African health campaigners
welcome boycott of Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Fringe
15th August 2001
The coordinator of
a network of African health campaigners has welcomed the boycott
of the Nestlé Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Festival.
Top UK comedy performers and actors are calling for up-and-coming
acts to boycott the award in favour of a new corporate-free 'Tap
Water Award'. The boycott began spontaneously following a newspaper
interview given by Rob Newman last month.
Emma Thompson, Julie
Christie and Victoria Wood are amongst those calling
for the boycott because Perrier is owned by Nestlé. Nestlé
is the world's largest food company and stands accused of contributing
to the unnecessary death and suffering of infants because of its
marketing of breastmilk substitutes. According to UNICEF reversing
the decline in breastfeeding could save the lives of 1.5 million
infants around the world every year.
African health campaigners
have welcomed the boycott call. Pauline
Kisanga, Coordinator of the International Baby Food Action
Network (IBFAN) in Africa,
speaking from Swaziland, said:
Perrier Award is a big publicity for Nestlé and its products
and the company uses such public images to establish itself
with our governments in the Africa region. News of the Perrier
Award boycott has reached us in Africa. I would encourage all
our allies to take part in the boycott. The Nestlé boycott
is very important for raising awareness among our health workers
and women in Africa and putting pressure on Nestlé."
The 20-country Nestlé
Boycott is supported in the UK by over 100 church, health
and consumer groups, over 90 businesses, 78 student unions, 17
local authorities, 12 trade unions, 74 politicians and political
parties and many celebrities.
Oscar winner, Emma
Thompson said: "The Perrier Awards should be boycotted by all
right-thinking people, because Nestle has got to be stopped."
Julie Christie said:
"I've been supporting the Nestle Boycott for years
due to the company's irresponsible marketing of baby food. This
has brought about children being deprived of the early natural
immunization that breast milk provides. The use of contaminated
water is another issue in rural areas and, a final twist is
that by using Nestle milk the baby becomes hooked onto something
which costs money. Nestle owns many companies and Perrier, unbeknownst
to most people, is one of them. I hope that up and coming comedians
will think about these issues and consider joining the Nestle
Boycott by declining to support the Perrier Awards and would
be participants could instead enter for the Tap water awards
which will hurt no-one in the process of making them laugh."
Victoria Wood said:
"Comedians can manage without the Perrier Award and the world
should be able to manage without Perrier. I support the Boycott."
Victoria Wood also
raised concerns about the environmental impact of bottling water:
"The idea that
the only way to get clean drinking water is to pay for some
in a bottle is appalling. No one has the right to corner the
world's drinking supply, that's like something from science
fiction. I very happily drink tap water most of the time. I'm
not comfortable about the waste involved in producing a plastic
bottle just so I can drink something I can get from a tap."
launched its 'Pure Life' brand of bottled water in Pakistan its
aggressive promotion campaign was criticised for undermining efforts
to provide piped drinking water for all (see Update
An alternative 'Tap
Water' award has been launched by the Bongo Club in Edinburgh
which will host over 100 music and comedy acts, all of which have
agreed to boycott Perrier. If financial backing for the Tap Water
Award is achieved The Bongo Club intends to set up a fund , which
will enable cash-strapped artists to bring shows to the Fringe.
Bongo Club coordinator Suzanne
"I'm hoping that
we can establish the Tap Water Awards as an alternative, and
encourage people to use comedy to raise awareness. We are hoping
to take it further and make it an award for all the other comedy
festivals around the world . If we can make it global, we can
see that really having an effect on Perrier and Nestlé."
Patti Rundall, Policy
Director of Baby Milk Action said:
"The boycott of
the Perrier Awards started spontanously - with no huge PR budget
behind it. But in just these last few days its shown how much
can be done with just the simple truth. Before now, many people
were unaware that Nestle bought Perrier in 1992 and that it
is one of its range of 12,000 products embroiled in disturbing
global politics. The Tap Water awards will provide free thinking
comedians with an opportunity to say whatever needs to be said
- without fear of upsetting sponsors."
A website dedicated
to helping people in the United States prevent damage to their
communities water supplies by multinational water bottling companies
is also calling for a boycott of Nestle and Perrier (Ref. 1).
