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How do companies respond when they receive complaints about their marketing of baby foods? In this section we present and analyse company correspondence about violations highlighted in the Campaign for Ethical Marketing.



The tip of the iceberg

The World Health Organisation's (WHO) International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes is a minimum requirement for protecting infant health. Subsequent Resolutions of the World Health Assembly have clarified and amplified the provisions of the International Code in the light of experience and new scientific knowledge.

Every month Baby Milk Action's Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet highlights a number of violations of the International Code and Resolutions, giving concerned individuals the information they need to complain to companies.

It is very useful to receive copies of correspondence from letter writers as we do not contact companies over all of the cases we feature - generally we already have on record the company policy on the type of violations featured. The intention of the action sheet is to assist concerned individuals in encouraging companies to fulfil their obligations. It is important to remember that companies are responsible for monitoring their own activities and ensuring they are in line with the International Code and Resolutions.

  • If they have written a letter to a government attempting to weaken a law, they are aware of it.
  • If they have produced materials on infant feeding, they are responsible for the text and images used.
  • If their product labels undermine breastfeeding, it is because the words have been carefully chosen.
  • If free supplies or gifts are being distributed by a company's sales force, then who is providing them?

We are in contact with companies on a number of issues and some of the responses featured in this section have been received by Baby Milk Action. Others have been forwarded to us by our letter writers. In all cases we have quoted the company's response in full and without modification. We do, however, comment on what is said to reveal any flaws in the company policy and when a company agrees to change its policies to bring them into line with the International Code and Resolutions we acknowledge it. Not all cases have responses at the present time and we will update these reports periodically as new information comes in. Sometimes it takes years to force a company to change.

It is important to remember that we do not feature all cases we hear about - our resources for researching violations are limited and we do not publicise a case unless we have checked it for accuracy. Those cases we do hear about can only be a small selection of the violations going on around the world. Unlike the companies, we do not have a presence everywhere they are marketing their products.

So what you will see in this page is the tip of the iceberg. But its chilling aspect reveals the methods companies use to undermine breastfeeding and encourage inappropriate infant feeding. Reversing the decline in breastfeeding could save 1.5 million infant lives every year. We can chip away at the tip of the iceberg and you can help us, but we also need your help for our campaigns to strengthen independent, transparent and effective controls on the marketing of the baby feeding industry to put an end to all malpractice.

This page was last updated on 4th March 1998

Company responses to July 97 violations

Inappropriate language in Malawi from Wyeth

(Ref: 97/02)

Wyeth's responded to Baby Milk Action's complaint as follows:

This is in response to your recent letter regarding the labels of Wyeth's infant formula products in Malawi.

Wyeth's infant formulas S-26 and SMA which are sold in Malawi are manufactured in Ireland. Previously they had English language labels with graphic preparation instructions which are easily understood by mothers regardless of their language skills. In order to comply with the requests of the Ministry of Health, products shipped to Malawi by Wyeth in the future will have local language underlid inserts.

Your letter quoted Dr. Sangala from the MoH stating "S-26 label instructions in English and Afrikaans...".English/Afrikaans labels are produced by Infacare in South Africa. You may wish to contact them directly for information about their business. The labels cited in your letter were not shipped to Malawi by Wyeth, although there is some cross-border trade in that area by independent retailers over whom we have no control.


Beverly Halchak
Director Maternal-Child Health.


Baby Milk Action's evaluation:

  • As Ireland is in the EC Wyeth is guilty of breaking the EC Export Directive as well as the International Code for not labelling its products in the appropriate languages.

  • Under-lid labels are not sufficient to warn mothers and others about the risks of artificial infant feeding and the superiority of breastfeeding. Graphics are a good way of providing certain information, but they should not replace the written warnings.

  • The Ministry of Health, Malawi reported in November 1997 that it views under-lid labels as insufficient.

  • Infacare, which manufactures breastmilk substitutes under licence from Wyeth in South Africa, was contacted at the same time as Wyeth and no response has been received.

