Press releases

Nestlé Chairman brings shame to the University of Alberta

Press release 10 February 2012 

In the media: Edmonton Journal 10 February - EJ 14 February - EJ 29 February.

Baby Milk Action mentions: Vue Weekly 15 February - CBC radio 28 February.

Update 29 February: Over 70 organizations from more than 20 countries condemn Brabeck-Letmathe honorary degree

Update 1 March: Protests outside (CBC News) and inside (Edmonton Journal) degree ceremony.

(The photographs may be used free of charge, credited to Baby Milk Action - click on them for large versions)

Least Ethical Company awardThe University of Alberta is receiving messages of protest from around the world as it plans to award Mr. Peter Brabeck-Latmathé, the Chair and former Chief Executive Officer of Nestlé, an honorary degree for contributing to "the preservation, distribution and management of one of humanity’s most vital resources: water." The protests are because the company, which is the holder of a "Least Ethical Company" award (left), is criticised for practices including destruction of water resources, marketing baby foods inappropriately, trade union busting and other issues (click here). Campaigners warn that the University of Alberta will make itself a laughing stock if it goes ahead with presenting the honorary degree to Mr. Brabeck on 1 March.

Baby Milk Action's partners in the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), Infact Canada, stated: "INFACT Canada joins the Council of Canadians in condemning University of Alberta’s plans to award Mr. Peter Brabeck-Latmathlé an honorary degree. Instead, the University should criticize Nestlé’s destructive business practices and inform the company that there is no honour for the CEO!" - click here.

Click here for the page for emailing the University of Alberta, organised by the Council of Canadians.

Click here to join the campaign event on Facebook.

Click here to register to attend the degree presentation at the University of Alberta - the event will also be live streamed.

Dump the Quality Street and After Eights revellers urged as Nestlé rejects plan to save babies and end the long-running boycott over its baby milk marketing

Nestlé also rejects Baby Milk Action's proposal to meet before a panel of independent experts to resolve disagreements about how to interpret the marketing requirements

Press release 19 December 2011

Boycott poster

In the week before Christmas, Nestlé, the UK’s most boycotted company because of the way it markets baby milk, has rejected a four-point plan put by boycott coordinators, Baby Milk Action. This plan asked Nestlé to bring its policies and practices into line with the United Nations' baby food marketing requirements and could have led to the end of the boycott.

In a letter dated 15 December 2011, Nestlé’s Global Public Affairs Manager also rejected an invitation to meet before a panel of independent experts to resolve disagreements over interpretation.

As a consequence, Baby Milk Action is calling for increased boycott support to persuade executives to change their minds. Nestlé is already one of the four most boycotted companies on the planet and the boycott has forced some changes to marketing policies and practices (see the additional information below).

Baby Milk Action alleges that Nestlé is the worst of the baby food companies for the scale and scope of its violations of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions adopted by the World Health Assembly, and refusing to stop the majority of violations reported to it - unless these are specifically targeted by the boycott campaign.

A UNICEF spokesman stated in April 2011: "I can confirm that UNICEF does not take funding from Nestle. I can also confirm that Nestle violates the code." UNICEF has also stated in the past: "Marketing practices 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." 

Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, said:

"Nestlé is putting its own profits before the lives of babies by pushing its baby milk in ways that undermine breastfeeding and endanger babies who are fed on formula. Nestlé claims that it follows the rules and so we suggested convening an expert panel to examine who is telling the truth. Nestlé refuses to even discuss this proposal with us or set out its terms and conditions for taking part. Clearly executives think it is better to spend money on its anti-boycott team and so we are asking for greater support for the boycott to persuade them to change their minds for the good of babies and their families around the world."

The Nestlé boycott targets Nescafé coffee specifically, but Baby Milk Action encourages people to avoid all Nestlé products and to let Nestlé know. At Christmas, it is suggested people do not buy Nestlé products such as Quality Street and After-Eight chocolates, but look for alternatives.

Mike Brady commented: "If you find Nestlé products in your Christmas treats, send the full or empty packet to Nestlé saying you won’t be eating or drinking any more Nestlé products until the boycott is called off."

Nestlé (UK), St Georges House, Park Lane, Croydon, Surrey CR9 1NR, United Kingdom.

Baby Milk Action's Nestlé boycott page - click here.

Baby Milk Action's draft message to Nestlé about current concerns can be found by clicking here.

For further information and to see the correspondence contact Mike Brady on 07986 736179 or


Additional information


Nestlé rejects independent expert panel

Nestlé rejects the vast majority of violations reported to it by claiming the marketing requirements have been interpreted incorrectly. Baby Milk Action cites specific provisions when calling on Nestlé to stop violations and seeks the advice of UNICEF's legal experts if questions of interpretation arise. 

Nestlé executives claim to be willing to engage in "dialogue with all key stakeholders, with the aim of finding resolution to this ongoing disagreement". Baby Milk Action accordingly wrote to Nestlé on 7 October 2011, requesting further information and commenting: 

"As you know, for many years we have been proposing convening an independent, expert tribunal where claim and counter claim regarding violations can be examined by independent experts, with input from expert witnesses. ... We have repeatedly invited Nestlé to set out its terms and conditions for participating in the proposed independent, expert tribunal. In your last comment on this proposal, in your letter of 14 January 2010, you suggested the name ‘tribunal’ was an obstacle. We responded on 10 March 2010 as follows:

"We have asked Nestlé to start the ball rolling by setting out its terms and conditions. If you are interested in 'dialogue' and object to our proposed name, you may wish to suggest calling it something else. Rather than rejecting the proposal out of hand, please include a suggested name with your terms and conditions and we will consider this."

