Senior Nestlé executive
misleads students in failed attempt to undermine boycott
16 February 2006
In November 2005 the
University of East Anglia (UEA) Student Union held a cross-campus
referendum on renewing its long-running support for the international
Nestlé boycott. Prior to the vote Livewire student radio interviewed
Nestlé Senior Policy Advisor, Beverley Mirando, and Baby Milk Action's
Campaigns and Networking Coordinator, Mike Brady, broadcast
on 23 November.
Back-tracking on the proposed
During his interview
Mike was not surprised to hear Nestlé had claimed its malpractice
was a thing of the past - it is the company's standard line. What
was surprising was the news that Nestlé had indicated it would
consider taking part in an independent public tribunal into its
baby food marketing, proposed by Baby Milk Action, if the conditions
were right. Baby Milk Action welcomed this news, while commenting
Nestlé may have only signalled this shift in policy in an attempt
to undermine support for the boycott in the forthcoming referendum.
Baby Milk Action wrote
to Nestlé Chief Executive Officer, Peter Brabeck Letmathé,
welcoming the apparent fact that Nestlé had dropped its
outright opposition to the tribunal and asked him to set out the
terms and conditions
he wished to put on it. Baby Milk Action offered to take
these to the International Nestlé Boycott Committee and
the International Baby Food Action Network. We believe that Nestlé's
claims fall apart when time is taken to examine the evidence properly.
No reply was received
from Mr. Brabeck, but on 14 February Beverley Mirando wrote:
"I would like
to clarify the question relating to an independent public Nestlé "tribunal" that
was brought up at the radio interview by the University of East
Anglia Students’ Union with me on Monday, November 21, 2005 and raised by you in a letter to Mr. Peter Brabeck-Letmathe dated December 8, 2005.
"Following the University's Christmas vacation, the transcript we asked for was received by us from the Union last week and, indeed, the transcript fully supports my memory.
clear that I have said we believe in constructive dialogue and
constructive engagement, but if it is part of a political
would say no.
"As you will note, our
position that we would not attend remains unchanged.
"Our decision not to participate in such a "tribunal" remains
So were students
and Baby Milk Action misled in the broadcast? It had gone out across
from the University and fortunately Baby Milk Action has been
able to obtain a tape of it.
listen to Beverley's comments on the tribunal, immediately followed
Nestlé's new position being put to Mike (you can listen
to the full unedited interview below). You need Realplayer to listen.
Action claims to have challenged Nestlé to participate
in an independent public tribunal in this country to determine,
after testimony from relevant experts, whether or not Nestlé acts
ethically in developing countries. Have you refused this
invitation and, if so, why?"
do believe in constructive dialogue, in constructive engagement,
and if this sort of public hearing will lead to that constructive
dialogue we are willing to do so. We have done it, we have
debated this with Baby Milk Action, not only in student universities,
but in a number of other places. But otherwise if it is more
a politically different agenda, then I'm sorry, it doesn't
serve any purpose and on that basis we would say no."
I am saying is if there was an independently organised tribunal,
not organised by Baby Milk Action, but organised by an independent
arbitrator who you both agreed to, you would agree to go
along with that, would you?"
to know. We'd have to look because we have to check how independent
are these names and what the arbitration panel is. We'd have
to look at it at that stage."
it is something you would be happy to do under the correct
the correct circumstances, if the panel is independent we may
But when asked about
what the 'correct circumstances' for Nestlé would be and who they
would like to be on the panel Nestlé responded, as quoted above:
position that we would not attend remains unchanged. Our decision
not to participate in such a "tribunal" remains
Having already lost
the referendum, Nestlé apparently believes it is no longer necessary
to keep up the pretence and perhaps
hoped Baby Milk Action would be unable to obtain a recording of what
a message to Nestlé to keep up the pressure for the tribunal. If Nestle believes it can
prove it is doing nothing wrong and that our monitoring evidence
is false, then why does it refuse to even discuss terms for a tribunal?
Violations of the Code
In the interview
Nestlé listed the marketing activities it claims it does not do
to abide by the World Health Assembly marketing requirements.
here to listen to the full interview with Realplayer.