Inappropriate language in Malawi from Nestlé

(Ref: 97/03)

Mr. Peter Brabeck, Nestlé CEO, made an undertaking at the 1997 Nestlé shareholder AGM to include Chichewa, the national language of Malawi, on labels of products sold in the country after Baby Milk Action had campaigned for 4 years on the issue. Nestlé had ignored the same request from the Government of Malawi, made in 1994. Mr. Brabeck stated at the AGM that Nestlé had not known which language to use. Baby Milk Action followed this up with Nestlé. The following letter was received [Baby Milk Action comments in green after the * symbol]:

I refer to your letter of July 2nd addressed to the Nestlé Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, and I am enclosing for your information the reply we have received from our colleagues in South Africa. [* quoted below]

For the sake of accuracy I should point out that Mr. Brabeck did not say that Nestlé was unaware of the request from the Malawi authorities for instructions in Chichewa to be included on labels of Nestlé infant formula sold in Malawi. He simply alluded to the fact that the Department of Linguistics of the University of Malawi has yet to provide us with a translation of the label texts which we requested. [* Nestlé is claiming that it was unable to obtain a translation in the three years that passed since the Government's request]

With regard to your remark about monitoring conducted by Baby Milk Action and others, I already expressed our appreciation to you for drawing our attention again to the language issue in Malawi, and the appropriate action was immediately taken [*four years after the original request]. However as pointed out in my letter of 9th April, the only sensible way to make progress is for governments to implement the aim and principles of the International Code as most appropriate to national requirements, to issue clear definitions and implementation instructions, and to establish effective and impartial monitoring procedures under government responsibility (providing a forum for permanent dialogue with all concerned parties - including consumers and manufacturers). [*...but this case shows Nestlé is prepared to ignore governments as well as independent monitoring organisations]

As my colleagues in Vevey [*Nestlé HQ, Switzerland] pointed out in their July 25th letter to your Public Relations co-ordinator, Mrs. Rundall [*Patti Rundall is Baby Milk Action's International Coordinator, but Nestlé attempts to portray our genuine concerns as a PR exercise], monitoring by third parties, using questionable definitions and methodology, simply leads to confusion and controversy.

I hope the above clarifies our position.

Yours sincerely,

Ralph Claydon
Corporate Affairs Manager


The following letter from Nestlé South Africa was attached:

Dear Ralph,

I refer to your letter of July 2nd addressed to Mr. Brabeck by Baby Milk Action.

I had a constructive meeting with the Chief of Health Services, Dr. Sangala, last month and we agreed that this matter should be reactivated. Dr. Sangala has kindly undertaken to pass our labels to Professor Moto, Head of Linguistics at the University of Malawi, and once the necessary translations are completed they will be returned to me for preparation of the layouts. The bromides will then be sent to Malawi for checking and as soon as they [sic] necessary approvals are received, we can go to print.

Provided there are no further delays in obtaining the translation, the labels should be available on the market by October 1997. I should point out, however, that in view of the problem of infiltration from neighbouring countries, it is impossible to guarantee that all infant formula sold in Malawi will have the new label. Dr. Sangala understands this.

I hope this information will be useful.

Kind regards,

MC Alcock.


Baby Milk Action's evaluation:

    It is illuminating to return to the Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet which featured this violation to re-read Nestlé's denials of the need to label in Chichewa and accusation that Baby Milk Action's called on it to do so demonstrated a "lack of logic".

    This case demonstrates that public action can force a company as powerful as Nestlé to change its practices.

    In November 1997 Dr. Sangala reported that the Ministry of Health had rejected Nestlé's labels and was examining using labels similar to those used in Tanzania, which stress cup-feeding rather than bottle-feeding.

Milupa's bear-faced cheek in the UK

(Ref: 97/05)

The violation concerned advertisements for Milupa milks in UK health worker magazines. The advertisements featured teddy-bears rather than scientific and factual information.