Baby Milk Action also reminded Nestlé that it had proposed meetings under the framework of its four-point plan for saving infant lives and ultimately ending the boycott. The plan asks Nestlé to first accept the validity of the marketing requirements and that it needs to make changes to bring policies and practices into line.

Nestlé responded in its letter of 15 December 2011, again claiming it wished to engage with stakeholders, but stating:

"We feel that the description of your proposal as a 'tribunal' as well as that of your 4-point plan indicates that its nature is not about having such constructive dialogue. As a consequence we do not see the value of an interaction defined along these terms at this time."

Given that Nestlé was invited to go first in proposing terms and conditions for meeting before the expert panel - and to suggest an alternative name for it - there is little more Baby Milk Action can do, other than call for public support to persuade executives to change their minds. Nestlé's unwillingness to engage with the proposal can be explained by the fact its interpretation of the marketing requirements is not supported by experts. 

FTSE decision to weaken its FTSE4Good ethical listing emboldens Nestlé

In rejecting Baby Milk Action’s proposals in its letter of 15 December 2011, Nestlé claimed: "independent organizations have recognised Nestlé as having the strictest implementation of the WHO Code in the industry."

This is a reference to FTSE, the stock exchange listing company that weakened the baby milk marketing criteria for its FTSE4Good ethical investment index in September 2010 because Nestlé and other companies failed to meet the criteria. Nestlé was admitted to the Index in March 2011 without having to change any of its practices on the ground.

Far from seeing this as the start of a process, Nestlé claims it is already in full compliance with the Code and cites its inclusion in the FTSE4Good Index when trying to divert criticism. For example, when former UNICEF Chief Executive Ann Veneman, joined the Nestlé board Reuters reported (13 April 2011): "Nestle spokesman Robin Tickle said Veneman would help 'ensure our continued full compliance' with the code", adding "'We are the only infant formula manufacturer to be listed by the FTSE4Good Global Index,'  Tickle said."

Ms Veneman took a different view and "has acknowledged Nestlé is not fully complying with a voluntary breast milk code adopted by the World Health Organisation", according to The Guardian (14 April 2011).

Nestlé claims to be willing to work with others to move beyond disagreements, but this willingness is limited to those who accept Nestlé’s assurances and monitor company activities against Nestlé’s policies, rather than the World Health Assembly marketing requirements. In the case of FTSE4Good, a report is awaited on FTSE’s assessment of Nestlé’s actual practices, but FTSE Chief Executive, Mark Makepeace, has already told Baby Milk Action: "we will not be asking the assessors to act as a judge with regards to specific allegations, but rather to assess whether the companies practices on the ground are in-line with THEIR stated policies." [emphasis added]

Mike Brady commented:

"FTSE suggested that giving Nestlé the reward of inclusion in the FTSE4Good Index would encourage it to make further changes, but it has had the opposite effect. It was entirely predictable that FTSE dropping the standards of expected behaviour for baby food companies would embolden Nestlé in trying to justify business of usual."


Legislation and the boycott change practices and stop violations -

Nestlé in court in India

Nestle Nan 2011Baby Milk Action’s partners in India, the Breastfeeding Protection Network of India, have reported that their long-running case against Nestlé failing to put required warnings on labels will be heard shortly. India’s law includes sanctions of up to imprisonment of the Managing Director. Although it has taken 17 years for this case to reach this stage, the legal action has prompted Nestlé and other companies to put the required warnings on labels (a current Nestlé label is shown left).

The Indian law, introduced in 1992, is credited with stopping companies growing the baby milk market in India as they have in other countries, with industry analysts Euromonitor stating: "The huge disparity in the retail value of milk formula sales between China and India is mainly due to the significant differences between their official regulatory regimes." It notes: "In India, all advertising is prohibited, while in China, TV advertising and the use of celebrity spokespeople are allowed."


WHO states in its Frequently Asked Questions booklet on the Code:

"The protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding rank among the most effective interventions to improve child survival. It is estimated that high coverage of optimal breastfeeding practices could avert 13% of the 10.6 million deaths of children under five years occurring globally every year. Exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life is particularly beneficial, and infants who are not breastfed in the first month of life may be as much as 25 times more likely to die than infants who are exclusively breastfed."

Nestle Nan 2011

While Nestlé’s labels in India now include the required warning on the front of labels, the latest version (introduced in 2011 - left) are the subject of further investigation as they violate the law by including idealising health claims. For example, claims imply that the formula will "support the natural defences" and "contribute to the development of brain and vision".

Article 9.2 of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes states: "Neither the container nor the label should have pictures of infants, nor should they have other pictures or text which may idealise the use of infant formula."

