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African and Asian campaigners urge support for Nescafé boycott as Nestlé announces increased baby milk sales

24th October 2000

While Nestlé announces growth in its baby milk sales, campaigners are highlighting that 1.5 million infants die around the world every year because they are not breastfed (1). Nestlé is the target of a boycott of its coffee, confectionery and convenience food products in 19 countries because it puts its own profits before infant health, aggressively marketing breastmilk substitutes in ways that violate the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly (2). In the UK the boycott focuses on Nescafé coffee and is the UK's best supported consumer boycott (3). Pauline Kisanga, Coordinator of the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) in Africa said: "The Nestlé boycott is very important. It should continue because Nestlé continues to violate the Code" (4).

Dr. Charles Sagoe-Moses, of the Ghanaian Infant Nutrition Action Network and Chair of the IBFAN Africa Advisory Committee, spoke of the importance of the Nestlé boycott in defending infant health (4):

"To me the boycott shows there is global, consistent and systematic violation of the Code and we use this to tell people that what is happening here is not unique to Ghana. The people there are campaigning because they think they have a voice and they can use their voice to help some people in the developing world who do not have a voice."

IBFAN works for independent, transparent and effective controls on the baby food industry and is currently supporting moves for legislation in Pakistan. Tracey Wagner-Rizvi of the Pakistan IBFAN group said (5): "The boycott is very important to raise awareness amongst our legislators as Nestlé attempts to weaken the draft law."

Earlier this year a former Nestlé Pakistan employee, Syed Aamar Raza, presented documentary evidence in the UK Parliament showing how he was instructed by company officials to bribe doctors to promote Nestlé baby milks.

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." Saatchi & Saatchi suggested in Marketing Week magazine that Nestlé should counter the bad publicity by going on offensive showing the benefit of its donations to charities. Soon afterwards four UK charities (Shelter, Kids Club Network, Macmillan and British Red Cross) received £250,000 each linked to promotion of Nescafé. (6)

For further information contact and to arrange interviews with IBFANers around the world contact:

Mike Brady, Baby Milk Action. Tel: 01223 464420 Website:

Notes for Editors

  1. Nestlé announced growth in its third-quarter statement on 20th October, stating: "Milks and nutrition saw good progress, mainly as a result of infant nutrition sales in Asia and of the powdered milk business." Figure for infant deaths given in numerous refernces - for example UNICEF press release 14th January 1997 UNICEF Responds to Report on Violations of Breastmilk Substitute Code: "Marketing practices that undermine breastfeeding are potentially hazardous wherever they are pursued: in the developing world, WHO estimates that some 1.5 million children die each year because they are not adequately breastfed. These facts are not in dispute."

  2. IBFAN consists of over 150 groups in over 90 countries and conducts monitoring of the baby food industry. Nestlé, which controls about 40% of the global baby milk market, is found to be responsible for more violations than any other company and takes the lead in attempting to undermine government implementation of the International Code and Resolutions. The report Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules 1998, the result of monitoring in 31 countries is available on the IBFAN website and may be purchased from Baby Milk Action's Virtual Shop. Baby Milk Action is the UK IBFAN group. See the "codewatch" section with more recent examples of violations by Nestlé and other companies. The "resources" section includes past press release and photos which can be down-loaded for articles.

  3. In December 1997 Ethical Consumer Magazine published a survey of its readership and found that the Nestlé boycott was the best supported boycott in the UK.

  4. Baby Milk Action interviewed IBFANers at the IBFAN Africa Regional Meeting in Swaziland in September. Video clips of the interviews with Pauline Kisanga and Charles Sagoe-Moses are available for broadcasters (amateur film). On 28 February 1998 the French television programme Vrai Jornal broadcast an interview with Ines Fernandez of IBFAN Philippines in which she speaks in English of the importance of the boycott and Nestlé's use of "Health Educators" to promote Nestogen infant formula to mothers in the community - contact CAPA television +33 1 46061263.

  5. The Pakistan IBFAN group, The Network, Association for Rational Use of Medication in Pakistan, conducted monitoring in 33 cities and published the report Feeding Fiasco in 1998. In 1999 it published the report Milking Profits based on the documentary evidence provided by former Nestlé employee Syed Aamar Raza (both reports are available from the Virtual Shop). Telephone interviews with The Network and Syed Aamar Raza may be possible. Contact Baby Milk Action for further information.

  6. The Advertising Standards Authority took nearly two years to uphold all of Baby Milk Action's complaints about Nestlé's anti-boycott advertisement, one of its longest ever investigations. Its ruling was published on 12th May 1999 after being delayed by a final Nestlé appeal. Marketing Week (11th February 1999) called the ruling "a first class public relations disaster.... which effectively brands the global corporation a liar, insofar as it claimed to have marketed infant formula products ethically." Marketing Week asked Marjorie Thompson of Saatchi & Saatchi what Nestlé should do: "She suggests the way to counteract the bad publicity is to go on the offensive by using advertising showing the benefits of Nestlé's financial contributions to charities, such as Kids Club Network which provides after-school care for children." In October 1999 Nestlé announced £1 million of sponsorship to Kids Club Network, Shelter, Macmillan Cancer Relief and the British Red Cross, all linked to Nescafé coffee, the principle target of the boycott. The British Red Cross and Shelter have launched publicity campaigns which prominently promote Nescafé. While Baby Milk Action does not wish to undermine the good work being done by the charities involved it regrets that their deals with Nestlé undermine the boycott.

  7. Baby Milk Action, 23 St. Andrew's Street, Cambridge, CB2 3AX. Tel: 01223 464420
    Fax: 01223 464417

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