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Cameroon group launches Nestlé boycott -
More UK pop stars dump Nestlé

27 January 2001

Nestlé is coming under renewed pressure to end its aggressive promotion of breastmilk substitutes as an African group launches a boycott of its products, such as Nescafé coffee. Meanwhile in the UK more pop stars have blocked the use of their songs by Nestlé in a promotion for the V2001 musical festival or television advertisements.

The New Musical Express (dated 28th January - but available now) reports that Ocean Colour Scene and Shed 7 have joined Pulp, Dodgy and Ian Brown in taking action in support of health campaigners who are calling for Nestlé to bring their baby food activities into line with the marketing standards adopted by the World Health Assembly. According to UNICEF reversing the decline in breastfeeding could save the lives of 1.5 million infants around the world every year. The European Parliament investigated Nestlé in a Public Hearing last year (22nd November), but Nestlé refused to send a representative.

The Non-Governmental Organisation Cameroon Link decided to launch the boycott to protest about Nestlé's promotion of breastmilk substitutes in health facilities in Cameroon and marketing malpractice around the world. Nestlé is reportedly promoting Guigoz and Nan infant formula in health centres with film shows. Today Cameroon Link has been accepted as a member of the International Nestlé Boycott Committee (INBC), Baby Milk Action announces at its AGM in Cambridge. Baby Milk Action acts as the secretariat for INBC. Cameroon becomes the 20th country where nationals have launched the boycott and the first in Africa.

James Achanyi-Fontem, President of Cameroon Link, said: "If every Cameroonian joins in this boycott, it may act as a powerful tool which may very quickly bring changes to the marketing in Cameroon. This action is a world wide action and Cameroon is not an exception as far as violations of the International Code and Resolutions are concerned."

Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, said: "I implore journalists and campaigners from around the world to take an interest in this issue. When Nestlé malpractice is exposed we are often able to bring about change. Acting locally really does have a global impact."

For further information contact: Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator, Baby Milk Action, 23 St. Andrew's Street, Cambridge, CB2 3AX. Tel: 01223 464420. Mobile: 07946 352846

Latest media coverage: BMJ 27 January 2001

Notes for editors

  1. For further information and for pictures for publication see the "codewatch" and "resources" sections. For information on the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) visit

  2. 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. 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. The cost of formula can lead to parents overdiluting formula, leading to malnutrition.

  3. Cameroon brings the total of boycott countries to 20: Australia, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Mauritius, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, UK and USA. Nestlé is targeted because monitoring finds it to be responsible for more violations of the International Code and Resolutions than any other company and because it takes the lead in attempting to undermine government implementation of these measures.

  4. In May 1999 the 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." (see press release). In 1995 Baby Milk Action was called on to defend claims made in a boycott advertisement. The ASA found in favour of Baby Milk Action. The claims were: "Over 4,000 babies die every day in poor countries because they're not breastfed. That's not conjecture, it's UNICEF fact" and "They [Nestlé] aggressively promote their baby milks, breaking a World Health Organisation code of marketing."

  5. Marketing Week magazine asked Marjorie Thompson of Saatchi & Saatchi how Nestlé should respond to the bad publicity surrounding its baby food marketing activities and reported (11th February 1999): "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..." NCH (formerly National Children's Homes) is one of the charities to refuse Nestlé money. Others, such as the British Red Cross, have accepted substantial sums and subsequently promoted Nescafé (the principal target of the boycott) and defended Nestlé's baby food marketing activities.

  6. On 22nd November 2000 the European Parliament Development and Cooperation Committee held a Public Hearing into the baby food industry. IBFAN and UNICEF made presentations. MEPs were shocked and outraged when Nestlé refused its invitation to make a presentation on the monitoring process it claims to have put in place to ensure compliance with the marketing requirements. For further information contact Richard Howitt MEP, who arranged the Hearing, on + 32 2 284 5477 and see Baby Milk Action's press release. Adidas was investigated at the same Hearing and also refused to attend. On the Mark Thomas Product on Channel 4 Television this week (25th January), David Husselbee, Global Director of Social and Environmental Affairs, Adidas, said: "With hindsight we accept that we should have been at the meeting in November". So far Nestlé has made no such admission.
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