The Indian Infant Milk Substitutes Act (1992) states: "(2) No container or label referred to in sub-section (1) relating to infant milk substitute or infant food shall... (b) have pictures or other graphic material or phrases designed to increase the saleability of infant milk substitutes or infant food;"

Claims that formula builds immunity, protects and is good for brain and eye development undermine breastfeeding, as demonstrated in the 2007 UNICEF Philippines film Formula for Disaster. In addition, the claims do not stand up to scrutiny

Nestlé also promotes the made up names for its ingredients "NutriProtect", "ProBlend" and "Immunonutrients", implying its formula protects babies. Baby Milk Action has specifically and repeatedly asked Nestlé to remove its "protect" claims from formula, but executives refuse to do so (and FTSE included Nestlé in the FTSE4Good Index knowing this to be the case).

By contrast, Nestlé's main competitor, Danone, agreed to remove its "Immunofortis" claims from labels around the world after these were exposed in the Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules monitoring report and Baby Milk Action's 2010 newsletter (Update 43) - click here. The Immunofortis claim is now specifically prohibited in the European Union. Danone also claims to have taken action to stop 50% of the violations in its profile in the monitoring report, whereas Nestlé has said it will only take action on 3%. Baby Milk Action and its partners continue to communicate with Danone about the changes it has made and the further changes that are required, though launching a consumer campaign targeting Danone has not been ruled out. At present, Danone's willingness to discuss violations and make changes contrasts with Nestlé's rejection of reports and its refusal to even discuss terms and conditions for resolving questions of interpretation regarding the Code and Resolutions. For further information see the presentation of the Breaking the Rules report to the Geneva press club in May 2011.

One of the four violations included in the report that Nestlé did stop had been specifically targeted by Baby Milk Action's email Nestlé campaign. Nestlé claimed its formula is "The new 'Gold Standard' in infant nutrition". It discontinued this claim after receiving thousands of emails, demonstrating how the boycott helps to force changes. However, Nestlé did attempt to argue its claim was not idealising, but referred to the colour of the labels of the formula. 

For further information, contact Mike Brady on 07986 736179.

URC Assembly resolution renewing support for Nestlé boycott has surprising consequence

Despite the United Reformed Church (URC) General Assembly renewing its support for the Nestlé boycott in July 2010 until such time as Nestlé stops systematically violating international baby food marketing standards, the Church has announced the end of its long-running support for the boycott campaign, even though Nestlé continues to "routinely" violate the standards. This move has resulted from the URC Mission Committee (which represents Church and Society issues) "issuing an instruction to its Mission Council meeting to terminate the boycott of Nestle products." The Mission Council serves as the executive of the URC between General Assemblies and meets biannually. (See chronology).

The instruction was issued due to the weakening of the breastmilk substitutes criteria of the FTSE4Good ethical investment index, which led to Nestlé being included in the Index. The URC announcement regarding the July 2010 Assembly Resolution stated: 

"After animated discussion, a resolution was passed which effectively continues the boycott of Nestlé products at this time, but anticipates ending the boycott should the company gain acceptance by the FTSE4Good Index - through reaching FTSE4Good prescribed standards of corporate responsibility."

FTSE4Good is an ethical investment index developed by FTSE, the stock exchange listing company. Nestlé would still be excluded from the Index under the FTSE4Good standards of corporate responsibility for the marketing of breastmilk substitutes in force at the time of the 2010 Assembly Resolution. FTSE adopted weaker standards in September 2010 (that is, after the Assembly Resolution) specifically because Nestlé and other baby food companies were not reaching them. Nestlé was included in the Index in March 2011 under the new standards. FTSE Chief Executive, Mark Makepeace, subsequently explained that the standards were weakened because: "In the infant food sector we were not able to engage the companies as they were all being excluded from the index."

Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, said on hearing that the URC had abandoned its long-running support for the boycott campaign:

"The URC Assembly renewed its support for the boycott in July 2010. I would be very surprised if church members expected their Resolution to lead to the Church ending support for the boycott in this way, against the advice of Baby Milk Action and while Nestlé continues pushing its formula around the world with prohibited practices that contribute to the unnecessary death and suffering of babies. Nestlé's ongoing violations of the international baby food marketing requirements mean that it would not pass the relevant criteria for inclusion in FTSE4Good at the time this was referenced by the Assembly Resolution in July 2010. Unfortunately, the criteria were weakened in September 2010 by FTSE with the express purpose of bringing baby food companies into the Index even while violations continue. I am quite shocked that this matter did not go back to the Assembly for review given that it is the FTSE4Good criteria that have changed, not Nestlé's marketing practices, but this is an issue for URC members to address if they wish. 

"Baby Milk Action will now have to spend scarce time and resources to help partners in developing countries counter misinformation about this announcement, when we should be focussing on strategies that do work to hold companies to account, such as the Nestlé boycott and our work for legislation. Nestlé continues to be the worst of the baby food companies, the most boycotted company in the UK and one of the four most boycotted on the planet. This is a sad day for health campaigners and a disaster for the mothers and babies we are seeking to protect. We will continue to promote the boycott and hold Nestlé to account, and thank the public for their support in this."

URC Church and Society has informed Baby Milk Action that it remains fully committed to the health of babies and infants.

