|The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1.5 million infants die as a result of infectious diseases every year because they are not breastfed. Despite this, companies continue to promote artificial feeding in ways that undermine breastfeeding.|
works to protect breastfeeding and to ensure that mothers receive correct
information about infant feeding free from commercial pressure. It also
works to improve the safety of artificial feeds.
Companies continue to put profits before health by encouraging mothers and health workers to use their milks and equipment. Their tactics range from advertising and misinformation to sending sales reps into hospitals to promote their milks. They also sponsor health workers, conferences and even health facilities.
Baby Milk Action co-ordinates the 18-country international Nestlé boycott which has prompted awareness and given people a voice which cannot be ignored. The boycott was instrumental in the decision to draft an international code, and was acknowledged by James Grant, former Executive Director of UNICEF, as being one of the instigators for the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative.
The boycott focuses on Nestlé because it controls about 40% of the world market in baby milks. It is also one of the world’s largest food manufacturers, with operating companies in 75 countries and an annual turnover of $42-billion (U.S.). Because of its size and the extent of its coffee, cocoa and food trading, Nestlé exerts a powerful influence on governments. It influences market trends and the behaviour of other companies more than any other single food company. Nestlé’s influence undermines controls on its marketing activities. Monitoring shows Nestlé to be the largest single source of violations of the marketing Code worldwide.
A bit of history
The Nestlé Boycott started in 1977 in Minneapolis, USA and had one basic demand: that the company halt all promotion of breastmilk substitutes to parents and health workers, including direct advertising to consumers, the distribution of free samples and the use of ‘milk nurses’ (company sales representatives dressed as nurses).
The first phase of the boycott (which was supported by 10 countries) ended in 1984 when Nestlé agreed to abide by the International Code in the developing world.
The second stage started in 1988, following research in Asia which showed that Nestlé had reneged on its 1984 promises. Pressure from the boycott is needed as much today as it was 20 years ago because monitoring reveals that Nestlé is again using practices which campaigners thought had long ended.
Nestlé breaks the rules
In the Philippines, for example, Nestlé employs nurses as ‘Health Educators’ and sends them into the community to promote Nestogen infant formula to new mothers. And in the emerging markets of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, Nestlé’s infant formula, Nan, was advertised on the vans of distributors in Armenia until this was exposed, and boycott supporters wrote to Nestlé calling on it to stop.
Nestlé also takes the lead in attempting to undermine government implementation of the International Code, which has a powerful impact on international measures. Nestlé’s CEO, Peter Brabeck, chairs the European Round Table which has special access to the European Union; Nestlé’s Chair, Helmut Maucher, is president of the International Chamber of Commerce, which is attempting to push forward a free trade agenda at the World Trade Organisation.
Against such a powerful company, there is something even the smallest child can do: Boycott Nestlé products until it abides by the International Code and relevant subsequent Resolutions.
Most baby food manufacturers are continuing their unethical promotional activities while claiming to abide by the International Code. They are increasingly “investing” in health workers and health care systems, spending more money promoting their products than most governments spend on health education.
Of the co-ordinating groups in 18 countries, the ones in the U.K., Canada, Mexico, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Australia, Mauritius, the Philippines, Mexico, Spain and Luxembourg form the International Nestlé Boycott Committee (INBC). The U.K. IBFAN group, Baby Milk Action, acts as the secretariat for INBC, which has a standing agreement to meet with Nestlé collectively to discuss ending the boycott, when the company has anything meaningful to put forward to demonstrate a change in its policy and practices. This has yet to happen.
Get involved! Don’t let Nestlé get away with putting profits before infant health. For further information contact your Regional IBFAN Office or