under fire for Nestlé link
negotiating paid post with food giant
Labour Muslim peer was criticised by baby milk campaigners
last night over plans to take a paid post advising Nestlé,
the controversial food giant.
of Rotherham disclosed he is in negotiations with the
Swiss corporation and has made company-sponsored trips
to inspect Nestlé's operations in Pakistan, which
he subsequently praised.
is the target of a long running boycott over allegations,
vehemently denied by executives, that it puts sales ahead
of infant health in the developing world and bribed doctors
in Pakistan to promote its products.
made a life peer by Tony Blair in 1998, insisted criticism
of the multinational was unfounded and was mainly from
"white people" unaware of the facts. "I
may become an adviser on international affairs,"
he said, to ensure the highest corporate standards were
of such a high profile Muslim would be a boost for Nestlé
which has devoted significant resources to countering
claims that it routinely breaches a World Health Organisation
international marketing code.
have suggested [the advisory role] because of my interest
in other countries," said Lord Ahmed.
Richard Howitt, European parliament spokesman on corporate
responsibility, urged the peer to reconsider and warned
him his independence would be compromised if he accepted
an official position with Nestlé.
has been accused of promoting unsafe bottle feeding instead
of breast feeding in countries such as Pakistan where
water supplies are often polluted, resulting in thousands
of bottle fed children dying of diarrhoea.
campaigners argue it fails to abide by an international
code banning unethical marketing practices, including
inducements to doctors to recommend bottles and free trial
supplies of milk substitutes to mothers.
groups in 20 countries support a boycott of Nestlé
brands from Nescafé and Quality Street to Gale's
honey and Felix cat food.
support for Nestlé has outraged Baby Milk Action,
the Cambridge based network that has harried the conglomerate
for more than two decades. Its policy director, Patti
Rundall, said Lord Ahmed had voiced support for the group's
aims in February 2000 during a Westminster meeting with
Aamar Raza, a former Nestlé employee turned whistleblower
Yet in November
of that year the peer attempted to put Nestlé's
case to a European parliament hearing into corporate accountability.
When the MEP
Mr Howitt refused Lord Ahmed permission to speak at the
hearing, the peer invited socialist group MEPs to a meeting
with the company.
Ahmed was very sympathetic, offered to do whatever he
could and even proposed to organise a forum in London,"
said Ms Rundall.
we found that he had visited a Nestlé factory in
Pakistan and was speaking up for Nestlé. We were
very surprised to find he had effectively switched sides."
said it rejected Baby Milk Action's allegations of malpractice
and it had decided to "facilitate" a trip to
Pakistan by Lord Ahmed after the peer decided to investigate
the claims himself.
have found his input and advice to be very valuable and
since then we have entered into discussions with him about
him becoming an adviser to Nestlé UK Ltd on developing
world issues affecting Islamic matters and Muslim communities
in the UK," said a company statement.
accepted the visit to Nestlé's Pakistan operations
and had changed his mind and he believed it had been unfairly
singled out for criticism.
the fact the company paid for the trip two years ago,
said the peer, who denied receiving payment from Nestlé
or Weber Shandwick, Nestlé's lobbyists.