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Nestlé promises to change baby milk labels in Costa Rica after receiving fine

17th May 2000

Nestlé has this week promised to change its baby milk labels in Costa Rica after receving a fine late last year for breaking legislation implementing requirements adopted by the World Health Assembly (see Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet, April 2000). The legislation was introduced in 1994 and companies were given one year to ensure that their labels complied. Nestlé was warned repeatedly by the Ministry of Health and Economy to change its labels and legal action was finally taken in September 1999. In a statement published on the Internet this week Nestlé promised to bring its labels into line by August 2000.

Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, which coordinates a 19-country boycott of Nestlé aimed at halting the company's malpractice, said:

"The boycott also serves to alert government officials around the world that Nestlé's claims to be an ethical and responsible marketer of baby foods should not be taken at face value, if they have not already learned this by experience. Nestlé is not only guilty of breaking legislation intended to protect infant health and mothers' rights, it actively works to undermine legislation. In its statement this week Nestlé complains that the Costa Rican legislation is too strict, because, for example, it specifies the size and positioning of the 'breastmilk is best for babies' message. It is welcome that Nestlé says it will now comply with the law, although from past experience we are aware that Nestlé often does not keep its promises. We will continue to monitor the situation."

In 1994 Nestlé told the Malawi Government that it would introduce labels including the national language of the country, Chichewa. Baby Milk Action campaigned on this issue and it was raised at Nestlé's shareholder meeting in 1997 where the Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, promised shareholders that the new labels would be introduced. In October 1999 the Mark Thomas Product on Channel 4 television highlighted that the labels had still not been produced. Mr. Brabeck subsequently ordered labels onto the market in March 2000, even though these do not comply with the Malawi Government's requirements (see Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet, March 2000). Nestlé has again promised to issue correct labels and is faced with re-labelling the products already on the market. Meanwhile, the Managing Director of Nestlé India faces a prison sentence if convicted in a long-running court case also concerning labels.

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

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