39: April 2007
Table of Contents
Baby Milk Action launched a campaign of international solidarity with the Philippines in November 2006 to help our IBFAN partners and WHO and UNICEF defend regulations introduced by the Department of Health.
Industry challenges marketing regulations
In August 2006 the Department of Health tried to do something to improve the protection of breastfeeding by introducing Revised Implementing Rules and Regulation (RIRR) under provisions in the 1986 Milk Code. These new rules were immediately challenged in court by the Pharmaceutical and Health Care Association of the Philippines (PHAP), which includes companies such as Abbott Ross, Mead Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, Wyeth and Gerber (as part of Novartis). The President of the US Chamber of Commerce, Mr Thomas Donahue, wrote to President Arroyo warning of “the risk to the reputation of the Philippines as a stable and viable destination for investment” if she did not “re-examine this regulatory decision”. Four days later the Supreme Court reversed an earlier decision and suspended the regulations.
ARUGAAN, our IBFAN partner in the Philippines, organised a national petition and requested help. IBFAN released Mr. Donahue's letter and Baby Milk Action organised a petition. In November our Policy Director, Patti Rundall, was invited to the Philippines by UNICEF and spoke on television and at the Congress.
150 mothers who had stopped breastfeeding after seeing company promotion claiming formula gave their children benefits, such as improved intelligence. went to the Supreme Court calling for the RIRR to stand.
The industry strikes back
Arguing that the new regulations would affect the "investment and expansion plans" of key milk manufacturers, the industry has gone on the offensive in the media as well as through the courts. A PHAP advertisement in February - supposedly for breastfeeding - in fact undermined it by presenting nine reasons why mothers stopped breastfeeding. In fact, in nearly all the cases cited, given the correct support and advice problems could be overcome so breastfeeding could continue with no need for artificial feeding. WHO and UNICEF responded with adverts exposing the misinformation. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Jean Zeigler, stepped in to offer his support for the government action, announcing publicly that he is 'appalled' at the PHAP advertising.
For more information and how you can help see: archive.babymilkaction.org/philippines
The protection and promotion of breastfeeding has been ranked as the most cost-effective intervention for child survival, and could prevent 13–15% of child deaths in low-income countries. A 2006 investigation into a serious outbreak of diarrhoea in Botswana highlighted again the danger of artificial feeding: 93% of the infants admitted to hospital were not breastfeeding, and these children had the greatest risk of dying. However, the knowledge that breastfeeding can also transmit HIV to children has created a dilemma for parents and health policy makers and has undermined infant feeding policies in many countries - a situation that has been exploited to the full by the baby food industry. Since 1999 researchers in South Africa have been pointing to evidence that exclusive breastfeeding reduced the transmission of the HIV virus, at least for the first 3 months. But since the studies were not specifically designed to address this question, no one knew for sure how significant exclusive breastfeeding was. The world needed more evidence.
Now, at last, the results of a new meticulous, independently funded, 6-year prospective study have been published by The Lancet (Mother-to-child transmission of HIV-1 infection during exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months of life: Coovadia et al., Lancet March 31 2007; 369: 1107–16 Exclusive Breastfeeding and HIV W.Holmes, F Savage 1065-1066)
The study of over 2,722 children in KwaZulu–Natal, South Africa found that mixed and replacement feeding presents an unacceptable risk to infant survival. In relation to HIV transmission, when HIV-positive mothers breastfed exclusively, their babies had a lower risk of infection with HIV than those with any type of mixed feeding. Adding formula to breastfeeding nearly doubled transmission risk and the addition of solids increased the risk 11-fold. Importantly, the study also showed that mortality by 3 months of age for replacement-fed babies (15%) was more than double that of those who were exclusively breastfed (6%). The study also demonstrated the effectiveness and feasibility of interventions to promote exclusive breastfeeding.