The United Reformed Church was a long-time supporter of the Nestlé boycott and for many years provided a small annual grant to Baby Milk Action. The original 1992 URC Resolution supporting the boycott specifically called for URC churches and bodies to be alerted to Baby Milk Action. Baby Milk Action is, therefore, particularly saddened that it only learned that URC Church and Society was reviewing support for the campaign after officials had already met with Nestlé twice, produced and distributed a briefing paper and put a Resolution on the agenda of the 2010 URC General Assembly that would have opened the way to investing in Nestlé and ending the boycott had it been passed. Instead the Assembly votes "to defer a proposed ending of its 18-year boycott of Nestlé" by adopting an alternative Resolution requiring Nestlé to reach FTSE4Good-prescribed standards of corporate responsibility. As explained above, the standards in force at the time are subsequently changed, allowing Nestlé to be included in the Index.

Nestlé has been using its inclusion in the FTSE4Good Index around the world in attempting to counter moves to hold it to account over its baby food marketing practices and is expected to do the same regarding the URC announcement (see, for example, Reuters 13 April 2011). FTSE has asked Nestlé to stop misrepresenting what inclusion in the Index indicates. 

Left: Nestlé promotes its formula around the world with health and nutrition claims and other prohibited practices. Here it claims its formula "protects" babies in a leaflet distributed to health facilities in Armenia - one of the violations being targeted in Baby Milk Action's current email Nestlé campaign. Babies fed on formula are more likely to become sick than breastfed babies and, in conditions of poverty, more likely to die. The "protect" marketing strategy has been launched by Nestlé in 120 countries and it is refusing to drop it. Such claims are prohibited by the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly. Nestlé does not use the "protect" claim in countries that have implemented the international marketing standards in strong legislation, such as Brazil and India.

Nestlé discontinued the claim that its formula is "The new 'Gold Standard' in infant nutrition" after this was targeted in Baby Milk Action's 2010 email Nestlé campaign.

For further information contact Mike Brady on (UK) 07986 736179. (International) +44 7986 736179.



4 December 2009: URC officials meet with Nestlé Vice President Niels Christiansen, (the coordinator of Nestlé's anti-boycott strategy), and Nestlé Corporate Affairs staff as part of the Church Investors Group. Baby Milk Action is not informed the meeting is taking place and so has no opportunity to brief participants.

21 June 2010: Baby Milk Action first learns that URC Church and Society officials are proposing the Church drop its ban on investing in Nestlé and about their meeting with Nestlé's team. The proposal is already on the agenda of the imminent URC Assembly. 

Baby Milk Action is informed that the URC Church and Society began to review its support for the boycott three years earlier, prompted by the Methodist Church Central Finance Board (CFB) decision to invest in Nestlé in 2006 in what was presented at the time as a complementary strategy to the Nestlé boycott. According to a URC briefing paper: "When the URC Church and Society report [on the Methodist Church Central Finance Board decision] was placed before General Assembly [in 2007], one speaker asked that the Committee re-visit the issue and since then the Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) has agreed that the issues should be kept under review." 

The way the Methodist Church CFB decision to invest has been misused by Nestlé was raised at the December 2009 Church Investors Group meeting with Nestlé. The record of the questions put to Nestlé's Vice President states: 

"One delegate representing both the Methodist Church and the URC noted that, in his view the Methodist change in policy had been used by the company and misrepresented them. Could Nestlé provide assurances that any decision the URC makes will not be similarly misused?"

Mr. Christiansen reportedly professed ignorance that his anti-boycott team was misrepresenting the CFB decision and promised the URC representatives that Nestlé, "would not seek to promote any decision in the company’s own public relations interests."  

(Click here for further details on the CFB decision to invest and its repercussions).

28 June 2010: Baby Milk Action meets with URC Church and Society and raises concerns about ongoing systematic violations by Nestlé and the fact Baby Milk Action had not been consulted about the move to invest in Nestlé and end support for the boycott. 

Baby Milk Action is concerned that a 40-page briefing is being circulated to the Assembly, which includes unfounded allegations regarding Baby Milk Action's motivation for continuing to promote the boycott campaign and outdated information. Baby Milk Action addresses some of these issues on its Campaign blog - click here. It is offered a right-to-reply in a one-page briefing to be circulated to the General Assembly. 

Baby Milk Action URC briefing 20104 July 2010: Baby Milk Action's briefing (left) is not circulated at the General Assembly on the grounds that certain aspects "left the URC vulnerable to possible litigation by Nestlé". The original paper is available by clicking here (an updated version with references is available by clicking here). Nestlé had also been given the opportunity to provide a one-page briefing paper, which is not distributed either.

Nestlé has never taken legal action against Baby Milk Action over its allegations of malpractice. However, Baby Milk Action has in the past won a case against a Nestlé anti-boycott advertisement in which the company claimed to market infant formula "ethically and responsibly".

In any case, the URC Assembly takes a consensus decision to reject the move to invest in Nestlé and renews its support for the boycott. The Resolution states: "General Assembly resolves that if Nestlé obtains listing on the FTSE4Good Index, Mission Council be instructed to rescind the boycott on Nestlé products outlined in the Assembly 1992 resolution."

September 2010: FTSE revises FTSE4Good criteria for breastmilk substitutes to allow companies to be included in the Index even while systematically violating the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly. 