Baby Milk Action complained to Cambridgeshire Trading Standards Division about these advertisements and received the following reply:

Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations 1995

I refer to your enquiry regarding the advertisements which have appeared in "Health Visitor" and "Midwife" publications.

Although I am still waiting comments from LACOTS labelling panel I have now received contact from representatives of the above mentioned publications.

Both professional organisations have responded positively by indicating that they do not intend to publish these specific Milupa advertisements again until the matter has been resolved.

I am informed that both representatives considered carefully the advertisements before having them published and were of the opinion that they did not contravene the regulations. Further they were adamant that the journals were for the professional officers only. They also maintain from their experience that the journals were not shown to members of the general public and therefore people would not be influenced by the style and contents of the advertisement.

I will contact you again when I have further information.


Baby Milk Action's evaluation:

    The International Code requires that information provided to health workers is scientific and factual (Article 7.2). One of the Milupa advertisements is reproduced on the action sheet and it clearly goes beyond this. The Code also bans promotion through the health care system (Article 6.2). Such advertisements are idealizing the products (breaking Article 4.2) and serve to promote them whether mothers see the advertisements directly or not. The International Code bans marketing personnel from direct or indirect contact with mothers (Article 5.5).

    Baby Milk Action has worked long and hard to have the UK law brought into line with the International Code and Resolutions and provided comments on the LACOTS guidelines. It remains to be seen whether the existing regulations will put an end to such advertisements.

Company responses to August 97 violations

Play spot the difference with Nestlé

(Ref: 97/09)

This violation concerned Nestlé's Lactogen 1 (infant formula) and Lactogen 2 (follow-on formula) which are re-packaged in Bangladesh almost identically. This is prohibited by an export directive (92/52/EEC) of the European Union (EU). We were curious as to whether the formula originated within the EU and the re-packaging was an attempt to circumvent this regulation.

We also asked Nestlé to ensure that there was no risk of confusion between Lactogen 1 and Lactogen 2 in line with the export directive. As follow-on milks replace that part of a baby's diet best provided by breastmilk, they are breastmilk substitutes and come within the scope of the International Code. Nestlé disputes this and often advertises follow-on milks, which also serves to promote its similarly packaged and named infant formula. Nestlé sent the following response:


I understand from my colleague at our Head Office in Switzerland, Susan Jongeneel, that you are seeking information concerning the country of origin of Lactogen, Cerelac and Nespray products sold in Bangladesh.

I can confirm that such information is not available, however, I can assure you that all labels comply with the relevant laws.

Yours sincerely,

Ralph Claydon
Corporate Affairs Manager.


Baby Milk Action's evaluation:

    It appears that this promotional method will continue until greater pressure is brought to bear on Nestlé.

Company responses to September 97 violations

Nestlé flouts Gabon's requirements

(Ref: 97/10)

This violation concerns Nestlé's promotion of artificial infant feeding by providing free samples of Cerelac (a cereal based complementary food) and provision of gifts and film shows to health professionals and mothers at clinics. The Government specifically requested that Nestlé stop using these methods when refusing Nestlé permission to advertise Cerelac on television.

Nestlé responded to a letter writer [Baby Milk Action comments in green after the * symbol]:

Thank you for your letter about Nestlé and baby milk.

Nestlé has always believed that breast-feeding is the best way to feed a baby, and we continue to fully support that view. We are committed to helping to promote breast-feeding, for example by the production of leaflets, posters and videos [* which generally serve to promote Nestlé's logo and often contain suspect information] by clear statements on our packs and any educational materials about the benefits of breast-feeding [*often such statements are then undermined by additional text as many of the examples we feature demonstrate] and by co-operation with other parties in educational programmes [* this violation itself demonstrates lack of co-operation!].

