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Nestlé snubs European Parliamentary hearings on marketing violations

IBFAN recently took part in a Public Hearing into the baby food in dustry before the European Parliament's Development and Cooperation Committee.

IBFAN was pleased that some Members of the European Parliament (MEP) have taken up the call for a review of the European Union's export measures which should provide a complaint procedure if European-based companies market inapp­ropriately outside the European Union. Complaints have been registered by IBFAN of Pakistan, The Network, but no action has been taken.

Nestlé refused to attend the Hearing, providing a variety of excuses. These included objecting to the presence of IBFAN and UNICEF; claiming that the meeting did not have a sufficiently important title; and claiming that the Chief Executive and Vice-President were unavailable and no-one else within the company of 230,000 employees could attend.

The Public Hearing was the first event organised under a Resolution adopted by the European Parliament last year. The Resolution also calls for a legal framework and monitoring system to be set up. IBFAN is campaigning to support this initiative, which is vital given the contempt for the democratic process demonstrated by Nestlé.

At the November 22nd Hearing, The Network presented damning evidence of baby food marketing malpractice, including documentary evidence of bribes paid to doctors and sales targets set for staff. UNICEF's Legal Officer also commented on Nestlé's incorrect interpretation of the marketing requirements adopted by the World Health Assembly (see UNICEF's presentation on the IBFAN website).

Richard Howitt MEP, who had organized the hearings, reacted with a mixture of shock and outrage to Nestlé's absence. "(Nestlé) has shown utter contempt for a properly constituted public hearing. Not to attend reveals a combination of arrogance and distance which has set their cause back."

Mike Brady at UK's Baby Milk Action said: "Last year Nestlé's Chairman, Helmut Maucher, told his shareholders that he welcomed the hearing and Nestlé has made statements calling for cooperation 'to further the implementation of the WHO Code.' By refusing to address the real issues in a transparent and democratic forum, Nestlé has revealed that these are hollow statements for public consumption. Meanwhile the marketing malpractice continues, contributing to the unnecessary death and suffering of infants around the world."

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