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Boycotters plan demonstration as Nestlé desperately attempts to clean up its baby food marketing image

Nestle (UK) Headquarters, St. George's House, Croydon
18 May 2002 (Saturday) - 11am to 12 noon
Picture opportunity - all welcome

For further information contact or
phone (01223 464420)

To mark the 21st anniversary of the adoption of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and UK Breastfeeding Week, demonstrators will be gathering outside Nestlé (UK) headquarters in Croydon to once again expose the role the global giant plays in undermining breastfeeding. Nestlé's aggressive promotion of breastmilk substitutes contributes to the unnecessary death and suffering of infants. According to UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) reversing the decline in breastfeeding could save the lives of 1.5 million infants around the world every year.

The demonstration comes as Nestlé introduces new strategies in an attempt to divert criticism of its activities and will serve as a warning to the company that words are not enough. Calls by celebrities for a boycott of the forthcoming Nestlé sponsored Hay-on-Wye literature festival are reinforcing the message (see Nestlé sponsorship of the Hay-on-Wye literature festival - Take Action!).

Last week St. Andrew's University (where Prince William is studying) held a referendum on the question: "Should the Students' Association end its ban on the stocking of Nestle products?" The result: Yes 36.3% (337) No 63.7% (591). So the boycott stays in place alongside that of many other student unions. Nestlé recently changed its policy of refusing to debate with Baby Milk Action and has participated in a number of debates at Universities where its arguments have failed to convince (see Boycott News 30). At the first debate at Cambridge University last year Nestlé rejected a four-point plan aimed at saving infant lives and ultimately ending the boycott (see Boycott News 29).

The Nestlé boycott began in 1977 and was suspended in 1984 when Nestlé promised to abide by the International Code. The boycott was relaunched in 1989 when international monitoring found that Nestlé continued to break the Code and subsequent, relevant Resolutions adopted by the World Health Assembly to protect infant health. The boycott played a key role in the introduction of the International Code and has prompted some changes in marketing practices (see History of the Campaign), but monitoring shows that Nestlé still violates the Code and Resolutions in a systematic manner (see Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules 2001).

Campaigning by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN - Baby Milk Action is the UK member) has helped to bring in legislation implementing the Code and Resolutions and Nestlé has been successfully prosecuted for its malpractice. Nestlé also lost a case before the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in 1999 after claiming in an anti-boycott advertisement that it markets infant formula 'ethically and responsibly' (see press release 12 May 1999). All of Baby Milk Action's complaints about Nestlé's claims were upheld by the ASA.

In November 2000 the European Parliament held a Public Hearing into Nestlé malpractice and received documentary evidence of practices including the bribing of doctors in Pakistan provided by former Nestlé employee, Syed Aamar Raza . Nestlé refused to attend the Hearing (see "MEPs shocked as Nestlé and Adidas snub Public Hearing on corporate responsibility" which includes the text of presentations made to the Public Hearing by the Network for Consumer Protection in Pakistan and UNICEF's Legal Officer). Labour peer, Lord Ahmed, turned up and attempted to defend Nestlé. It was recently revealed that Nestlé had paid and organised for Lord Ahmed to visit Pakistan and has offered him employment as an 'advisor' (see press release 20 March 2002).

Nestlé whistleblower, Syed Aamar Raza, claims his life was threatened and he was offered a substantial sum of money to drop a legal action he brought against Nestlé calling on it to stop its aggressive marketing of breastmilk substitutes in Pakistan (see summary of the report Milking Profits).

Baby Milk Action has raised its concerns about Aamar's treatment at Nestlé shareholder Annual General Meetings (AGMs) and at this year's AGM Nestlé Chief Executive Officer, Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, announced that Nestlé has appointed an ombudsman to investigate staff complaints in future. While this demonstrates Nestlé's concern about the adverse publicity, it is unclear whether this will make a difference in practice as the aggressive promotion of breastmilk substitutes is institutionalised within Nestlé. The baby milk business has been described by the company as one of its main 'strategic pillars'. Nestlé, including Mr. Brabeck, continue to attack Syed Aamar Raza instead of welcoming his documentary evidence of malpractice. Aamar remains in hiding and hasn't seen his wife and two young children for over two years.

How to get to Nestlé

There are frequent trains from London Victoria to East Croydon station. From the station turn right into George Street and walk to the junction with Park Lane. Turn left. St. George's House is a tower block on the right.

Notes for editors from Baby Milk Action

  1. Also see the sections 'Your Questions Answered' and 'resources' for useful information on Nestlé's public relations strategies and the 'codewatch' section for examples of Nestlé malpractice.

  2. The UK is one of 20 countries where the Nestlé boycott has been launched by national groups. The most recent country to join the boycott is Cameroon, where a national group launched the boycott after finding Nestlé promoting infant formula at health facilities with film shows (see Baby Milk Action press release: 27th January 2001).

  3. Nestlé is the target of the boycott because monitoring by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) finds it to be responsible for more violations of the World Health Assembly marketing requirements than any other company. The latest monitoring report, Breaking the Rules Stretching the Rules 2001 again rates Nestlé as the worst company in terms of compliance following monitoring in 14 countries.

  4. Last year Nestlé was excluded from the new FTSE4Good ethical investment lists because it continues to violate the marketing requirements (see Baby Milk Action press release: 11 July 2001).

  5. The UK Nestlé boycott featured prominently in the news again last August when celebrities called for a boycott of the Nestlé Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Fringe (see Baby Milk Action press release: 28th August 2001, which includes video clips of Emma Thompson and Steve Coogan). According to Ethical Consumer Magazine's 1999 survey, the Nestlé boycott is the best supported consumer boycott in the UK.

  6. Some reports on past demonstrations can be seen in Boycott News 29, Boycott News 25, Boycott News 23, Boycott News 21.


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