We market baby milk ethically, within the guidelines of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Code and within any national laws. For example in all developing countries we do not advertise baby milk to mothers or to the public [* follow-on milks are advertised in many countries], we do not use pictures of babies on our packs [* following pressure from the Nestlé boycott] and we do not give free supplies to mothers [* see other violation reports].

In Gabon there has been a degree of confusion over the scope of the local legislation implementing the WHO Code, which Nestlé has been attempting to clarify with the appropriate authorities [* Nestlé has received a very clear message which it has stated it will ignore]. We have also been encouraging the government to set up local monitoring procedures of the WHO Code [* which Nestlé wishes to be part of].

[Two paragraphs referring to violation ref: comp/97/11 not quoted]

Nestlé is extremely proud of its record of achievement in developing countries, where we have a long term commitment to working with local communities. We believe that it is through co-operation and sensitivity to the needs and cultures of these communities that real benefit can be brought to these countries, for example through the creation of employment, education and training, health and environmental projects.

I enclose a copy of our Charter which outlines our infant feeding policy and practices in developing countries, along with some further information. I hope this will be of interest.

Yours sincerely,

Denise Briggs, BSc (Hons), SRD
Specialist in Dietetics
Nestlé UK.


Baby Milk Action's evaluation:

    Nestlé received a very clear message from the Ministry of Health, Gabon dated 8th July 1997 rejecting its request to advertise Cerelac on television, a request that had already been rejected. The letter also notes that Nestlé continues other promotional techniques as described on the action sheet "in flagrant violation of the Ministerial decision of 1991".

    That Nestlé is "confused" and is seeking "clarification" beggars belief. It is simply trying to divert criticism by misrepresenting its activities and policies.

    Baby Milk Action has produced a leaflet showing how Nestlé's "Charter" is weaker than the International Code and Resolutions, allowing activities which are banned. In addition, Nestlé breaks its own weak commitment as described in the "Charter".

Nestlé attempts to silence critics in the Philippines

(Ref: 97/11)

In July 1997 a Philippines TV station, RPN Channel 9, carried a report of Nestlé's unethical marketing practices. Particular reference was made to Nestlé's use of midwives, traditional birth attendants and community-based health volunteers as extended sales staff paid with gifts or money on a commission basis (this was raised by a doctor from the Philippines at Nestlé's 1996 shareholder AGM). The next day station managers received a memorandum threatening to remove Nestlé's advertising from the station.

Nestlé responded to a letter writer [Baby Milk Action comments in green after the * symbol]:

[The bulk of this letter is quoted with regard to violation ref: comp/97/10]

In the Philippines Nestlé's practices are fully in line with the requirements of the WHO Code and our Charter. Article 7.3 of the Code states that, No financial or material inducement to promote products within the scope of the Code should be offered by health workers...., nor should these be accepted by health workers... Nestlé's practice is in full compliance with this requirement.

We are also saddened that Baby Milk Action should see fit to misrepresent an issue in the Philippines regarding a television item, and are even more amazed because the incident occurred over 14 years ago! [*Nestlé is referring to another example of its meddling with the media in the Philippines, possibly the visit of the UNICEF Ambassadress of Goodwill for Breastfeeding, Liv Ulmann]. We believe that in all news items all aspects of the issue should be included.


Baby Milk Action's evaluation:

    The memo referred to on the action sheet was received by the TV station on 31st July 1997 after a programme on infant feeding was broadcast on 30th July 1997. If Nestlé UK is unaware of what happened in this incident how can it so reassuring about the activities of its sales staff anywhere?


Company responses to October 97 violations

Nestlé's latest marketing strategy - water

(Ref: 97/13)

The violation concerns an advertisement for Valvert water in a Russian parenting magazine, which promoted artificial infant feeding. It included a picture of an infant being bottle-fed. In response to this campaign sheet we received a similar advertisement which Nestlé had placed in a magazine in Cote d'Ivoire in April 1995.

Nestlé responded to a letter writer:

Thank you for your further letters to Mr. Brabeck and Mr. Harris about our marketing of mineral water.

