Big Noise demo gets
international media coverage as Nestlé accepts 'least ethical
company' title and caves in on complementary food marketing
17th May 2003
gathering at Nestlé (UK) HQ in Croydon on Saturday
17th May to draw attention to Nestlé's unethical
and aggressive marketing of breastmilk substitutes were
filmed and interviewed by Swiss television. According to
the World Health Organisation a child dies somewhere in
the world every 30 seconds because it was not breastfed
- 1.5 million per year. Demonstrators beat drums and blew
whistles to mark each needless death and added a doll to
a pile which grew over the course of the one hour demonstration
(11.00 to mid-day). Nestlé ignores this death and
suffering as it attempts to increase its baby food sales
still further using marketing methods banned by the United
Nation's World Health Assembly.
took place elsewhere in the country on 10th May. Nestlé
then wrote to Baby Milk Action promising to abide by a 1994
requirement not to promote complementary foods ('weaning'
foods) before 6 months of age. This is a small victory for
the campaign if Nestlé, proven to mislead, keeps
its word (UPDATE 30 MAY 2003 - Nestlé
launches promotion of complementary foods for use at 4 months!!).
Nestlé still has to make the sweeping changes to
its other practices demanded by UNICEF and others.
here for a photo gallery of the Croydon demo.
here for a QuickTime movie of the Croydon demo.
TV film the presentation of the 'least ethical company'
award at the demonstration at Nestlé (UK) HQ
A survey conducted by Ethical Consumer Magazine found that
Nestlé is viewed as the 'least ethical company' for
its baby milk marketing malpractice and other activities
such as paying coffee growers below cost price for coffee,
trade union busting and attempting to extract money from
the Ethiopian Government at a time of famine (see
Nestlé refused to attend the Ethical Consumer award
ceremony last month to receive the award (right) for being
'least ethical company' and so Baby Milk Action had written
to Nestlé CEO Alastair Smith asking him or his representative
to accept the 'award' at the demonstration which Swiss TV
here for a high-resolution
picture for printing
(Photo credit: Baby Milk Action)
place at other Nestlé sites around the country on 10th
May (see press release - includes
photos and QuickTime movie). Following the demonstrations, Baby
Milk Action received a letter from Nestlé (UK) Head of
Corporate Affairs, Hilary Parsons, with a Nestlé statement
in which the company promised to abide by the World Health Assembly
requirement that complementary foods should not be promoted for
use before 6 months of age. This has been a requirement since
the Assembly adopted Resolution WHA
47.5 in 1994 making it clear complementary feeding should
be fostered from 6 months of age.
Baby Milk Action has
been campaigning for Nestlé to abide by the 1994 Resolution
since its adoption, which followed scientific evidence of the
danger of introducing complementary foods at too early an age,
particularly in conditions of poverty. A further Resolution in
54.2, re-stated the recommendation of exclusively breastfeeding
until 6 months of age. This is a public health recommendation
and does not prevent health workers suggesting earlier introduction
of complementary foods if there is a medical reason for doing
so in specific cases. A letter writing campaign again calling
on companies to change their labels was launched at that time
(see Campaign for Ethical Marketing
It remains to
be seen if Nestlé keeps its word - in 2001 Nestlé's
global Chief Executive Officer, Peter Brabeck Latmathé
made a similar promise to Nestlé shareholders, but
over a year later Nestlé was still launching media
campaigns in Asia promoting its Cerelac complementary food
for use from 4 months of age using pictures of young babies
(see right). (UPDATE 30 MAY 2003 - Nestlé
launches promotion of complementary foods for use at 4 months!!).
month India adopted legislation banning such promotion (see
release 8 May 2003). Nestlé is already in court
in India over the labelling of its infant formula and the
managing director faces a prison sentence if convicted.
Mike Brady, Campaigns
and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action which organised
the demonstrations, said:
"We had a
great turn out at the demonstrations and the media coverage
has been spectacular. I'd like to thank everyone who took part.
Last week we had a head-to-head interview with Nestlé's
Head of Corporate Affairs on national radio (Radio 4 Today programme)
and regional TV, radio and newspaper coverage. Today we have
had international media filming the protest. Our partners around
the world will also use news of the demonstrations in their
"It is a
significant victory for campaigners and the 'big noise' demonstrations
if Nestlé really does stop promoting its complementary
foods for use from too early an age, which is known to undermine
breastfeeding. Unfortunately we have to wait and see as Nestlé's
word is worth nothing and we will continue to monitor what happens
on the ground carefully. If Nestlé was led by responsible
management it would have made this change in 1994 in response
to World Health Assembly Resolution 47.5, if not before, but
it has taken nearly 10 years of dedicated campaigning to persuade
Nestlé to make the change. Campaigners will not give
up until Nestlé abides by all the World Health Assembly
marketing requirements - this is a matter of life and death.
tells policy makers and consumers that it is 'trusted around
the world'. It isn't, it is the target of a boycott in 20 countries
and officially the 'least ethical company'. We hope the protests
and media coverage will help to wake Nestlé management
up to the fact that its malpractice cannot be hidden, it will
be exposed and people will demonstrate and boycott Nestlé
products until the management change their policies. Nestlé
responds to the documentary evidence of malpractice with denials
and deception, a strategy which only fuels people's sense of
monitoring conducted by the International Baby Food Action
Network (IBFAN) finds Nestlé responsible for more violations
of the World Health Assembly's marketing requirements for breastmilk
substitutes than any other company. In January 2003 the British
Medical Journal published a study further supporting the charge
that Nestlé systematically violates these requirements
(see press release).
launches promotion of complementary foods for use at 4 months
After receiving a promise
from Nestlé that it would stop promoting complementary
foods for use before 6 months of age, Baby Milk Action passed
this on to partners around the world. We immediately heard back
from partners that Nestlé is still promoting complementary
foods for use from 4 months of age.
on the right appears in the current issue of Baby
magazine in Bulgaria (the cover date for the magazine is
It clearly shows
the label has an age of use of 4 months. The text in the
advertisement reads: "Sinlac Baby Menu is a cereal
for dietary uses with plant proteins, without gluten, lactose
and milk proteins. For every baby over 4 months".
Below is a pack
of Cerelac cereal food purchased in Bulgaria on 2nd June
2003, again labelled for use from 4 months.
claims in a glossy folder on its labelling of complementary
foods that it is "taking the lead". Nearly ten
years after it was required to stop labelling complementary
foods for use from before 6 months of age, it is still doing
so. You can't trust Nestlé.
for a large version of the advertisement.