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Baby food companies caught out putting profits before health again - BMJ reports on research in Togo and Burkina Faso

**Help stop the malpractice - support Baby Milk Action's Campaign for Ethical Marketing**

18 January 2003 (updated 20 January 2003 to address Nestlé's response)

British Medical 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:

"These are 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.

"IBFAN (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.

"Nestlé' reaction to the BMJ articles is to hit out at everyone else and to accept no responsibility for its own actions.

"Nestlé 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.

"Nestlé has received and ignored many reports of violations, usually only making changes when there has been public and media pressure.

"It repeatedly 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.

"It's so-called 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.

"Nestlé's 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.

"The way 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 contact

Mike 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

Media coverage

The Independent 17 January 2003: Nestlé 'breaking code on baby milk for Third World'

CNN 17 January 2003: Report: baby food firms break code

Voice of America 17 January 2003: Powdered Baby Milk Marketers Violate International Code, Study Says

News 24, South Africa 17 January 2003: Spotlight on baby milk-makers

Reuters 17 January 2003: Baby Formula violates International Policy: Study

iAfrica 18 January 2003: Danone, Nestle in dock over sales pitch

Financial Times 18 January 2003: Milk powder makers under fire in BMJ

Notes for editors:

  1. The International 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 and allergies.

  4. Pictures for articles can be down-loaded from the "codewatch" and "resources" sections.

  5. 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.

  6. Baby Milk Action has exposed distribution of free samples of Danone baby milk in Gabon on its Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet.

  7. In May 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".

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