11 March 2011: FTSE announces that Nestlé has been admitted to the FTSE4Good Index on the basis of the new criteria, looking to company statements rather than practices on the ground. The FTSE4Good Breastmilk Substitutes Committee does not request marketing materials from Nestlé to review, though it could have done so even under the weaker criteria.

UNICEF notes Nestlé's ongoing malpractice in its response:

"The evidence available to us suggests that all breastmilk substitute manufacturers currently violate the International Code routinely. We are therefore following the inclusion of Nestle on the index carefully and will be looking for evidence that their marketing begins to comply with the Code."

 A UNICEF HQ spokesperson tells Dairyreporter (22 April 2011): "I can confirm that Nestle violates the code."

Nestlé would not have been listed under the FTSE4Good criteria in place at the time of the URC Assembly Resolution.

FTSE later informs Baby Milk Action that excluding companies from the FTSE4Good Index for violating the marketing requirements was: "something of concern to the FTSE4Good Breatmilk Substitutes Committee as they would like to see criteria where some companies are able to meet the standards. For most sectors approx half the companies are included."  FTSE Chief Executive, Mark Makepeace, later suggests that the standards were weakened because: "In the infant food sector we were not able to engage the companies as they were all being excluded from the index." However, past statements suggest engagement had been taking place - click here.

Nestle sponsorship

It is also found that Nestlé had sponsored a key FTSE/Chatham House event on "Corporate Responsibility instruments" (left).

14 March 2011: Baby Milk Action receives an announcement from URC Church and Society reporting Nestlé's inclusion in the FTSE4Good Index under the revised criteria, which states: "Based on this information, the United Reformed Church will be issuing an instruction to its Mission Council meeting in May to terminate the boycott of Nestle products as per last year’s resolution of the General Assembly in Loughborough which stated that 'if Nestlé obtains listing on the FTSE4Good Index, Mission Council be instructed to rescind the boycott on Nestle products outlined in the 1992 resolution.'"

Baby Milk Action asks if it is not more appropriate to take the matter back to the Assembly given that Nestlé would not have been admitted under the FTSE4Good criteria in place at the time of the General Assembly in Loughborough and continues to violate the marketing requirements "routinely". It is told the Resolution is binding on all members of the Church. Baby Milk Action prepares a briefing for the Mission Council pointing out that it is the FTSE4Good criteria that have changed, not Nestlé practices, and asking it to at least wait until the results of FTSE's planned assessment of Nestlé's activities on the ground are available. In the event, the issue is not discussed at the May meeting due to lack of time.

July 2011: FTSE commissions an assessment of Nestlé practices in two countries, but selects countries with exemplary legislation in place where violations are unlikely to be found. Monitoring experts in the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) advise FTSE to look at countries without strong legislation and suggests specific countries were violations are commonplace, offering to assist with the monitoring process. FTSE refuses this offer and states that is has been "collaborating" with URC in the assessment process and other organisations, including the Methodist Church CFB (which holds over £1 million in Nestlé shares and so now profits directly from its baby food marketing practices).

Baby Milk Action initial response on the FTSE decision to weaken the FTSE4Good criteria in March 2011 had been "Will FTSE4Good's Nestle gamble work?" and it was suspending judgement to see if the assessment process would help prompt changes to Nestlé practices on the ground. Given that FTSE refuses to address IBFAN's concerns over the countries selected, the fact the assessment is being conducted against Nestlé's policies (not the international marketing standards) and other serious flaws, Baby Milk Action is forced to conclude the process is no longer credible and is likely to be counterproductive. Nestlé is already exploiting its inclusion in the Index to undermine the campaign to hold it to account. Baby Milk Action produces a briefing paper recommending people do not invest in FTSE4Good tracker funds if they are concerned about baby food company marketing practices - click here.

25 November 2011: The URC Mission Council meets again and the "instruction" to terminate the boycott is enacted. The results of the assessment of Nestlé's practices on the ground in the two countries mentioned above have still not been released.

Baby Milk Action is later informed that its briefing on FTSE4Good was discussed. It is also told that the decision-making process involved a Resolution being put by the URC Mission Committee (which now represents Church and Society issues) to rescind the boycott of Nestle based on its listing on the FTSE4Good Index and this was adopted by the Mission Council after discussion (with some members expressing disagreement with this decision).

26 November 2011: Baby Milk Action receives the press release issued by the URC the previous day and prepares this statement. The authors of the URC press release suggest that Nestlé's "listing on the FTSE4Good Index demonstrates good faith" even though Nestlé has not had to make a single change to its marketing practices to be included in the Index and executives rejected 97% of the violations included in the global monitoring report Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules 2010. The four violations Nestlé did stop include the leaflet targeted as part of Baby Milk Action's email Nestlé campaign referred to above, demonstrating the importance of the boycott for stopping malpractice and the need for increased support. 

3 December 2011: Baby Milk Action is assured that URC remains fully committed to the health of babies and infants. It updates this press release and expands the chronology to bring in additional details requested by URC Church and Society and other key facts.

