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Celebrities call for boycott of Nestle Perrier award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Press Release: 31 July 2001

Top UK comedy performers and film stars are calling for up-and-coming acts to boycott the Nestlé Perrier Award at the current Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Emma Thompson, Rob Newman, Julie Christie and Victoria Wood are amongst those calling for the boycott to highlight Nestlé's aggressive marketing of breastnilk substitutes which contributes to the unnecessary death and suffering of infants around the world by undermining breastfeeding. According to UNICEF reversing the decline in breastfeeding could save the lives of 1.5 million infants around the world every year.

Emma Thompson said: "The Perrier Awards should be boycotted by all right-thinking people, because Nestle has got to be stopped."

The Perrier Awards started in 1981 and have helped many household names up the ladder, including Emma Thompson, who was one of the first winners. But since the company was bought out by the 49 billion Swiss food giant Nestle in 1992, it became just another of the companyÖs 12,000 brands and inevitably embroiled in global politics. The Boycott of the award started spontaneously after Rob Newman made the initial call in Scotland on Sunday on 22nd July and has rapidly gained support and attracted publicity.

Victoria Wood said: "Comedians can manage without the Perrier Award and the world should be able to manage without Perrier. I support the Boycott."

Victoria Wood also raised the environmental impact of bottling water: "The idea that the only way to get clean drinking water is to pay for some in a bottle is appalling. No-one has the right to corner the world's drinking supply, that's like something from science fiction. I very happily drink tap water most of the time. I'm not comfortable about the waste involved in producing a plastic bottle just so I can drink something I can get from a tap."

When Nestlé launched its 'Pure Life' brand of bottled water in Pakistan its aggressive promotion campaign was criticised for undermining efforts to provide piped drinking water for all (see report in Boycott News 25). In the US Perrier is the target of a boycott because of its environmental impact (see Save America's Water). WWF has recently launched a report on the environmental impact of bottled water.

An alterhative 'Tap Water' award has been launched by the Bongo Club. According to the Sunday Herald (5th August): "The Bongo Club, a popular Edinburgh venue hosting the Tap Water Awards, will host 19 music and comedy acts which have agreed to boycott Perrier. The new prize will be used to help cash-strapped comics fund shows at Edinburgh. Bongo coordinator Suzanne Merrall said 'I'm hoping that we can really establish the Tap Water Awards as an alternative, and encourage people to use comedy to raise awareness. 'We are hoping to take it further and make it an award for all the other comedy festivals around the world . If we can make it global, we can see that really having an effect on Perrier and Nestlé?'

Patti Rundall OBE, Policy Director at Baby Milk Action, said: "For over 20 years we have been raising awareness of the harm that nestle's marketing has on infant health, and bringing in controls to stop them doing harm. I know this new Perrier Boycott will cause problems for some up and comerdians, but I hope they will understand that its also a fantastic opportunity to do something that could make a differnece globally. There must be room at Edinburgh for a non-corporate event.

"At least now more people are aware of the complications with nestle Sponsorship - not only with baby foods, but many of its foods and drinks. By pushing bottled water agressively as Nestle does, companies can undermine the impetus to provide cheap safe water to those who need it most.

"I'm glad that there are Comedians who are prepared to see through this - and take a principled stand."

Nestlé employs a team of staff to counter the international Nestlé boycott, which has been launched by groups in 20 countries (most recently in Cameroon by a national NGO which found Nestlé promoting breastmilk substitutes at health facilities with film shows).

Nestlé falsely claims that its critics refer to marketing practices it has now stopped. In reality the evidence demonstrates Nestlé malpractice continues in a systemtic and institutionalised manner. An international monitoring report launched at the World Health Assembly in May 2001 shows Nestlé to be responsible for more violations of the marketing standards adopted by the Assembly than any other company (see the IBFAN report Breaking the Rules 2001).

Nestlé rejected a Baby Milk Action four-point plan for saving infant lives and ultimately ending the boycott in March 2001. (see Boycott News 29).

For more information contact Mike Brady or Patti Rundall at Baby Milk Action, 23 St Andrews Street, Cambridge, CB2 3AX, tel: +44 1223 464420, fax: +44 1223 464417

Reports on the web (updated 6th August) 0731/80/c02ez.html

Notes for editors:

  1. For news of other celebrity endorsers see Boycott News 29.
  2. Baby Milk Action is a non-profit organisation which aims to save infant lives and to end the avoidable suffering caused by inappropriate infant feeding. Baby Milk Action works within the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) - a coalition of more than 150 citizen and health worker groups in more than 90 countries around the world. IBFAN works for better child health and nutrition through the promotion of breastfeeding and the elimination of irresponsible marketing of infants foods, bottles and teats.
  3. The WHO International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes was adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981. Subsequent Resolutions have clarified interpretation and addressed changes in marketing practices and scientific knowledge.
  4. The latest IBFAN report - Breaking the Rules 2001 - was launched in May this year at the World Health Assembly to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. The report cites Code violations by artificial baby milk companies, including promotion via the Internet. (The report can be purchased from Baby Milk Action's Virtual Shop).
  5. Nestlé's assurances about its marketing practices do not stand up to scrutiny. In May 1999 the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld all of Baby Milk Action's complaints about an anti-boycott advertisement in which Nestlé claimed to market infant formula 'ethically and responsibly'. The two-year investigation was one of the longest in the ASA's history (see report in Boycott News 25).
  6. In November 2000 Nestlé was the first company called to give evidence to the European Parliament Public Hearings on corporate responsibility. Nestlé refused to attend (see report in Boycott News 29)
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