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Baby Milk Action

Email update : 7 February 2013

Nestlé spied on campaigners - court orders companies to pay damages to victims

Nestlé has been ordered by a Swiss court to pay damages and costs to members of Attac Switzerland, after it infiltrated the group with spies who reported to a former MI6 officer working for Nestlé. Securitas, which ran the spies for Nestlé, has also been ordered to pay damages to the campaigners.

Attac book

One of the spies joined the editorial board for the book Attac against the Nestlé Empire - Baby Milk Action spoke at the launch of the book in 2004 in Nestlé's home town of Vevey, Switzerland.

In typical media management style, Nestlé responded publicly to the court order by saying it would study the Judge’s ruling and, "If it should turn out that a Nestlé employee had acted negligently, we shall take appropriate measures."

Fortunately Le Courier newspaper was not so naive as to fall for Nestlé's spin that the spying operation may have been an the over-enthusiastic rogue employee breaking the rules, commenting (26 January 2013):

"One may recall that the [Nestlé] defense attorneys had worked diligently to present the ATTAC members as potential criminals in order to better justify 'the preventive observation' of their activities. They had also declared that owing to their militant commitment, they could not 'claim such an extended protection of the private sphere' as an ordinary citizen."

In other words, Nestlé’s defense in court was campaigners are fair game to be spied on. The Judge disagreed.

For a press release from Attac Switzerland on the spying operation that ran from 2003 to at least 2008, see:

Although spying and then trying to excuse it in court is shocking, it is in keeping with Nestlé's past and current behaviour.

For example, Nestlé is currently attempting to economically blackmail the Philippines Government into weakening its baby milk marketing regulations, just as it threatened Zimbabwe in the 1990s.

Last year Nestlé opened a special hi-tech centre at its headquarters to monitor and respond to comments on the internet. In 2010 an online marketing company claimed in its promotional materials that Nestlé was paying its celebrity contacts US$10,000 a tweet for promoting Nestlé on Twitter.

For Baby Milk Action's reaction, links to news reports and a reminder of other past and present scandals involving Nestlé's use of the dark arts, see:

Tesco, Morrisons and Boots breaking the rules in the UK

Many thanks to everyone who is reporting examples of aggressive baby milk marketing in the UK.

We have added some recent cases to the Baby Feeding Law Group monitoring project, which Baby Milk Action coordinates. Click on the links below or go to the 'monitoring reports' section of:

Even though we do not feature every case reported to us, all evidence is useful as we campaign for companies to market baby milks and feeding bottles responsibly:

These reports will be updated with responses from the companies and the authorities responsible for enforcing the UK marketing regulations and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), as appropriate.

The following reports have been updated with the news that the ASA has ruled the advertising should not appear again in the same form.

If you spot marketing practices that you think might break the rules let us know via the 'report violations' section of:

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