Bulgarian Nestle boycott group aims to stem flood of baby milk
Yesterday the President
of a Bulgarian Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Dr. Roumjana
Modeva, briefed a representative from Baby Milk Action on the
aggressive marketing strategies used by companies from the European
Union in Bulgaria. The NGO, Women and Mothers Against Violence,
launched the Nestlé boycott in Bulgaria in August
last year to target the global market leader and raise awarenes
of infant feeding issues. Companies are using methods in Bulgaria
which have been effectively stopped in many countries.
At the meeting in Sofia,
Dr. Modeva gave examples of malpractice, including an advertisement
for Nestlé's Nan 1 infant formula in the current
issue of the parenting magazine 9 months, headlined "Is
there a substitute for mother's milk?" which suggested Nan
1 is equivalent. Advertising of breastmilk substitutes is
banned by the International Code
of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, adopted by the World
Health Assembly in 1981, which Nestlé claims to follow.
Nestlé has also launched
a parents' club called "Mother's Caress" aimed at pregnant
women and mothers of infants up to one year of age. Seeking direct
contact with mothers in this way is banned by the International
Code. There are also concerns about labels and provision of
Dr. Modeva said: "Nestlé
and other baby food companies operating in Bulgaria are very aggressive
and we need a law to protect our infants and mothers. It is very
good for us to know that we are not alone in our struggle to make
companies behave responsibly, but have the support of people and
groups around the world."
Mike Brady, Campaigns
Coordinator at Baby Milk Action said, "The boycott is a very
important tool for raising awareness and putting pressure on Nestlé,
the global market leader in baby milk. It is sometimes difficult
for people in the UK to accept that a household name such as Nestlé
is contributing to unnecessary death and suffering around the
world, but that is the situation. Nestlé attempts to buy
itself a good reputation in the UK with donations to good causes
and attempts to divert criticism with outright deception. We know
what Nestlé is up to because of the first-hand experiences
of our colleagues overseas. Fortunately our work encouraging the
introduction of legislation is bearing fruit and cases can be
brought before the courts in an increasing number of countries.
For example, Nestlé was fined for breaking labelling regulations
in Costa Rica at the end of last year."
The Church of England
Synod is due to examine the issue of baby milk marketing in July.
For more information
Brady, Baby Milk Action, 23 St Andrew's Street, Cambridge,
CB2 3AX, UK.
Tel: +44 (0)1223 464420, Fax: +44 (0)1223 464417.
Dr. Roumjana Modeva
or Mariela Todorova, Women and Mothers against Violence, Bulgaria.
Tel: +359 2 326088. E-mail: email@example.com
Notes for editors:
- According to UNICEF,
reversing the decline in breastfeeding could save the lives
of 1.5 million infants around the world every year. 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. Even
in the most hygienic of conditions an artificially-fed child
is at increased risk of diabetes, respiratory infections and
- 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.
- Pictures for articles
can be down-loaded. These
include violations in Bulgaria, Mike Brady meeting Dr. Modeva
in Sofia, the winning entries in a Bulgarian Boycott Nestle
drawing competition and a picture of the Bulgarian Parliament.
Also see the codewatch
and resources sections.
- The Managing Director
of Nestlé India faces a prison sentence if convicted
in a long-running court case over labelling. Nestlé has
taken the Indian Government to court and is attempting to have
key sections of the law revoked. When Zimbabwe was introducing
legislation, Nestlé threatened to close down its factory.
- Nestlé includes
a letter from Bulgaria in its public relations book, Nestlé
implementation of the WHO Code, but the letter does not
even refer to the International Code and UNICEF described
it as non-committal. It appears that Nestlé has been attempting
to convince European governments that they cannot implement
the Code, but must follow a weaker European Union Directive.
This is not even true for countries within the European Union.
- The boycott was
launched in 1977, then suspended in 1984 when Nestlé gave an
undertaking to abide by the International Code. Monitoring found
that Nestlé did not keep its promise and the boycott was re-launched
in 1989. Today it is active in 19 countries. (See the History
of the Campaign).
- Nestlé malpractice
in Pakistan has recently been exposed by a former employee (see
the summary of Milking
Profits). An external audit of Nestlé Pakistan was
launched in May (see British Medical Journal article Nestlé
violates international marketing code, says audit and Baby
Milk Action press release, 24 May
- 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" (see press release 12
- The Church of England
Synod endorsed the boycott in 1991. It suspended support in
1994, while gathering its own evidence. The report Cracking
the Code was published as a result in 1997, and concluded
that baby food companies, including Nestlé, are violating
the marketing requirements in a "systematicÓ manner. The
1997 Synod affirmed the conclusions of the report and called
for companies and governments to take action (See Boycott
News 22). In a report for the July 2000 Synod the Church
Ethical Investment Action Group comments favourably on Nestlé's
business principles and its initiative to obtain "compliance
certificates" from governments. Nestlé claims to have
received "official verification of compliance" from 54 countries,
yet the letters put forward as proof do not substantiate this
claim. UNICEF has criticised both Nestlé interpretation
of the marketing code and its use of the government letters.
Nestlé has admitted to misrepresenting a letter from
Denmark and has apologised to the authorities (see Press
Release 23 Jan 2000). Other governments have also complained
that their letters have been misrepresented. In what is possibly
the most bizarre case of misrepresentation, the letter from
the Cook Islands states: "I have not noticed any of their
products being sold here," yet Nestlé claims it obtained
the "verifications of compliance" after a process of dialogue
and correction of violations.