Following an independent study, the World Wildlife Fund is now
urging people to drink tap water for the benefit of the environment
and their wallets. WWF found that bottled water can be 1000 times
more expensive than tap water, yet there are more standards regulating
tap water in Europe and the US than those applied to the bottled
water industry. According to WWF every year 1.5 million tons of
plastic are used to bottle water (Ref. 2).
a team of staff to counter the international Nestlé boycott,
which has been launched by groups in 20 countries (most recently
in Cameroon by a national NGO which found Nestlé promoting
breastmilk substitutes at health facilities with film shows -
see report in Boycott News
In many news reports
Nestlé falsely claims that its critics refer to marketing
practices it has now stopped. In reality the evidence demonstrates
Nestlé malpractice continues in a systemtic and institutionalised
manner. An international monitoring report launched at the World
Health Assembly in May 2001 shows Nestlé to be responsible
for more violations of the marketing standards adopted by the
Assembly than any other company (see the IBFAN report Breaking
the Rules 2001).
In July Nestlé,
along with other manufacturers of breastmilk substitutes violating
the Code, was excluded from the FTSE4Good
ethical investment index because of its continued violation of
the marketing requirements for breastmilk substitutes.
a Baby Milk Action four-point plan for saving infant lives and
ultimately ending the boycott in March 2001 (see Boycott
Ref. 1: The Nestle
Corporation is Abusing our Country'sMost Important Natural Resource
By Terri Wolfe, President, Save Our Springs, Inc. www.saveamericaswater.com
. Also see http://www.motherjones.com/news_wire/water.html
For more information
contact Baby Milk Action,
23 St Andrews Street, Cambridge, CB2 3AX,
Tel: +44 1223 464420, Fax: +44 1223 464417.
For information on
the Tap Water Award contact Suzanne
Merrall - 0131 556 5204.
Some reports on
Scotsman - 24 July 2001: Comic battles to gag milk powder sponsor
- 24 July 2001: Comedian calls for prize boycott
Independent - 24 July 2001: Comedian calls for a boycott on Perrier
Awards and 'corporate power'
- 31 July 2001: Actress joins call for Perrier boycott
Yahoo - 6 August 2001: Campaigners
call for Perrier Award boycott
Telegraph - 6 August 2001: Stars boycott Fringe awards for comedy
Notes for editors:
For news of other
celebrity endorsers see Boycott News 29.
Baby Milk Action
is a non-profit organisation which aims to save infant lives
and to end the avoidable suffering caused by inappropriate
infant feeding. Baby Milk Action works within the International
Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN)
- a coalition of more than 150 citizen and health worker groups
in more than 90 countries around the world. IBFAN works for
better child health and nutrition through the promotion of
breastfeeding and the elimination of irresponsible marketing
of infants foods, bottles and teats. Some news reports incorrectly
suggest that Baby Milk Action is campaigning for a ban on
infant formula marketing. In reality, Baby Milk Action is
campaigning for companies to market their baby foods in accordance
with the requirements adopted by the World Health Assembly.
The WHO International
Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes was adopted
by the World Health Assembly in 1981. Subsequent Resolutions
have clarified interpretation and addressed changes in marketing
practices and scientific knowledge.
The latest IBFAN
report - Breaking the Rules
2001 - was launched in May this year at the World Health
Assembly to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the adoption
of the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.
The report cites Code violations by artificial baby milk companies,
including promotion via the Internet. (The report can be purchased
from Baby Milk Action's Virtual Shop).
assurances about its marketing practices do not stand up to
scrutiny. In May 1999 the UK Advertising Standards Authority
(ASA) upheld all of Baby Milk Action's complaints about an
anti-boycott advertisement in which Nestlé claimed
to market infant formula 'ethically and responsibly'. The
two-year investigation was one of the longest in the ASA's
history (see report in Boycott
In November 2000
Nestlé was the first company called to give evidence
to the European Parliament Public Hearings on corporate responsibility.
Nestlé refused to attend (see report in Boycott News 29).
- Baby Milk Action
has produced an education pack called Seeing
through the Spin, which is designed for teachers and educators
to help students recognise and deconstruct public relations