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Nestlé boycott launched in Bulgaria -

Hipp shamed by "award" for irresponsible marketing in Eastern Europe

22nd October 1999

Representatives of organisations in the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) from 32 countries met in Goteborg, Sweden from 16th-19th October to celebrate 20 years of campaigning to protect infant health and to plan for the future. The Bulgarian IBFAN group, Women and Mothers Against Violence, announced its launch of the Nestlé Boycott in their country because of Nestlé's violations of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly. The boycott is now active in 19 countries. Breastfeeding is best for babies and saves lives (see note 3). The World Health Organisation estimates that 1.5 million infants die around the world every year because they are not breastfed.

Nestlé is claiming that the Bulgarian Government has verified that its activities comply with the marketing requirements, but the letter from the Bulgarian Ministry of Health which Nestlé is circulating does not go this far (see ref. 1). The letter states that the Ministry of Health is not aware of violations of an EU Directive (which is more limited than the International Code and Resolutions and does not apply to Bulgaria). Nestlé is apparently telling governments that they must go no further than the Directive in protecting infant health, which is untrue even for countries within the European Union.

Dr. Roumjana Modeva, President of the Bulgarian IBFAN group, said:

"We have reported many Nestlé violations to the Ministry of Health. People change in the Ministry very often and we will contact the person who wrote the letter Nestlé is circulating. We have not been able to stop the violations and so we have had to launch the Nestlé boycott. We also want to support mothers and babies in other countries where Nestlé is aggressive."

Professor Ketevan Nemsadeze of the Georgian IBFAN group, Claritas, informed participants that on 10th September the Georgian Government had fully implemented the International Code and Resolutions in the face of opposition from the baby food industry. "We thank the people and organisations around the world who sent letters of support," she said. "This helped us in our work." Baby Milk Action sent out a call for support in August with its Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet.

Participants from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union were particularly concerned about the activities of the German company, Hipp, which is promoting its products aggressively in hospitals. For example, it was reported that in some health facilities in the Ukraine and Croatia mothers receive a Hipp gift pack within hours of giving birth. To mark World Food Day (15th October) a coalition of UK organisations, including Christian Aid and Oxfam (the UK Food Group), presented awards for positive and negative impact on food security. Hipp did not turn up to receive its "Shaming Award" for its "misguiding labels on infant teas and juices." These undermine exclusive breastfeeding by promoting use of teas from as young as one week of age. Baby Milk Action had brought the Award to the meeting and gave it to the IBFAN group, Aktionsgruppe Babynahrung e.V., to be taken to Germany.

Ref. 1:

Nestlé is circulating a letter from Dr. Iv. Zlatarev, Deputy Minister and Chief State Sanitary Inspector, Bulgaria dated 2nd April 1999. According to Nestlé's translation this states: "the Ministry of Health is not aware of violations on the side of Nestlé Sofia A.D., on the application of the requirements of the Commission directive 91/321/EEC." This is an internal directive which is more limited than the International Code and Resolutions. The Council Resolution "Marketing of breastmilk substitutes in third countries by Community-based manufacturers" (92/C 172/01) applies as Nestlé manufactures within the European Union and this requires companies to abide by the International Code. The Council Directive (92/52/EEC) also applies if Nestlé Sofia is importing products from Nestlé's Community-based factories.


  1. For further information contact: Mike Brady, Baby Milk Action, 23 St. Andrew's Street, Cambridge, CB2 3AX. Tel: (01223) 464420 Fax: (01223) 464417 E-mail:
  2. Examples of marketing malpractice by Nestlé and Hipp are shown on the Baby Milk Action website. There is also a press release on the "Shaming Award" given to Hipp.
  3. 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.
  4. The risk of HIV transmission through breastfeeding requires further independent research and careful consideration of risk. Mothers require accurate information. While replacement feeding may be advisable in some instances, the World Health Organisation has stressed that the International Code and Resolutions must be respected. These measures aim to ensure safe use of breastmilk substitutes as well as to protect breastfeeding.
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