The allegation made with regard to Valvert mineral water in Russia is not an infringement of the WHO Code, and our waters are not marketed as breast-milk substitutes. But in view of our policy of support for breast-feeding, we have decided that in future we will not make references to bottles and formula in materials produced. However, please note that thanks to its low mineral content Valvert is suitable for use with infants and this fact will be mentioned where appropriate.

Yours sincerely

Denise Briggs, BSc (Hons), SRD
Specialist in Dietetics.


Baby Milk Action's evaluation

    Despite Nestlé's assurance the scope of the Code does include bottled-water when marketed as a breastmilk substitute. WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding until the age of about 6 months so other foods, including water, fed in this time are substituting for breastmilk. Nestlé itself is stating that it will promote Valvert water as suitable for use with infants.

    It is also interesting to note that research has highlighted the risks to health of bottled-water with low mineral content. See Bruce RC, Kliegman RM. Hyponatraemic seizures among infants fed with commercial bottled drinking water - Wisconsin 1993. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 43(35), 9 September 1994, pp 641-643. Two infants were admitted to hospital and treated for seizures associated with low sodium levels caused by excessive water intoxication. Baby Milk Action is addressing the issue of accurate labelling.

    Nestlé's promise to stop promoting bottles and formula in its advertisements for bottled-water is to be welcomed, however, and clearly shows the value of the Campaign for Ethical Marketing. Our thanks go to everyone who wrote letters of complaint to Nestlé.

Hipp teas take the biscuit

(Ref: 97/15)

The violation concerns Hipp teas labelled as suitable for use from one week of age in Armenia. We also encourage letter writers to ask Hipp to ensure products are labelled in the appropriate language as many have appeared labelled in German only.

Hipp wrote to a letter writer [Baby Milk Action comments in bold after the * symbol]:

We kindly refer to your above mentioned letter and would like to answer as follows:

We are an European company and produce baby food according to the guidelines of the EC. These guidelines correspond to the latest scientific findings for baby and infant food.

Teas from the 1st week onwards:
Fennel- and Camomile Tea are very popular with mothers because of the calming effect and have also been recommended and frequently used for a very long time.

Teas for infants are not regulated in the EU-decree for baby food and there is no ESPGAN-comment on tea drinks either.

Our teas include sugar and herbal extracts. According to the EU guide-lines it is allowed to use sugar for starting foods which are fed to babies from birth onwards. Therefore there are no reasons against feeding infants with teas including sugar. [* Hipp's logic is that infant formula is allowed to contain sugar and its teas also contain sugar, therefore they are suitable for infants!]

In addition we would like to inform you that all our products sold in Russia are labelled with German/Russian lables [sic].

Best regards,

Mag. Kaindlstorfer
Marketing and Sales Director.


Baby Milk Action's evaluation:

    Hipp's response is worrying because there is serious concern about the promotion of sweetened drinks for infant feeding and it has clearly stated it will continue to promote them for use from one week of age. These products are not suitable as breastmilk substitutes and Hipp fails to acknowledge that exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for about the first six months of life.

    Hipp's response does not mention the International Code and Resolutions at all, instead it highlights the failure of the EU to address the issue of marketing of infant teas. Baby Milk Action has been campaigning for a long time for EU directives to be brought in line with the International Code and Resolutions and will continue in this work. We will also continue to call on companies to abide by them independently of other measures as Article 11.3 requires.

Company responses to November 97 violations

Nestlé arrives in Armenia - new market - old methods

(Ref: 97/16)

The violation concerned promotion of Nan infant formula on distributor's vehicles and advertisements for Cerelac on trams. Nestlé infant formula had earlier been advertised on television. Materials violating the International Code and Resolutions had been found in shops.

Nestlé wrote to Baby Milk Action [Baby Milk Action comments in green after the * symbol]:

Thank you for your letter of the 29th October addressed to the Nestlé Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Peter Brabeck.

