Today Baby Milk Action has received a Nestlé Action Report dated November 1999 which makes various allegations about Baby Milk Action and our campaign to expose Nestlé's malpractice in the Philippines. (See Nestlé's website)
Baby Milk Action responds.
Nestlé suggests that violations have not been reported to it. This is incorrect.
Violations in the Philippines have been brought directly to the attention of Nestlé S.A. (Swiss Headquarters), not least in 1996 when Dr. Imelda Ben travelled from the Philippines to raise concerns at the shareholder meeting in Switzerland. The IBFAN group in the Philippines has reported violations to the Ministry of Health (reports of violations are noted in the letter from the Secretary of Health which Nestlé has published). Nestlé S.A., also received a copy of the IBFAN monitoring report Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules 1998 which includes information on violations in the Philippines.
Nestlé did not respond directly to the report of "Health Educators" in Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules 1998. After further publicising this violation, Baby Milk Action received a letter from Niphadol Siwabutr of Nestlé S.A. dated 27th September 1999. We replied to Niphadol Siwabutr on 13th October and on the same day we wrote to Helmut Maucher, Chairman of Nestlé S.A., on a number of our concerns about the statements and actions of Mr. Brabeck, Chief Executive. We asked Mr. Maucher to bring our letter to the attention of the Board of Directors. This letter included a section on the Philippines as follows:
"In the Philippines Nestlé's "Health Educators" have been promoting Nestogen infant formula to mothers in the community.
"Niphadol Siwabutr states: "Nestlé Philippines assures us that we do not have such a practice." Why does Nestlé S.A rely on the "assurance" of Nestlé Philippines? This violation has been brought to the attention of Nestlé senior management in Switzerland a number of times. Has no investigation been carried out? Nestlé claims: "Nestlé international auditors regularly assess Code compliance in our Companies around the world, reporting any breaches to Nestlé's top management who take swift, appropriate action."
"Will you please investigate whether any such audits have ever taken place in the Philippines or elsewhere and send us full details."
At the time of writing (24th November 1999) we have received no response from Niphadol Siwabutr, Mr. Maucher or any members of the Board of Directors.
On 13th October we also wrote to Mr. Peter Blackburn, Chief Executive of Nestlé (UK), concerning Nestlé's activities in the Philippines with specific regard to the identity of the Nestlé employee in the picture that we have published. This letter was sent to Mr. Blackburn as Niphadol Siwabutr incorrectly claimed that Nestlé (UK) had already written to us on this matter and we sought clarification of why Nestlé S.A. had this impression. At the time of writing (24th November 1999) we have received no response from Mr. Blackburn.
The "Health Educators"
Baby Milk Action has been campaigning on this issue for a number of years and from time-to-time we receive reports that the "Health Educators" continue to operate in the Philippines. In March 1998 Baby Milk Action featured the case on an action sheet and encouraged members of the public to write to Nestlé. Nestlé S.A. responded to letter writers as follows: (see Tip of the Iceberg - Volume 2):
"It is possible that on behalf of Nestlé, qualified nurses or nutrition advisers in the Philippines have contacts with various persons in the health sector and discuss with them correct infant feeding practices - including breastfeeding. However, a direct contact of these persons with pregnant women or mothers is explicitly forbidden - because it does not conform to the Code - and Nestlé verifies that these restrictions are strictly followed."
Aside from our own evidence that this is untrue, the Nestlé Philippines website refers to Nestlé's "health education on nutrition for village mothers."
Baby Milk Action stands by its allegations. Baby Milk Action is seeking funds to take legal action against Nestlé for implying that we are lying when we publicise this case (see Boycott News 25). Donations are welcome. Cheques in pounds, dollars or euros can be sent to Baby Milk Action, 23 St. Andrew's Street, Cambridge, CB2 3AX, UK. Please make it clear in a cover note if the donation is only to be used for our "legal fund".
Nestlé and direct marketing to mothers - scheme wins awards!!
Article 5.5 of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes states: "Marketing personnel, in their business capacity, should not seek direct or indirect contact of any kind with pregnant women or with mothers of infants and young children."
In September 1999 a Nestlé direct marketing scheme in the Philippines received three prestigious Asian Direct Marketing Awards. Dickie Sorian of OgilvyOne Manila (the firm hired to conduct the scheme) told BusinessWorld (30th September 1999):
"When we designed Nestlé's infant nutrition program, we made full use of direct marketing insights and breakthroughs that are now reshaping the way we market brands as well as the relationships between consumers and brands."
The scheme promotes products for use from pregnancy until the child is about four.
Nestlé and Philippines Television
Nestlé refers to an incident relating to attempted censure of a television station which took place 15 years ago. While we recall this incident, we have also highlighted an incident which took place in July 1997. We have already commented on Nestlé's dismissal of this as past history in Tip of the Iceberg - Volume 1.
Letter from the Secretary of Health in the Philippines
Nestlé has reproduced a letter from the Secretary of Health in the Philippines. While generally complimentary, this notes that violations have been reported. Baby Milk Action wrote to the Secretary of Health on 26th October 1999 drawing to his attention the seriousness of the violations reported and the Asian Direct Marketing Awards received by Nestlé's scheme in September 1999. Our letter has been acknowledged and we await a response.
For further information contact Mike Brady, Baby Milk Action, 23 St. Andrew's Street, Cambridge, CB2 3AX, UK. Tel: +44 (0)1223 464420 Fax: +44 (0)1223 464417 E-mail: email@example.com
Further information on baby food marketing malpractice by Nestlé and other companies can be viewed on our monthly Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheets.
Nestlé's current public relations offensive on the baby milk issue has followed a "damning" ruling against the company by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). In May 1999 the ASA upheld all of Baby Milk Action's complaints against an Nestlé anti-boycott advertisement in which the company claimed to market infant formula "ethically and responsibly". Nestlé's Chief Executive Officer, Peter Brabeck, has since taken personal charge of fighting the boycott (see article "Brabeck flies in as Nestlé panics over ASA ruling" in Boycott News 25).
Mr. Brabeck has been distributing a report entitled Nestlé implementation of the WHO Code around the world. Baby Milk Action only received a copy after we wrote to Nestlé Chairman, Helmut Maucher, and asked to be put on the mailing list. At the present time we have only been able to conduct a preliminary analysis (see press release 14th October 1999 "Nestlé's new "monitoring" strategy - does it make any difference to infant health?"). Further details will be available shortly.
Nestlé appears to have taken the advice of Saatchi and Saatchi and has gone on a "cause-related marketing" offensive, linking its names to charities. In October Nestlé launched a "branded community investment programme" costing it £1 million (see press release 5th November 1999 "Charities benefit from Nestlé's public relations disaster"). The programme promotes Nescafé coffee, which is the principle target of the Nestlé boycott.