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Nestlé also flouts regulations relating to chocolate

In August 1997 Nestlé ignored a ruling of the Food and Drug Administration in the United States which deemed one of its products illegal. In September it lobbied the House of Representatives to overturn the law which it was breaking.

Since 1938 it has been illegal in the United States to market products in which a small toy is imbedded in candy. This is not only because of the risk of choking, but also because it is argued that it is irresponsible to associate toys with something that goes into the mouth.

Nestlé have marketed such products in Europe for a number of years and sought to do the same in the United States. In July 1997 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wrote to Nestlé stating that the product was in violation of the 1938 Food and Drug Act. In August Nestlé launched its product, Nestlé Magic, a chocolate covered plastic ball containing a small plastic toy in the form of a Disney character. The product is aimed at 3 to 8 year olds. William Hubbard of the FDA said in the New York Times that, "This product is illegal under our act."

Nestlé's reaction will come as no surprise to followers of the baby milk campaign. Instead of admitting it was wrong and changing its practices, Nestlé has challenged the law. In September Nestlé lobbied the House of Representatives to have special wording inserted into the Agriculture Appropriation Bill which would have directed the FDA to issue regulations explicitly allowing products like Nestlé Magic.

Representative Rosa DeLauro said Nestlé demonstrated "corporate arrogance and an abdication of corporate responsibility...They tried to pressure every member of the committee." Nestlé wording was put forward by Representative George Nethercutt, whose district includes a Nestlé plant employing 550 people.

Consumer groups are tackling Nestlé on the matter and Nestlé has hired Washington lawyers and lobbyists to persuade them to stay neutral.

The New York Times reports that the FDA is increasingly likely to refuse Nestlé's request to formulate new regulations because the law prohibiting such cases is clear. However, nothing has been done so far to force Nestlé to remove the product from the shelves.

This is yet another cautionary tale to anyone who has been taken in by Nestlé's PR image of high moral and ethical standards.


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