We are about to appoint official importers in Armenia who will be aware of our responsibilities under the WHO Code. Up to now, many [* but not all?] Nestlé products are imported indirectly through traders in Europe and Russia.

We are in the process of reviewing our distribution arrangements in Armenia [* so Nestlé is distributing?] which will enable the monitoring of compliance with the International Code.

Thank you once again for bringing these matters to our attention.

Yours sincerely

Ralph Claydon
Corporate Affairs Manager.


Baby Milk Action's evaluation:

    It is unclear whether Nestlé is saying the TV and tram advertisements and the promotional materials are the responsibility of traders or are activities under Nestlé's existing distribution arrangements. Baby Milk Action has written to Mr. Peter Brabeck for clarification.

    In December the advertisement for Nan infant formula was removed from the vehicle pictured on the Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet and Nan posters removed from the shop. This shows the effectiveness of the campaign. Other violations continue, however, and we have asked Nestlé to indicate when its new monitoring system will be effective.

Company responses to December 97 violations

Wyeth's "new improved" marketing strategy reaches Kenya

(Ref: 97/19)

The violation concerns the promotion of SMA formulas containing Nucleotides with the suggestion that they are equivalent to breastfeeding.

Nutricia responded to a letter writer:

This is in response to your letter addressed to Mr. J. R. Stafford regarding Wyeth infant formulas in Kenya. I have been asked to reply to your concerns.

Your letter states that our infant formula literature implies equivalence to breast milk.

Your impression must be based on incorrect information. All of our literature for our infant formulas states that breast milk is best for babies and that infant formula is intended for babies who are not breast-fed. This is true regardless of where the literature is produced. We do not claim that our products are equivalent to breast milk, nor do we use misleading claims. In fact, all of our infant formula literature contains the wording required by Article 4.2 of the WHO Code. Our literature for health professionals is factual and scientific as per Article 7.2 of the WHO Code.

Please be assured that we view our responsibilities regarding the WHO Code very seriously. We are committed to providing the highest quality products for babies who are not breast fed and we market those products in ways which do not interfere with the promotion of breast-feeding. We believe that decisions regarding infant feeding are best made by and informed mother with the advice of her health professional.

Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to respond to your concerns.


Beverly Halchak
Director Maternal-Child Health.


Baby Milk Action's evaluation:

    The cover of the two leaflets featured (and pictured) on the Campaign for Ethical Marketing state, "Her milk naturally confers immunity..." and "A mother's milk naturally confers nucleotides." The text further builds this image of equivalence between the formula containing nucleotides and mother's milk. The smallest text on the leaflet is the Important Notice required by International Code Article 4.2, which also states, "Such materials should not use any pictures or text which may idealize the use of breast-milk substitutes."

    While Wyeth claims to support mothers receiving advice from health professionals it is simultaneously promoting its "careline" as an alternative (see violation ref: comp/98/02 on the January 1998 action sheet).

    As in other cases we see that companies are unable to adequately control where their products are sold. While this is a cause for concern in itself it also demonstrates the need to abide by the International Code and Resolutions as well as national measures. The International Code was adopted as a minimum requirement and companies are called on to abide by it independently of other measures.

Nestlé Cerelac makes baby a star in the Middle East

(Ref: 97/21)

The violation concerns Nestlé's promotion of Cerelac with TV advertisements which idealise artificial infant feeding. We asked people to request that Nestlé respects Resolution 49.15 with regard to promotion of complementary foods and to explain its policy on the Resolutions of the World Health Assembly.

Nestlé responded to a letter writer:

I have been asked by Mr. Brabeck [Nestlé's Chief Executive Officer] to respond to your letter of 7th January concerning the marketing of Nestlé's weaning foods.

First let me assure you that Nestlé does not market weaning foods in ways that undermine exclusive and sustained breastfeeding. Nestlé does however endorse WHO's International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and enforces company guidelines based on the Code in developing countries.

