Baby food companies
caught out putting profits before health again - BMJ reports on
research in Togo and Burkina Faso
18 January 2003 (updated
20 January 2003 to address Nestlé's response)
Journal 18 January 2003: Research
paper: Monitoring compliance with the International Code of
Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes in west Africa: multisite
cross sectional survey in Togo and Burkina Faso and Editorial:
Monitoring the marketing of infant formula feeds - Manufacturers
of breast milk substitutes violate the WHO code - again.
Mike Brady, Campaigns
and Networking Coordinator, Baby Milk Action, said:
not one off 'mistakes' that can be blamed on over-zealous employees.
Despite their claims to abide by the marketing requirements
for breastmilk substitutes, we see on the ground that many baby
food companies are guilty of systematic and institutionalised
violations, putting their own profits before infant health.
We welcome the BMJ's publication of this study.
(the International Baby Food Action Network) works for independent,
transparent and effective controls on the marketing of baby
food companies and an increasing number of countries have measures
in place, enforced to varying degrees. There have been successful
prosecutions and violations are being stopped and breastfeeding
rates are increasing in a number of countries. Where national
measures are not effective, IBFAN's Breaking the Rules monitoring
reports and campaigns such as the Nestlé
boycott help to expose malpractice and have brought about
some grudging changes. Baby food marketing malpractice contributes
to the unnecessary death and suffering of infants around the
world. We need monitoring systems, independent of the baby food
industry, with sanctions to stop the malpractice.
reaction to the BMJ articles is to hit out at everyone else
and to accept no responsibility for its own actions.
claims the interpretation of the marketing requirements used
is wrong, but it has already been informed by UNICEF that it
is Nestlé's policy which is out of step with the World
Health Assembly Resolutions. Nestlé refused to attend
a Public Hearing at the European
Parliament in November 2000 where this was examined.
has received and ignored many reports of violations, usually
only making changes when there has been public and media pressure.
claims that violations are a thing of the past, but accepts
no responsibility for the harm those to which it now admits
may have caused.
auditors allow violations to continue. The auditors are even
pictured in Nestlé's own Sustainability
Review in front of a 'baby food' display which includes
unsuitable Nestlé whole milk next to the more expensive
infant formula. Poor mothers are putting the whole milk in feeding
bottles, but Nestlé refuses to take the whole milk out
of the baby food section.
so-called ombudsman scheme
seems seriously flawed when senior Nestlé management
are accused of threatening Syed Aamar Raza, a former employee
who spoke out in Pakistan, and the Chief Executive, Peter Brabeck,
has made serious allegations attacking Aamar's character, but
refuses to substantiate his allegations and has not brought
them before the courts where Aamar could defend himself.
Nestlé responds to reports of violations demonstrates
why the boycott remains so important. We hope that Mr. Brabeck
will not wait too much longer before accepting Baby
Milk Action's four-point plan aimed at saving infant lives
and ultimately ending the boycott, rejected by Nestlé
in March 2001. If he does not do so, we can expect to hear more
voices added to the call
for his replacement made in the financial pages of The Guardian
over his handling of the Ethiopia compensation scandal."
For further information
Brady, Baby Milk Action, 23 St. Andrew's Street, Cambridge,
CB2 3AX, UK.
Tel (UK): 01223 464420
or 07986 736179 (INT): +44 1223 464420 or +44 7986 736179
Independent 17 January 2003: Nestlé 'breaking code
on baby milk for Third World'
17 January 2003: Report: baby food firms break code
of America 17 January 2003: Powdered Baby Milk Marketers
Violate International Code, Study Says
24, South Africa 17 January 2003: Spotlight on baby milk-makers
17 January 2003: Baby Formula violates International Policy:
18 January 2003: Danone, Nestle in dock over sales pitch
Times 18 January 2003: Milk powder makers under fire in
Notes for editors:
Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes was adopted
by the World Health Assembly in 1981 as a "minimum requirement"
to be implemented by Member States "in its entirety." Subsequent
Resolutions have addressed questions of interpretation and
changes in marketing practices and scientific knowledge.
The report Breaking
the Rules, Stretching the Rules 2001 is the result of
IBFAN's monitoring in 14 countries and profiles 16 baby food
companies. Nestlé controls about 40% of the global
baby milk market and is found to be responsible for more violations
than any other company. Nestlé also takes the lead
in attempting to undermine government implementation of the
International Code and Resolutions. For these reasons,
Nestlé is the target of an international boycott.
According to UNICEF,
reversing the decline in breastfeeding could save the lives
of 1.5 million infants around the world every year. Where
water is unsafe an artificially-fed child is up to 25 times
more likely to die as a result of diarrhoea than a breastfed
child. Even in the most hygienic of conditions an artificially-fed
child is at increased risk of diabetes, respiratory infections
Pictures for articles
can be down-loaded from the "codewatch"
The Managing Director
of Nestlé India faces a prison sentence if convicted
in a long-running court case over labelling. Nestlé
has taken the Indian Government to court and is attempting
to have key sections of the law revoked. When Zimbabwe was
introducing legislation, Nestlé threatened to close
down its factory and pull out of the country. When the European
Parliament held a Public Hearing
into Nestlé malpractice in November 2000, Nestlé
refused to attend.
Baby Milk Action
has exposed distribution of free samples of Danone baby milk
in Gabon on its Campaign
for Ethical Marketing action sheet.
1999 the UK Advertising Standards Authority upheld all
of Baby Milk Action's complaints against a Nestlé anti-boycott
advertisement in which the company claimed to market infant
formula "ethically and responsibly".