Please sign and share Baby Milk Action's petition against Nestlé and Danone involvement in the Department of Health Change4Life health education campaign in England and Wales.
The blog below provides supporting evidence.
The Department of Health for England and Wales should immediately end its so-called partnerships with Nestlé and Danone in its Change4Life health education campaign due to unacceptable conflicts of interest.
The Department of Health is linking with formula manufacturers Nestlé (SMA brand) and Danone (Aptamil and Cow & Gate brands) in its Change4Life health education initiative. These "partnerships" do not promote formula, but do create conflicts of interest as the Department of Health should be taking action over irresponsible marketing practices by these companies. The Change4Life website page also promotes Nestlé's Pure Life bottled water, which is inappropriate. The page refers to Nestlé sponsorship of the London Marathon, which is the target of protests (left).
It is welcome that the Start4Life, which provides education on infant and young child health, does not accept sponsorship or partnerships with companies involved in breastmilk substitutes, such as Nestlé and Danone. This strong stand should also apply to Change4Life.
Explanation and supporting evidence
There are unacceptable conflicts of interest when the Department of Health enters into sponsorship or partnership arrangements with companies such as Nestlé and Danone, particularly following the move of responsibility for nutrition policy in England, from the Food Standards Agency to the Department of Health on 1 October 2010.
Nestlé and Danone break formula marketing rules in the UK - rules for which the Department of Health is responsible. Baby Milk Action coordinates the Baby Feeding Law Group monitoring project and produced the monitoring report Look What They're Doing in the UK 2013. Nestlé is continuing with the SMA marketing practices exposed in the report following its takeover of the brand - and stepping up promotion. Baby Milk Action is currently organising protests against Nestlé targeting of health workers. Danone promotes its Aptamil and Cow & Gate brands as shown in the report - Baby Milk Action has won cases at the Advertising Standards Authority against misleading claims made in brand advertising.
Nestlé and Danone distribute materials for use in the health care system in the UK, without the required written permission from the Secretary of State for Health. The Department of Health has failed to enforce the rules. Now it has Nestlé and Danone as partners, people will question why it has not taken action and be suspicious if it instead approves the materials.
Nestlé is launching a new formula in the UK called SMA HA.
The Department of Health took a tough line against misleading claims made for a previous Nestlé product, NAN HA (left), when Nestlé tried to launch this in the UK ten years ago. Will the Department of Health stop Nestlé promoting its similarly branded formula with a 'hypoallergenic' claim (which it is unable to use in the United States following legal action) or turn a blind eye now that it works with Nestlé? If it does not take tough action, the public will question whether this is because Nestlé is its partner.
On the Change4Life website page, the Department of Health states: "Nestlé Waters UK Ltd will be supporting Change4Life by working together to support Nestlé Pure Life spring water in its role as Official Water of the Virgin London Marathon". It fails to mention that organisers of the London Marathon have promised Baby Milk Action to review this arrangement when the current contract comes to an end after the group complained to the Charity Commission about transparency rules being broken: all profits from the event go to charity. Nestlé's Pure Life was launched in Pakistan in 1999, where it still attracts criticism. Nestlé halted production of Pure Life in Brazil following a community campaign against the damaging impact of its bottling operation in the spa town of São Lourenço, where a Federal Prosecutor accused it of various irregularities. Nestlé's operation in water more generally has been widely criticised, with community campaigns organised against various bottling operations in different countries.
The Change4Life website states: "Nestlé Pure Life will be driving awareness of the importance of good hydration". This is clearly a marketing opportunity for promoting bottled water with the Department of Health's apparent endorsement. However, there is no health reason for promoting bottled water over tap water and environmental reasons for not doing so. The Department of Health messages on good hydration should not be associated with bottled water, and certainly not with a particular company's brand of water.
Nestlé is the world's largest junk food company, criticised for the impact of its unhealthy foods on diets and its contribution to the rise in obesity. In the UK, it is particularly criticised for promoting cereals high is salt and sugar to children, including through its 'box tops for education' scheme, which sees schools encouraging children to bring in Nestlé cereals tops to be redeemed for cash.
The Department of Health is responsible for nutrition policy in England and for Guidance Notes on the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations (2007), which apply to all four countries of the UK. Nestlé has been systematically violating these rules since it entered the UK with its takeover of Pfizer Nutrition/Wyeth and the SMA brand of formula in 2012. Click here to download a poster with Nestlé formla labels from around the world (including the UK), which shows how what Nestlé says and what Nestlé does are very different things.
A sister initiative, Start4Life, provides education on infant and young child health. When the Department of Health asked for opinions on commercial involvement in Start4Life, the Baby Feeding Law Group submitted a strong statement opposing links with the baby feeding industry and this position was accepted. This position should also apply to Change4Life.
To Department of Health should immediately end its so-called partnerships with Nestlé and Danone to maintain its independence in health policy and to stop people questioning its action - or lack of it - on formula and food marketing practices that undermine health.