Nestlé supports the Code because it was preceded by extensive consultation with all parties, ending in a negotiated consensus which included industry. The Code does not apply to any food, whether commercial or not, which is introduced during the weaning process, unless it is marketed as a breast-milk substitute. The official WHO recommendation for the introduction of weaning foods is 4 to 6 months of age. Therefore, Cerelac would fall outside of the scope of the Code i.e. Cerelac is marketed as a weaning food that should not be used before 4 to 6 months of age.

Unfortunately the same scrutiny that was given to the Code was not used in the development of the World Health Assembly Resolution 49.15. Less than one third of Member States took part in the discussion of the text. No written scientific information was produced to justify the change in the official recommendation of WHO. However, since then activists have unilaterally used WHA Resolutions to claim that such Resolutions change the Code. WHO has acknowledge that Resolutions do not alter the Code.

Secondly, I share your concern about the weaning period of a child's development. While I believe that Nestlé has been very responsible in its approach to the marketing of it's weaning foods, this in and of itself does not resolve the weaning dilemma that faces many mothers in the developing world. I was the founder and director of a hospital in the developing world that treated third degree malnutrition in children. Virtually all of these had been breast-fed. Let me hasten to say it was not the breast-milk that was inadequate but that most of the problems were related, in one way or another, to the critical period of the introduction of weaning foods.

If we are to reduce morbidity, mortality and the awful consequences of growth faltering, solutions must be found to address the issues that surround the weaning dilemma. I feel that the solutions can be found by utilizing the resources and the cooperation of the private sectors, governments and international agencies.

This is a very complex issue and I could gone on for pages... but I want [sic]. However if you would like to discuss this further I would be pleased to hear from you.

Sincerely yours,

Dr Thad M. Jackson.


Baby Milk Action's evaluation:

    This is an amazing letter for several reasons.

    Firstly, for the attack on the Resolutions of the World Health Assembly. The Assembly is the policy setting body of the World Health Organisation (according to WHO's constitution, Article 18). WHO have made it clear that the International Code and Resolutions have equal status. The claim that the International Code was negotiated with industry is incorrect. The Code was prepared by WHO and UNICEF who consulted many groups.

    Industry was not happy with the resulting International Code. Nestlé's then Vice-President, Ernest Saunders, wrote as President of the industry body to the Executive Board complaining that:

    "The World Industry has found this present draft code unacceptable and ... has already expressed its concern to the WHO Secretariat that a single detailed and highly restrictive code, as presently drafted for review at this meeting, would be often irrelevant and unworkable..."

    The Code was adopted World Health Assembly in 1981 despite these protestations and, after pressure from the Nestlé boycott, Nestlé agreed to abide by it in 1984.

    The second amazing feature of the response from Thad Jackson is that in July 1997 he flew in from the USA to be part of Nestlé's lobby group at the Church of England Synod. Fearing the resumption of a boycott call by Synod following the publication of a damning report entitled Cracking the Code the Nestlé representatives issued a statement of support for a motion put before Synod. This motion included a call for the International Code and Resolutions to be implemented by governments and followed by companies. Evidently Thad has a short memory.

    Thirdly, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) met with Nestlé on 13th October 1997 and followed this up with a letter which included the following statement:

    "On the question of the appropriate age for the introduction of complementary foods, we feel bound to adhere to the policy recommendations made by the World Health Assembly in Resolution 47.5 (May 1994) in terms of which complementary feeding practices should be fostered from the age of about six months. This shift from 'four-to-six' month wording used in previous Resolutions is consistent with on-going scientific investigation."

    Baby Milk Action will continue to call on companies to abide by the International Code and Resolutions and has made Nestlé's change of heart known to the Church of England Board of Social Responsibility.

Nestlé is not the only company which violates the International Code. To find out why Nestlé is the target of an international boycott, read the Boycott News newsletters or visit our boycott page.