The Business of malnutrition: breaking down trade rules to profit from the poor

 “The Business of malnutrition”  breaking down trade rules to profit from the poor

PDF  of this press release

Halloween marks the start of International Nestle-Free Week 2011

Press release 30 October 2011

International Nestlé-Free Week runs from 31 October - 6 November 2011. It is billed as a time for people who boycott Nestlé over the way it pushes baby milk to do more to promote the boycott - and for those who don't boycott to give it a go. The week begins on Halloween and boycott supporters are able to download "Nestlé-Free Zone" labels for goody bags for children, thanks to a supporter of the campaign in the United States.

Other resources produced to promote the week in 2011 include new images and an iPhone version of the Nestlé boycott list. Even before the week has begun, over 1,000 people have shared Baby Milk Action's Nestlé-Free Week page on their Facebook pages. There is a Nestlé-Free Week event page on Facebook as well, and over 4,000 Facebook users have been invited by their friends. See:

Nations fail to act on shocking health inequalities at Rio meeting

Health campaigners: Rio Declaration on health inequalities betrays the promise to "close the gap in a generation"

Press release from Baby Milk Action and Health Poverty Action

Rio de Janeiro: First issued 20 October 2011 - updated 21 October 2011

Media coverage: The Guardian 21 October. Get Involved in Global Health.

Health campaigners have expressed their disappointment with the Rio Declaration issued by the WHO World Conference on Social Determinants of Health today, 21 October. Campaigners had gathered at the meeting in Rio de Janeiro (note 1) to call on government representatives to counter what WHO's own expert Commission called “the toxic combination of poor social policies, unfair economic arrangements and bad politics that results in the unequal distribution of health-damaging experiences” (note 2). Campaigners are concerned that the Rio Political Declaration on Social Determinants of Health will do little to address growing health inequalities or to prevent the wholesale privatisation of public health systems, which some governments are already ushering in under the cover of deficit reduction strategies during the current financial crisis. 

Professor David Sanders of the University of the Western Cape received a standing ovation during the final discussion panel on the closing day of the conference after questioning why trade, climate change, the brain drain of health workers from developing countries to rich countries and other issues have been totally ignored in the official Rio Declaration.

Campaigners have issued an alternative civil society Rio Declaration (note 3), developed through widespread consultation in a process led by the People’s Health Movement.

Many of the recommendations made by civil society coincide with the recommendations of the Commission on the Social Determinants of Health, which WHO itself set up. The Commission's recommendations relating to the need to redistribute power and resources have been largely ignored – or buried, in the words of Professor of Public Health Fran Baum from Flinders University in Australia, one of the members of the Commission speaking in Rio.

Action items campaigners wanted to be introduced into the official declaration include:

  • Use of progressive taxation, wealth taxes and the elimination of tax evasion to finance action on the social determinants of health; 
  • Regulate and protect populations from health hazards emanating from commercial activities, such as those created by the tobacco, alcohol, breast-milk substitutes, high fat and sugar processed food, and the petroleum and extractive industries.
  • Develop and adopt a code of conduct in relation to the management of institutional conflicts of interest in global health decision making (note 4); 
  • Provide equitable universal health care coverage including high quality promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative health services throughout the life cycle, based on comprehensive primary health care;  
  • Press for high income countries to adequately compensate poor countries for their substantial losses in the form of migrant health professionals; innovative mechanisms that may include repatriation to sending countries of taxes paid by immigrant health professionals should be explored.
  • Recognise explicitly the ways in which the current structures of global trade regulation shape health inequalities and deny the right to health;
  • Develop and implement reliable measures of societal wellbeing that go beyond economic instruments.

Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, said:

"Social determinants of health is a shorthand term for the social, economic, political, cultural, and environmental factors that impact on health. WHO Director General, Dr. Margaret Chan, said during the opening ceremony, 'We have to put the health of people before the health of corporations', which is right, but we needed WHO, meaning the Secretariat and the Member States, to commit to action, not just issue platitudes. Member States must reassert their democratic legitimacy to set health policies in the public interest and face down vested interests that continue to sabotage health, often while proclaiming to be a force for good. On this occasion our leaders have failed the people they are supposed to represent."

Corinna Heineke, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Health Poverty Action, adds:

“The marginalisation of poor people is both a result and a cause of poor health. In order to tackle the shocking inequalities and health outcomes of the poorest we don’t just require doctors, nurses and well-equipped clinics. We also need to address the structural causes of poor health such as trade systems that deny the poorest access to medicines or the racism that prevents indigenous mothers from seeking skilled assistance during birth complications. Unfortunately WHO Member States have failed us on the political economic determinants of health.”

The draft official Rio Declaration included text calling for collaboration with stakeholders, including the private sector. A statement of concern from the Conflicts of Interests Coalition was distributed to delegates and the final text makes reference to conflicts of interest in three places:

"Foster collaboration with the private sector, safeguarding against conflict of interests, to contribute to achieving health through policies and actions on social determinants of health;"

"Promote inclusive and transparent governance approaches, which engage early with affected sectors at all levels of governments, as well as support social participation and involve civil society and the private sector, safeguarding against conflict of interests;"

"Promote appropriate monitoring systems that take into consideration the role of all relevant stakeholders including civil society, nongovernmental organizations as well as the private sector, with appropriate safeguard against conflict of interests, in the monitoring and evaluation process;"


Lida Lhotska, the European Coordinator of the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), commented: 

"The call to safeguard against conflict of interests is much welcome. However, it should not apply only to Member States but also to WHO as an agency which will be supporting Member States in their efforts to implement the Declaration. WHO in fact does have a unique opportunity to develop a comprehensive institutional policy that would guarantee adequate safeguard against both individual and organisational conflicts of interests as part of the announced WHO's reform."



