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Nestlé proposed sponsorship of Lichfield District Council comes under scrutiny

10th January 2001

Nestlé marketing of baby foods is coming under scrutiny once more after it entered into discussions with Lichfield District Council over a possible sponsorship deal for a theatre scheme. The Council is seeking £1 million. A similar deal collapsed in Stockton last year after Nestlé refused to attend a meeting where the issue was to be addressed through what the Council called "the formal democratic process of hearing both sides of the argument."

Councillor Martin Machray has called for Lichfield District Council to hold a special meeting with Nestlé and Baby Milk Action. According to the Express and Star newspaper (2nd January) Council leader, David Smith, said that he would be happy for Nestlé representatives to talk to councillors. Baby Milk Action has not been contacted and called the Council after receiving a copy of the newspaper report today. A spokesperson informed us that Baby Milk Action is not being invited to make a presentation at this stage. The spokesperson would not say whether Nestlé has already been invited to make a presentation.

When Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council attempted to hold a special meeting on a similar issue last year, Nestlé refused to attend after Baby Milk Action accepted the offer to present its case (see press release 1st September 2000). The proposed sponsorship deal in Stockton collapsed and the Council there is now putting fundraising guidelines in place. Nestlé also refused to attend a Public Hearing on the baby food industry at the European Parliament on 22nd November 2000.

According to UNICEF, reversing the decline in breastfeeding could save the lives of 1.5 million infants around the world every year. Where water is unsafe, an artificially-fed child is up to 25 times more likely to die as a result of diarrhoea than a breastfed child. Nestlé is the target of an international boycott because monitoring by citizens' groups around the world finds it to be responsible for more violations of the marketing standards adopted by the World Health Assembly than any other company.

Dr. Charles Sagoe-Moses, Chair of the Ghanaian Infant Nutrition Action Network, said of the boycott campaign in the UK: "The people there are campaigning because they think they have a voice and they can use their voice to help some people in the developing world who do not have a voice."

Nestlé was advised to go on a "cause-related marketing" offensive by Saatchi and Saatchi in 1999 after the Advertising Standards Authority upheld all of Baby Milk Action's complaints about a Nestlé anti-boycott advertisement. Nestlé had claimed in the advertisement to market infant formula "ethically and responsibly" (see press release 12th May 1999). NCH (formerly National Children's Homes) is one of the organisations which turned down Nestlé money at that time.

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