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Baby Milk Action welcomes opportunity to present evidence to European Parliament.

Press Release: 12th May 1999

Baby Milk Action has today welcomed the opportunity to submit evidence to the European Parliament about the marketing malpractice of Nestlé and other baby food companies with a presence in Europe. Public hearings are scheduled to take place later this year as the Parliament acts on a resolution adopted in January 1999 to make companies more accountable for their activities in developing countries.

Richard Howitt MEP, who steered the resolution through the European Parliament, expressed his hope that Nestlé would be one of the first companies examined. Mr. Howitt's comments were made in response to a highly embarrassing ruling against Nestlé from the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) published today. Nestlé had claimed in an advertisement that it markets infant formula ethically and responsibly and was unable to substantiate this and other claims in the face of evidence submitted by Baby Milk Action.

Richard Howitt, who represents South Essex, said: "The ASA finding blows apart Nestlé's pretence that it is acting responsibly in developing countries."

Welcoming the opportunity to present evidence of Nestlé's on-going and widespread violations of the marketing code for breastmilk substitutes, Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator for Baby Milk Action said: "Nestlé responds to criticism with public relations stunts such as its discredited advertisement. We hope that the public hearings will demonstrate the clear need for independent, transparent and effective controls on the marketing activities of companies such as Nestlé, which put their own profits before the health of infants."

The World Health Organisation estimates that 1.5 million infants die around the world every year because they are not breastfed.

At a press conference held at Save the Children to mark the publication of the ruling in the ASA report today (12th May 1999), Baby Milk Action launched its own new advertisement which includes the statement: "Latest reports provide evidence that Nestlé continues widespread violations of the marketing code for breastmilk substitutes." The advertisement will appear in the media shortly.

Mike Brady said: "We are prepared to submit evidence to support the claims in our advertisement should Nestlé or anyone else wish to challenge it."

(Photo: Richard Howitt MEP, member for South Essex).

Notes for editors

  1. For further information contact Mike Brady or Patti Rundall at: Baby Milk Action, 23 St. Andrew's Street, Cambridge, CB2 3AX.
    Tel: (01223) 464420. Fax: (01223) 464417.

  2. Baby Milk Action can provide photos and video footage relating to Nestlé marketing malpractice and boycott demonstrations. We can offer exclusive access to documents and information on a number of connected stories.

  3. Evidence of Nestlé's marketing malpractice can be viewed on Baby Milk Action's web-site (Campaign for Ethical Marketing).

  4. The European Parliament Development Committee report is entitled: EU standards for European Enterprises operating in developing countries: towards a European Code of Conduct. It was adopted by the Parliament on 15th January 1999.

  5. There will be a demonstration outside Nestlé (UK) HQ in Croydon on 22nd May 1999 at 11.00. Campaigners will also be present at Nestlé shareholder meeting in Vevey on 3rd June.

  6. Questions for ASA can be directed to Chris Reed (Tel: +44 (0)171 436 1698) or Steve Ballinger (Tel: +44 (0)171 580 1339).

  7. In 1995 Baby Milk Action was called on to defend claims made in a boycott advertisement. The ASA found in favour of Baby Milk Action. The claims were: "Over 4,000 babies die every day in poor countries because they're not breastfed. That's not conjecture, it's UNICEF fact" and "They [Nestlé] aggressively promote their baby milks, breaking a World Health Organisation code of marketing."

  8. Marketing Week magazine asked Marjorie Thompson of Saatchi & Saatchi how Nestlé should respond to the bad publicity surrounding its baby food marketing activities and reported (11th February 1999): "She suggests the way to counteract the bad publicity is to go on the offensive by using advertising showing the benefits of Nestlé's financial contributions to charities..."

  9. The Nestlé boycott first began in 1977 and today is active in 18 countries (it is estimated that the boycott had cost Nestlé US$1,070 million by 1984 - Ref: N Comme Nestlé, Jean Claude Buffle). It is the UK's most popular consumer boycott according to a survey by Ethical Consumer Magazine (December 1997). The Liberal Democrats adopted a motion supporting the boycott and the marketing code at their Edinburgh Conference this year. The International Nestlé Boycott Committee has a standing agreement to meet with Nestlé should the company having something meaningful to put forward to demonstrate a change in its policy and practice.

  10. Nestlé is the target of boycott action because it controls about 40% of the baby milk market and is the largest single source of violations of the International Code and Resolutions. Nestlé also takes the lead in attempting to undermine government implementation of these measures.

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