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Nestlé Chief Executive ignores invitation to view evidence of Nestlé baby food marketing malpractice as campaigners demonstrate

15 May 2004

Click here to view a video of the event (you will need RealPlayer to do so, available at

Supporters of the Nestlé boycott gathered at the company’s HQ in Croydon on Saturday 15 May, 11.00 to 12.00 noon, and were joined by members of the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) from Malaysia, Thailand, Argentina and Brazil. The IBFAN experts presented evidence showing how Nestlé aggressively promotes breastmilk substitutes, so contributing to the unnecessary death and suffering of infants around the world.

A group of demonstrators sing a breastfeeding promotion song from Argentina. Click here for a large version for printing (photo credit: Mike Brady)

IBFAN presented evidence gathered from 69 countries to Members of Parliament on the 13 May and appealed for the UK Government to help in stopping malpractice (see IBFAN press release). They travelled on to the World Health Assembly to call for a strong Resolution addressing new marketing strategies and concerns over bacterial contamination of powdered baby milks.

Demonstrations took place at other sites around the country, including leafleting outside supermarkets at the other end of the county in Edinburgh.

Nestlé has been found to be responsible for more of the 2,000 violations contained in the Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules 2004 report than any other company. Over 700 illustrations of companies’ own materials expose their malpractice. The report was launched at a House of Commons meeting hosted by Lynne Jones MP, whose Early Day Motion calling for Government action is gaining significant cross-party support.

Mr. Sykes had been invited to collect a complimentary copy of the Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules 2004 report, which has already been sent to Nestlé S.A., but did not appear. A petition with over 10,000 petition signatures pledging support for the 20-country Nestlé boycott and the report were presented instead to the Communications Director, David Hudson, who was uncommunicative when asked for a comment from a journalist covering the protest.

Over 100 people per week are signing up in support of the boycott.

Click here for a large version for printing (Photo credit: Baby Milk Action)

Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, the UK member of IBFAN, said:

"Nestlé (UK) Chief Executive Alastair Sykes has falsely claimed that Nestlé has abided by the marketing requirements for baby foods for 20 years and says we are not telling the truth about what Nestlé is doing. Don’t take our word for it, look at the company’s own promotional materials, gifts and bogus claims used by Nestlé around the world as it puts its own profits before infant health. In a note in the report I have asked Mr. Sykes to read and digest the monitoring report and to stop talking rubbish about Nestlé's baby food marketing practices.

Nestlé has rejected Baby Milk Action’s four-point plan aimed at saving infant lives and ultimately ending the boycott as it refuses to accept the World Health Assembly position that the marketing requirements are minimum standards for all countries. However, there was a small amount of progress during a week of demonstrations last year, when Nestlé wrote to Baby Milk Action announcing a change to labels of complementary foods, which campaigners had been demanding for 9 years. The monitoring report finds Nestlé has not totally delivered on its promise.

For further information contact Mike Brady: Tel: (01223) 464420. Mobile: 07986 736179 E-mail

Notes for Editors

  1. Nestlé (UK) has its headquarters in St. George’s House, Park Lane, Croydon. Which is a short walk from East Croydon station.

  2. Mr. Sykes, Nestlé (UK) Chief Executive, has claimed Nestlé is doing nothing wrong in recent letters in the Guardian and the Independent.

  3. Overviews, country profiles and IBFAN’s full monitoring report are available on the site (click here).

  4. The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes was adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981 as a ‘minimum requirement’ to be implemented in its ‘entirety’ by all countries. Under Article 11.3 manufacturers and distributors of products within the scope of the Code are required to ensure their activities at every level comply, independently of government measures. Subsequent Resolutions address questions of interpretation and changes in scientific knowledge and marketing practices. Company policies are very different from the Code and Resolutions, for example, referring only to infant formula. Monitoring demonstrates systematic and institutionalised violations of the Code and Resolutions as well as the companies’ narrower policies.

  5. The World Health Assembly is to discuss infant and young child nutrition at its meeting during the week of 17 May. At the preliminary World Health Organisation (WHO) Executive Board meeting in January 2004, the normal practice of preparing a draft Resolution to address current concerns was sidelined. Enterobacter Sakazakii contamination of powdered formula and the long-term health disadvantages of artificial feeding are key issues the industry does not wish to be addressed. Surveys, following the death of an infant in Belgium from meningitis attributed to contaminated Nestlé formula, have found a high proportion of tins of formula are contaminated during the manufacturing process after pasteurisation. At its recent AGM, Nestlé refused to unilaterally provide warnings on its labels (see press release 22 April).

  6. According to UNICEF: “Improved breastfeeding practices and reduction of artificial feeding could save an estimated 1.5 million children a year“ (State of the World’s Children 2001). This is equivalent to one needless death every 30 seconds.

  7. The Nestlé boycott is the best supported consumer action in the UK, according to Ethical Consumer Magazine. At last year’s demonstration, which takes place on the anniversary of the adoption of the Code, Baby Milk Action presented Nestlé with the Ethical Consumer reader’s award for being ‘Least Ethical Company’ (click here).

  8. After a first round of demonstrations in 2003, Nestlé’s Head of Corporate Affairs, Hilary Parsons, wrote to Baby Milk Action saying labels on complementary foods had been changed to give an age of use no younger than 6 months, a requirement since Resolution 47.5, adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1994. Monitoring shows changes have been made in many countries, though not all. Nestlé has changed its marketing strategy to promote its blue bear logo more prominently and stresses so-called development steps instead of age of use.

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