Baby Milk Action and Initiativ Liewensufank represent IBFAN on the Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health - the European Commission's experiment to see if the food industry can make voluntary committments that will reverse the rise in obesity and food related diseases. The industry stands to gain much from this process and argues that trust and self regulation rather than legislation is the best way forward.
At the February meeting this notion was blown apart by a presentation by Corinna Hawkes of the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington. Corinna looked at the global growth of self-regulation and showed that it does not wark as a way to limit the extent and impact of marketing. Instead, self-regulatory systems promote trust in advertising among consumers and governments, undermining their resolve to bring in the legislation that is needed to protect health. Under these systems the volume of advertising increases.
Nailing the point home, to the evident distress of the companies, Sue Davies presented the Which? report, Food Fables. She brilliantly exposed the weaknessess of Nestlé, McDonalds, Kelloggs and other companies' policies and compared them to their actual practices.
Public-private partnerships (PPPs) and UN-business partnerships (UNBPs) are pushed as the solution to everything from development to climate change to health. But whose interests do they really serve? The authors of a new publication by the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) entitled Beyond Pragmatism: Appraising UN-Business Partnerships identify a clear need for more critical thinking in relation to PPPs and UN-BPs to ensure that they are compatable with the mandate of the UN and do not legitimise corporate power - acting as a broker for foreign investors in developing countries.
The 7 claims listed in Schedule 4 that are permitted are: adapted protein; low sodium; sucrose free; lactose only; lactose free; iron enriched and reduction of risk to allergy to milk proteins. Any other claim is illegal.
Claims allowed in the new Directive
Nine claims will be permitted by the new EU Directive. All, apart from the Lactose claims, are highly promotional. We are lobbying for these claims to be placed at the BACK of the package - next to the nutrition panel in a non-promotional way. The 8 permitted nutrition claims are: Lactose only, Lactose free, added LCP; docosahexaenoic acid; Taurine; fructo-oligosaccharides; galactooligosaccharides; nucleotides plus one disease risk reduction claim relating to a reduction of risk to allergy to milk proteins. The Directive does not mention the terms 'HA' or 'Hypoallergenic.'
Wyeth/SMA plans new closer to breastmilk promotion
See the Campaigns Coordinator's blog and our film clip about the new SMA logo.
In response to the 2005 WHA Resolution stating that parents should be informed through an explicit warning that powdered infant formula may contain pathogenic microorganisms, the Food Standards Agency held a meeting in January to discuss its research on public understanding of the term 'non-sterile' and attitudes to labelling. It concluded that parents do need to be made aware of the reasons for any change in advice. See:
In April, WHO published its Guidelines for the safe preparation, storage and handling of powdered infant formula. See:
Meanwhile Cow&Gate (a subsidiary of NUMICO) is approaching Infection Control Nurses offering to help them conform to Government advice. Its paper is full of half-truths and incorrect information and terminolgy, designed to appear responsible but fudging the real issue. For example, it claims formula is "intrinsically very safe" and that it's more 'practical' for parents to use cool boiled water and feed immediately, rather than water at 70 degrees - the single most effective decontamination step which WHO experts say could reduce the risk 10,000-fold.
In November the ASA found that Cow & Gate could not substantiate its claim: "Our range of follow-on milks all contain a bunch of goodies called prebiotics to help build natural defences." The ASA said future claims should only refer to 'some natural defences'.
In February it ruled against a Redbush Tea advert which claimed it "could safely be added to formula instead of water and was clinically prescribed for babies for any purpose."
Find out more on the Campaigns Coordinator's blog:
One cheer for the Advertising Standards Authority (Cow & Gate case)
In 1995 Baby Milk Action, all the leading health professional and mothersupport groups, Tony Blair and the Labour Party opposed the UK Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations for being too weak. Following concerted campaigning by Baby Milk Action and the Baby Feeding Law Group, the Government has pledged to strengthen the law. The coming months will put this committment to the test. For examples of aggressive marketing practices used by companies in the UK, see our Hard Sell Formula pamphlet.