Mike Brady at - +44 20 3239 9222

Corinna Heineke at - +44 7576 754912.


Notes for editors

  1. For details of the WHO World Conference on Social Determinants of Health:
  2. For the Commission on the Social Determinants of Health report "Closing the Gap in a Generation":
  3. For the Rio Declaration by Public Interest Civil Society Organisations and Social Movements:
  4. For the Statement of Concern from the Conflicts of Interest Coalition (consisting of 147 civil society organisations and networks):


Tesco pulls ‘Price Drop’ infant formula promotion following Baby Milk Action complaint

Tesco should be fined for breaking criminal law, says Baby Milk Action

Press release 4 October 2011


Tesco promotionTesco has pulled a ‘Price Drop’ promotion for infant formula from stores across the country following a complaint from the campaign group Baby Milk Action, which contacted the company and Trading Standards on behalf of the Baby Feeding Law Group (BFLG). The promotion, which included prominent ‘Price Drop’ point-of-sale promotion and price reductions, is illegal under the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations. Tesco claimed that infant formula had been included in the promotion accidently. It said it had made a similar mistake on its website, which it claims it has also corrected.

Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action and coordinator of the BFLG monitoring project, said:

“We started to receive reports from members of the public through our online monitoring system last week and immediately contacted Tesco and Trading Standards. While we welcome this swift action from Tesco, it has broken criminal law, for which there is no excuse. We await the response from Trading Standards and hope that the fines set out in the law are applied for every instance of promotion as a deterrent. Illegal promotion by retailers continues to be common and it seems that they believe they can get away with it by just saying ‘sorry’ if they are caught out.”

Further details and images of violations of the marketing requirements are available at:

Contact Information: 

Patti Rundall, Baby Milk Action : 07786 523493

Mike Brady, Baby Milk Action: 020 3239 9222


Notes for editors

  1. BFLG consists of 23 leading health worker and mother support groups working for UK legislation to be brought into line with international standards.
  2. Manufacturers and distributors of breastmilk substitutes should also abide by the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly. These were adopted with the observation: “in view of the vulnerability of infants in the early months of life and the risks involved in inappropriate feeding practices, including the unnecessary and improper use of breastmilk substitutes, the marketing of breastmilk substitutes requires special treatment, which makes usual marketing practices unsuitable for these products.”
  3. Violations of the Code and Resolutions have been described as “commonplace” in the UK by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, which has called on the Government to fully implement these measures in legislation.
  4. In March 2011 the coalition government instead scrapped the Infant Feeding Coordinator posts in the Department of Health and government support for National Breastfeeding Week. BFLG is promoting an ePetition campaign calling for a Parliamentary debate.


Ed Milliband grapples with unethical business, while EU Commission puts corporate profits before health


Ed Milliband  grapples with unethical business, while EU Commission puts corporate profits before health in drafting new baby food rules 



1st October 2011


On Monday 3rd October  the European Council will discuss the revision of a set of rules (1) which for two decades has had a profound impact on the power of European Union Member States and the European Parliament to set laws on baby milks and foods. (2) Campaigners are calling for the rules to be reformed to ensure increased safety of ingredients and more  transparency.  However, in its advice to the Council, the European Commission has put the demands of corporations and the competitiveness of the European food industry ahead of food safety and the protection of infant health. (3) Meanwhile, during the Q&A session at Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, Patti Rundall, Policy Director of Baby Milk Action, asked Ed Milliband about his promise to do something about unethical business. 


The main concern of  Baby Milk Action and the 23 members of the UK Baby Feeding Law Group, is that foods for infants and young children should be independently checked and approved for safety BEFORE  being placed on the market and that if an ingredient is shown to be essential and without risk it should be in all products. (4)  Many parents are unaware that the current rules allow the baby food industry to add any ingredient it chooses - ‘as the case may be’  - backed up with only industry funded or reviewed science - effectively using the open market  to trial new ingredients which are then promoted with unsubstantiated claims.  


In its response to the consultation, the Nutrition Committee of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health supported the call for pre-authorisation, saying ”The Committee supports......a standard prior authorisation procedure.  History has shown that consumer protection has not been strong, particularly with respect to the addition of ingredients to formula milks and follow-on milks.  A prior authorisation system that provides independent analysis and review of the evidence of any benefits of new ingredients would be of considerable benefit to families purchasing these products. Ethically any new ingredient found to be beneficial can therefore be incorporated into all such feeds rather than those from a single commercial source.” (5)


While the Commission agrees that a 'prior-authorisation procedure'  would ensure more harmonisation, it considers it to be "disproportionate in terms of consumers' protection and information and would be highly costly for the industry and especially for SMEs."   Campaigners are calling on MEPs to step in to protect infant health, and to ensure that  horizontal duty set out in the Lisbon Treaty  is respected so that: “A high level of human health protection shall be ensured in the definition and implementation of all Community policies and activities.” 


