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The big noise to wake up Nestlé management

Nestlé executive responds to demonstrations with discredited assurances

11th May 2003


Click here for a picture gallery from the Halifax demonstration, with links to hi-res files for publication.

Nestlé was the target of nationwide demonstrations on 10th May - the Saturday before UK National Breastfeeding Week (click here for a QuickTime movie of the Halifax demonstration).

Every 30 seconds a baby dies somewhere in the world because it was not breastfed (WHO statistic). 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, according to UNICEF. Demonstrators will gather again at the end of National Breastfeeding Week at Nestlé's HQ in Croydon on 17th May from 11.00 to mid-day, and attempt to present Chief Executive, Alastair Sykes, with a shaming award from the readers of Ethical Consumer Magazine, who voted Nestlé the 'least ethical company'.

Despite the needless deaths of 1.5 million infants every year, Nestlé continues to aggressively promote its baby foods in violation of international marketing standards, something reported once again in the British Medical Journal in January 2003. Demonstrators marked each death with drums, cymbals etc. between 11.00 and mid-day. Click here for the picture gallery.

Nestlé's Head of Corporate Affairs, Hilary Parsons, appeared on Radio 4's Today programme on the 10th May to repeat discredited claims that Nestlé is doing nothing wrong. When similar claims were made in an anti-boycott advertisement, Nestlé was warned by the UK Advertising Standards Authority not to repeat them. Ms. Parsons demonstrated her contempt for the ASA ruling, for health campaigners around the world and for UN bodies by claiming that Nestlé has systems in place to ensure that its marketing is in accordance with the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981. Yet UNICEF has informed both Nestlé and the European Parliament Public Hearing into Nestlé malpractice that Nestlé's policies are inadequate as they ignore many of the Code's provisions. Nestlé still refuses to make the necessary changes (see the downloads page for briefing papers exposing Nestlé's dishonesty and deception).

Patti Rundall, Baby Milk Action's Policy Director, also interviewed on the Radio 4 programme, referred to independent monitoring and a recent study published in the British Medical Journal in January 2003 which find that banned practices, including distribution free supplies, giving inducements to health workers and promotion breastmilk substitutes, are routine and systematic. Ms. Parsons refused to accept Nestlé has been caught out and repeated her assurances.

Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networling Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, which is currently the secretariat for the International Nestlé Boycott Committee (Nestlé is the target of a boycott in 20 countries), said:

"It is brilliant that the action of demonstrators has brought this topic to the fore in the media once again. Nestlé management are clearly rattled. The assurances given by Nestlé show the company's utter contempt for the truth, for infant lives and for concerns of health advocates as it attempts to divert criticism. The case against Nestlé is rock-solid, supported by documentary evidence. How Nestlé can continue to claim not to promote breastmilk substitutes when people can see their publicity materials with their own eyes if they take the trouble to look is staggering arrogance. It is not for nothing that Nestlé is viewed as our 'least ethical company'."

The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes was adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981 and has been clarified and amplified by subsequent Resolutions. Baby Milk Action is the UK member of the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN). Monitoring conducted around the world finds Nestlé to be responsible for more violations of the Code and Resolutions than any other company.

For further information contact:

Mike Brady, Baby Milk Action, 23 St. Andrew's Street, Cambridge, CB2 3AX, UK.
Tel +44 (0)1223 464420 Fax: +44 (0)1223 464417 Mobile: 07986 736179

The 'broadcasts' section includes an interview with Dr. Oscar Lanza in Bolivia, who speaks of the importance of the boycott, the role of Nestlé in undermining breastfeeding and opposing legislation and the infant deaths he and his fellow campaigners are attempting to prevent.

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