When Nestlé disputes
the figure of 1.5 million deaths remember that UNICEF has stated:
that undermine breastfeeding are potentially hazardous wherever
they are pursued: in the developing world, WHO
estimates that some 1.5 million children die each year because they
are not adequately breastfed. These facts are not in dispute."
See the Your
Questions Answered section for further information.
When Nestlé claims
malpractice stopped in the 1970s browse through the Nestlé sections
of the Breaking
the Rules reports.
When Nestlé claims
it has been cleared by external audits, see our briefing Nestlé's
Public Relations Machine exposed.
When Nestlé claims
to accept the subsequent Resolutions of the World Health Assembly
look back over our past Campaign
for Ethical Marketing action sheets to see how we fought for 9
years to get Nestlé to accept that it should
not promote complementary foods for use before 6 months of age.
When Nestlé claims
it does not make direct contact with mothers read the comments made
by the same Beverley Mirando less than three months later, admitting
to such practices and attempting to justify them (full
comments below). We exposed how Nestlé Chief Executive,
Peter Brabeck Letmathé, was placing health workers in retail
outlets to relaunch the company's
range of Neslac milks after these were withdrawn following
a contamination scare and asked campaign supporters to write to Mr. Brabeck (click
here). Beverley denied that the company makes direct
contact with mothers, but wrote to our campaign supporters on 16 February 2006:
apparently referred to in the allegation consisted of a Nutrition
Corner... This program was staffed by
some of whom had medical degrees."
Nestlé was promoting baby foods for use from 6 months and milks
for use from one year of age, which are outside the scope of the
In our report we anticipated Nestlé may use this argument. While
claiming that infant formula was not promoted, she admits that pregnant
women were targetted with 'nutritional supplements'. Promoting the
idea that to breastfeed a mother requires expensive supplements is
one of the ways Nestlé undermines breastfeeding. Whether
the company representatives referred to infant formula or not when
promoting Nestlé products to pregnant and lactating women, the International
Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes is unequivocal.
in their business capacity, should not seek direct or indirect
contact of any kind with pregnant
women or with others
of infants and young children."
UNICEF, which is mandated under the Code to advise on interpretation,
has clarified (click
here to download a letter from UNICEF's Legal Officer):
“Any form of
contact with mothers of children under the age of three years
is prohibited, irrespective of the
motivation behind the contact. It is no excue to argue, for example,
that contact is being sought in relation to a product that is
not within the scope of the Code, such as complementary foods.
The prohibition is absolute.”
This is what Nestlé's Beverley
Mirando is now saying about the direct contact she denied took place
in the broadcast. Note how pregnant and lactating women were specifically
targetted, suggesting they need a 'supplement':
comments on China violation 16 February 2006
Enhancing the knowledge
about iron-fortified infant cereals for children over six months
and vitamin and mineral-enriched powdered milk for children aged
one year and older was part of our communication in 2005. The
programme apparently referred to in the allegation consisted
of a Nutrition Corner where the following products were displayed
in addition to the infant cereals and children's milks: vitamin-enriched
UHT milk, milk enriched with Omega 3 lipids, adult cereals, family
breakfast cereals, bottled water and a nutritional supplement
for pregnant and lactating mothers. No infant formula or follow-on
formula was displayed.
This program was staffed by health professionals, some of
whom had medical degrees. These people have no relation
to the marketing of our breast-milk substitute products
(infant formula, follow-on formula). In fact they had to
sign a statement
that they would not promote infant formula to those with
whom they came into contact.
The WHO Code clearly distinguishes between breast-milk substitutes
and complementary foods and makes clear that the Code only
applies to products marketed as breast-milk substitutes.
regulations do likewise. Neither iron-fortified infant cereals
nor milks for children aged one and over are formulated to
be, nor marketed as, breast-milk substitutes.
In addition, the milks for children one year and above show
children drinking from a feeding cup, a normal cup or a
glass. The name
of the product label design and label colour are completely
different from that of our formula products so that confusion
milk substitutes is virtually impossible.
I trust this demonstrates that the products promoted in China
were not breast-milk substitutes but products essential to
better health for children aged one year and over using
qualified and subject to professional codes of conduct in
addition to our own strict rules.