has long been infamous for its marketing violations of its breastmilk substitutes, but now it seems that the company has entered into the Hall of Fame – The EasyJet Hall of Fame. On its website EasyJet asks people to name and shame those companies that insist on spending company money on expensive air flights and puts those that save money by using EasyJet into the Hall of Fame. We think that the Hall of Infamy would be more appropriate! EasyJet serves only Nescafé coffee on its flights, which means it definitely goes into the Baby Milk Action ‘Hall of Shame’.

If you travel by EasyJet write in advance and request another brand of coffee. When travelling by air always ask what brand the coffee is. Write to the customer relations manager and ask for a choice of brands to be made available. You can use the EasyJet on-line comment form.

Baby Milk Action at the House of Commons

Baby Milk Action made a presentation to the Women’s Group of the Parliamentary Labour Party opposite Nestlé at the House of Commons on 1st May 2002.

Following the meeting Julia Drown, MP has corresponded with Nestlé about the way it has attempted to undermine legislation in India and Zimbabwe.

Photo: Baby Milk Action - Patti Rundall (staff), Fiona Duby and Rachel O’Leary (Directors), Gay Palmer (Advisor) and Andrea Hill (staff) with two new friends.

Boycott list update

We publish a list of Nestlé brands. As Nestlé frequently buys and sells companies it is difficult to track what products contribute to company profits. This is particularly problematic as Nestlé often retains a connection with a brand it appears to have sold. For example, this may involve Nestlé receiving a licensing fee for use of the brand name or Nestlé may continue to manufacture the products which are then marketed by another company. We list any brand from which Nestlé makes a profit.

While Nestlé claims the boycott has little impact on its sales, we notice that new owners are keen to have the brands removed from the boycott list.

Here are some recent changes and confirmations following our investigations:

Fruit Passion not connected with Nestlé

Fruit Passion, the Fair Trade marked fruit juice is produced by the same company that makes Libby’s juice drinks. The Libby’s brand name is owned by Nestlé and the company profits from the sale of products bearing this brand name. But as there is no connection between Fruit Passion and Nestlé it is not on the boycott list.

Good news on Tartex

Tartex (sold by Nestlé some years ago) have asked us to publicise the fact that from August 2002 its range of vegetable patés in tubes will not be manufactured by Nestlé and that Nestlé will not profit from any Tartex sales. All Tartex products will be removed from the boycott list.

More products sold - but watch this space

Nestlé has sold off its ‘ambient temperature’ products such as Branston Pickle, Cross & Blackwell, Sun-Pat and Sarsons vinegar. Nestlé UK gives no date for completion and its phone number will appear for some time on labels (indicating a continuing financial interest) so these products still appear on the boycott list until we have confirmation of the nature of the deal.

Richmond Foods now produces and markets the Lyons Maid ice cream, but Nestlé continues to own the brand name Lyons Maid and presumably profits from this and so it remains on the list.

Dear Editor

"My bouncing baby nephew in Omdurman shrivelled like a balloon and died of chronic diarrhoea. His impoverished parents had spent a fortune on him - first on baby milk formula and bottles, then on a shopping bag full of antibiotics - when breastfeeding and oral rehydration salts would have been cheaper, safer and more effective. Nestlé bear heavy responsibility for making baby milk formula a prestige symbol, especially in countries where conditions are thoroughly inappropriate. Years of propaganda have inculcated a belief that it is better than breastmilk, not only among the affluent but also among those whose meagre income would be better spent on feeding the mother. They will continue to profit from the ignorance they’ve encouraged, until this misperception is actively undone.”

Peter Verney, Editor, Sudan Update
(This letter was written to the Guardian on 2nd April but was not published.)