Update 3 July 2007: The government has now launched the consultation on the redrafted legislation. Click here for details of the consultation. The points we make in our suggested letter are all still relevant.
Policy makers are at last recognising that breastfeeding and appropriate and timely complementry feeding provides an ideal window of opportunity for obesity prevention and may help in the development of taste receptors and appeitite control. Not only are the sugars in processed baby milks and foods very different from those found in breastmilk and fresh foods but the levels present are often far too high. (See Alacta fomula example above).
At the Codex meeting in Thailand in November, the Thai Government tried to do something about this.
The Thai Government proposed that the maximum sugar levels in baby foods should be reduced from 30% to10% of calories. This sensible suggestion - which is in line with WHO's Expert recommendations on calorie intake - was blocked by the United States and the European Commission. Baby Milk Action joined Norway, Indonesia and the IBFAN team in support of Thailand.
We were not able to prevent the Codex standard permitting the addition of cocoa to foods for babies of 6 months. If, in addition governments allow certain nutrition claims, the product labels may give parents the impression that a sweet chocolate flavour food is good for health. Nestlé is already compiling a dossier for their lobby to have health claims on chocolate.
After 10 years of struggle and several important strengthenings, the Codex Standard for Infant Formula and Formulas for Special Medical Purposes reached Step 8. It will go to the Labelling Committee in Canada in May before final adoption at the Codex Commission in Rome in July 2007. The food industry lobby for permission to use health and nutrition claims was thwarted by Australia's successful insertion of this text: "The Guidelines for Use of Nutrition and Health Claims apply to infant formula and formula for special medical purposes for infants. These requirements include a prohibition on the use of nutrition and health claims for foods for infants and young children except where specifically provided for in relevant Codex Standards or national legislation." The industry opposed the need for warnings on labels about possible presence of bacteria in powdered infant formula and insisted that a reference to ‘safe water’ was sufficient. The agreed text refers to 'boiled water' and 'Good Hygienic Practice'.
Speaking for IACFO we called for Codex to set maximum limits on Trans-Fatty Acids, as Denmark has done. This was opposed by industry and the EU Commission who later initiated legal proceedings against Denmark. In January four MEPs tabled a Written Declaration 'regretting' the Commission's action and calling for legislation limiting Trans-Fatty Acids. see www.epha.org/a/2537
We represented IBFAN at the WHO European Ministerial Conference on Counteracting Obesity in Turkey.
The Charter that was adopted calls for the promotion of breastfeeding and the regulation of food marketing to children.
For further information see:
Novartis was admitted to the FTSE4Good ethical investment index last year on the promise that its Gerber subsidiary would abide by the baby food marketing criteria. No changes were seen on the ground despite our calls for feeding bottle promotions to be removed from the Gerber site. Gerber's CEO, Mr Kurt Schmidt, replied to say the website has a 'breast is best' note, and that seemed to be the end of it. See our Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet.
Mr Schmidt now reports to Nestlé (excluded from the FTSE4Good Index) as on April 12th Novartis sold Gerber to Nestlé for US$ 5.5 bn. Gerber has an incredible 82% share of the US baby food market, a result of its US$13.8m annual ad. spend, contacting mothers several times a year. A format Nestlé says its keen to follow. Gerber also leads the baby food market in Mexico, Latin America and Poland.
The business website of Bounty, which provides gift packs to new mothers, reveals how leaflets and foods for older babies are part of a strategy to sell more formula. It says: "HiPP were also keen to drive traffic to the HiPP website in order to increase awareness and understanding of the full product range, including the HiPP Organic milks range." It worked, achieving 6,953 visits to the 'Your Pregnancy' section and over 12,000 registrations for further information. 19,765 entered a HIPP competition.
The US Food & Drug Administration criticised Nestlé in November for refusing to withdraw infant formula without the correct levels of Calcium and Phosphorous.