Similar concerns about commercial influence are being raised at a global level. Over 140 non-governmental health, development and consumer protection organisations have formed the Conflict of Interest Coalition which has been calling for a Code of Conduct and Ethical Framework for interactions with the private sector to guard public health policy-making against commercial conflicts of interest. (5)   In her question to Ed Milliband, Patti Rundall suggested that the Labour Party could take this forward by implementing the the new Coalition’s recommendations. These suggest that while businesses can be consulted, there should be a firewall against commercial interests when health policies are set. 


In his answer, Ed Milliband avoided any discussion of infant feeding, saying:  "I'm grateful to our friend who asked about baby milk because we actually met earlier in the week and I was hoping you weren't going yo ask me about the details because for the exhibitors here I'd prefer you kept it more general and to be fair to you, you did. You raised a good question and its something I've thought about in government. What is the relative access of business to the way government works and the relative access of ordinary folk to the way government works. And its unbalanced.  Now it’s hard this, because you've got to work with business in order to achieve some of your aims. And so you said I think, policy, lobbying or advice - when does it become influence - I can't remember the words you used but, that was the sort of general thrust of what you were saying.   Look, I'm very happy to look at this. I mean part of the answer is more transparency. Because actually, if you know who the meetings are with - if you know when a meeting is going on then that is a good - that is a very healthy thing to do -  a solution in my view."


Patti Rundall,  commented: “While transparency is an essential first step - it is only part of the solution.  The existing rules allow the baby food laws to be discussed in secret with no proper minutes,  but the real problem is the drive to expand the market internally and through exports  - a drive that is taking precedence over health concerns.   If the Commission considers pre-authorisation to be a ‘disproportionate “burden “ to industry -  they are effectively saying that very young children should be forced to consume risky, unhealthy foods in order to boost the economy.”   


The system urgently needs reforming to ensure that the minimum standards adopted by the World Health Assembly are implemented so  that  ALL breastmilk substitutes are standardised to the best quality and safety, and the risks of formula feeding are reduced. The widespread advertising and ridiculous health claims are largely based on  these ‘optional’  untested ingredients, and do much to mislead parents, undermine breastfeeding and optimal infant health. (6)




For more information call: Patti Rundall  07786 523493

1 The set of rules are contained in Directive 2009/39/EC  - the so-called "Framework Directive on dietetic foods" called PARNUTs adopted in 1989.

2 The Directives which relate to foods for infants and young children covered by PARNUTs are: Commission Directive 2006/141/EC on infant formulae and follow-on formulae; Council Directive 92/52/EEC on infant formulae and follow-on formulae intended for export to third countries; Commission Directive 2006/125/EC on processed cereal-based foods and baby foods for infants and young children; Commission Directive 1999/21/EC on dietary foods for special medical purposes; Commission Regulation (EC) No 953/2009 on substances that may be added for specific nutritional purposes in foods for particular nutritional uses.

3 The rationale for refusing pre-authorisation is contained in the European Commission’s Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on food intended for infants and young children and on food for special medical purposes. (presented by the Commission pursuant to Article 114 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union) Brussels, 20.6.2011 COM(2011) 353 final 2011/0156 (COD)

4 The proposals for reform recommended by Baby Milk Action, the Baby Feeding Law Group and the International Baby Food Action Network are here. BFLG IBFAN PARNUTs Response. .doc

5 The Conflict of Interest Coalition’s Statement of Concern can be found here:


The  National Institute for Clinical Excellence found - a modest increase in breastfeeding rates would bring substantial savings. For example: about 17,000 cases of otitis media would be avoided - saving £509,000. almost 3900 cases of gastroenteritis would be avoided - saving of £2.6 million over 1500 cases of asthma would be avoided - saving of £2.6 million.


The UK Government’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition stated in 2007: “If an ingredient is unequivocally beneficial as demonstrated by independent review of scientific data it would be unethical to withhold it for commercial reasons. Rather it should be made a required ingredient of infant formula in order to reduce existing risks associated with artificial feeding. To do otherwise is not in the best interests of children, and fails to recognise the crucial distinction between these products and other foods.”




Nestle's BabyNes 'nutrition system' powdered formula is not sterile

Nestlé refuses plea from health campaigners to adapt its machine to follow WHO Guidelines and include a step to kill harmful bacteria that may be present in powdered formula

Press release 28 September 2011

Baby Milk Action and IBFAN are publicly repeating their call for Nestlé to modify its new BabyNes 'nutrition system' to follow the joint FAO/WHO Guidelines for the safe preparation, storage and handling of powdered infant formula (WHO PIF Guidelines) (note 1).

The machine prepares an instant bottle of infant formula using a capsule containing powder, which is not sterile and may contain harmful bacteria. The WHO PIF Guidelines include a step to kill such bacteria. Nestlé also claims to add bacteria to the formula, using this as the basis for unproven health claims in its marketing. It refuses to introduce the step that kills bacteria or to warn on labels that powdered formula is not sterile.

Photo caption: Laboratory analysis of capsules of baby milk for BabyNes machines detected the presence of bacteria, proving that the milk powder in the capsules is not sterile, as shown in the photo.

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