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 "Can a product which requires clean water, good sanitation, adequate family income and a literate parent to follow printed instructions, be properly and safely used in areas where water is contaminated, sewage runs through the streets, poverty is severe and illiteracy is high?"


             In 1978 Nestlé admitted, "No". Sadly when the same question is asked today, the answer remains, "No".


             According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF about 1.5 million babies die every year because they were not breastfed. In many parts of the world, not breastfeeding means the difference between life and death.  Where water is unsafe, preparing formula means exposing children to the harmful bacteria found in untreated water.  This causes many infants to become infected with bacterial diseases, the most feared of which is diarrhoea, which yearly leads to dehydration and death for thousands of infants.  Many more millions suffer from infectious diseases and malnutrition, never reaching their full potential because they were not breastfed. The global decline in breastfeeding and the subsequent ascent of  "commerciogenic malnutrition" has been attributed in part to the aggressive marketing of breastmilk substitutes by the babymilk and babyfood industry1 To Counteract this dangerous trend, the World Health Assembly ratified an international marketing code2 designed to protect breastfeeding and ensure the proper use of artificial feeding when necessary.


            The International Code imposes strict guidelines that prohibit the promotion of infant formula to the public, the promotion of infant formula through health care systems, direct contact between formula companies and mothers, and ensure proper labels on all products describing the benefits of breastfeeding and the dangers of bottlefeeding (see the International Code page on this website for more information). 


            Despite the fact that Nestlé has promised to comply with the WHO Marketing Code, the company disposes of large quantities of free formulas to maternity hospitals and birthing centres, distributes free formula to pregnant women and new mothers, misinforms about infant feeding, and tries to entice health care workers with enducements and gifts. In Bangladesh, Brazil, Mexico, Russia and South Africa, mothers of newborns receive free Nestlé infant formula samples in hospitals. Health care workers receive gifts such as pens, calendars, and desk sets in Chile, Colombia, and Spain, and in Zimbabwe, health care workers receive Christmas hampers from Nestlé.3.


            Nestlé knows that artificial feeding in the poor areas of the world is dangerous.  So why do they promote their products there?  The awful reality is that every breastfeeding mother represents competition for formula companies.  In what has become a deadly zero-sum game, Nestlé is trying to convince mothers all over the world to engage in dangerous feeding practices.


            As the world's largest babyfood company, Nestlé sets the marketing standards for the industry.  Currently, rather than setting a good example, it is the single most prolific violator of the International Code.  Participants in the Nestlé Boycott refuse to let Nestlé carry on business as usual while they are at the same time endangering the health of millions.  Boycotters refuse to buy any Nestlé products in order to put pressure on the company by creating bad publicity and lowering sales.  The Boycott will be promoted and publicized until such time as Nestlé is forced to change its marketing practices and begins to act ethically.



1. Joint WHO/UNICEF Meeting on Infant and Young Child Feeding. WHO, Geneva, 1979.[back]

2. International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes, and relevant resolution of the WHO World Health Assembly, Geneva, 1981. IBFAN Resolutions. <Resolutions.htm> [back]

3. Breaking the Rules 2001. International Baby Food Action Network, 2001. IBFAN Web Site <> [back]

Read IBFAN's Letter Condemning Nestle's Involvement in the UN's Global Compact


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