See the Campaign Coordinator's blog:
Data drawing on children born in the 1920s and 1930s indicates that those who were breastfed were 41% more likely to move up at least one social class than those who were fed cow’s milk - the then alternative. The longer a child was breast-fed the greater its chances of upward social mobility. See:
Keep up-to-date with research: www.babyfriendly.org
Farewell also to Gary Woolley, who has stood down as Chair of our Board after 9 years. Gary has played a vital role in our governance and management and will be greatly missed.
Petranella Clarke (1938 -2007) We send our love to the family of Petra Clarke who died in January. Petra was always honest about the political constraints of her position as Snr. Medical Officer at the Department of Health from 1986-98. She was very supportive of breastfeeding and our work, including in her role as a Member of the Church of England's General Synod. www.guardian.co.uk/obituaries/story/0,,2022183,00.html.
Boycott supporters turned up at the British Library on 13 December for the Nestlé Children’s Book Prize Award ceremony giving out leaflets explaining Nestlé’s record in violating children’s rights. Several of those who attended commented on the strangeness of the ceremony. Organisers had not publicised the time in advance, nor were the media invited! The protest was publicised in France and on the Teachers TV channel.
AMT, which serves Fairtrade-marked tea and coffee at many railway station kiosks, has responded to consumer demand by dumping Nestlé Kit Kats.
It says it is looking for a bar to complement its coffee, presumably one that is not on a boycott list.
As well as the baby milk issue, Kit Kat is tainted because Nestlé has apparently failed to act on child slavery in its cocoa supply chain and has been taken to court in the US.
It all goes to show it is well worth filling in customer comment cards! Order our 'Nescafé - No Thanks!' cards for leaving at places that do not offer an alternative.
We launched a campaign in support of colleagues in India who found Nestlé sponsoring health worker symposia and music events in breach of legislation introduced in 2003.
Nestlé replied, citing the 1992 law, claiming it was doing nothing wrong. Nestlé also denied a report that a representative gave leaflets on infant formula to mothers in a clinic, saying it had conducted an investigation.
The doctor who reported the indicident said he was aware of no Nestlé investigation and said he certainly had not been contacted. He stood by his report.
You can send letters to keep up the pressure on unethical corporations - see our Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet for details and Nestlé's response.
In February Nestlé boasted on the front page of its global website that it had received a 'positive rating' in the One World Trust Global Accountability Report 2006.
Nestlé pointed out it had scored 5th highest in transparency of all 30 organisations rated. In fact this was a score of a little over 50% - simply for having some policies in place. Significantly, the quality of its information disclosure policy was rated as 0% (yes, zero %).
It scored 52% in another section for claiming to have an infant formula ombudsman. We wrote to the ombudsman when the post was announced and never received a reply. Does the post exist?
Nestlé did not make the list of 8 organisations that had scored more than half marks in more than 2 sections.
Not so much a positive rating as a positive cheek!
Our special leaflets highlighting the baby milk issue and giving key figures about Nestlé and coffee proved a popular download from the website during the FairTrade Fortnight in March.
Nestlé has recently re-launched Partners' Blend with new packaging. Could it be Fairtrade shoppers are not taken in and go for products from companies without Nestlé's appalling record?
Nestle Annual Demo: 19 May 2007 - 11-12.00 Demonstration at Nestlé (UK) HQ in Croydon and at other Nestlé sites and Body Shop outlets around the country. See our sign up form.
Nestlé-free week: 2-8 July 2007 -The 4 July marks the 30th anniversary of the launch of the first Nestlé boycott, which helped to bring about the International Code of Marekting of Breastmilk Substitutes. The second boycott, launched when Nestlé failed to respect the Code, has brought some changes, but Nestlé continues to break the Code and subsequent Resolutions systematically where it has not been introduced into law. To mark the anniversary of the first boycott Baby Milk Action and Boycott partners have declared the week to be International Nestléfree Week and will be holding events around the world. Those who are not supporting the boycott, or only boycott Nescafé (the principal target in the UK), will be encouraged to give up all Nestlé products for at least these 7 days and to spread the word.