Nestlé has entered the UK formula market and aggressive marketing practices - and underhand tactics - familiar to those monitoring its practices around the world are now being seen here. Nestlé booked the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) for an event targeting health workers on 9 July 2013 under a different name, Baby Milk Action was told, otherwise the RCP would not have accepted the booking. Baby Milk Action handed out leaflets on conflicts of interest to those arriving for the event on obesity in pregnancy and infancy. The next event in the series, scheduled for 11 July in Birmingham, is today shown as 'cancelled' on Nestlé's site promoting the events.
The display poster in the entrance of the prestigious premises of the Royal College of Physicians overlooking Regent's Park in London made it all too clear Nestlé was behind the event and invitations sent out to health workers used the Royal College of Physicians name, causing some to think it was a joint event.
Nestlé unleashed a national programme of events in May following the completion of its takeover of Pfizer Nutrition/Wyeth and the SMA brand of formula in the UK in December 2012 and the launch of a television advertising campaign.
Nestlé's team of Nutrition Representatives are using the events as a pretence for contacting health workers, circumventing the restrictions many health facilities have in place on company reps. targeting staff. In these facilities, companies can only provide information on their products to a designated expert staff member (or a multidisciplinary committee in some regions), who will assess the accuracy and only pass on what is necessary. These restrictions are in line with UNICEF UK Baby Friendly guidelines - click here.
The event at the Royal College of Physicians was on obesity in pregnancy and infancy. The next event in this series, scheduled for 11 July in Birmingham, is today shown as cancelled on Nestlé's SMA-branded health professional site (below). Baby Milk Action is organising protests at other events - see: http://info.babymilkaction.org/nestledemonstration
Nestlé's invitation to the event at the Royal College of Physicians, like other events, directs people to register at the SMA professional know-how website, so capturing contact details and promoting SMA formula with bogus claims. For example, the site promotes SMA as the best formula, despite the Advertising Standards Authority upholding Baby Milk Action's complaints when previous owners, Pfizer Nutrition, made this claim in advertising to the public for the brand - click here.
Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, who handed out 'NO to Nestlé' leaflets to those arriving at the event said:
"The Royal College of Physicians confirmed their venue had been booked by Nestlé under a different name and they were unaware it was a Nestlé event. They were clearly concerned. While Nestlé hid the fact it was organising the event, it has gained kudos from using the RCP name in its publicity. From our monitoring with partners in the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), we are very familiar with the underhand tactics Nestlé uses to target health workers around the world. Nestlé is the target of a boycott as we find it to be the worst of the baby milk companies in breaking minimum marketing requirements and it is now driving down standards following its entry into the UK market."
See Patti Rundall's policy blog for IBFAN guidelines on sponsorship and Baby Feeding Law Group and Breastfeeding Manifesto Statement on Commercial Involvement in Start 4 Life.
Baby food companies obviously have a conflict of interest in funding events for health workers and the public. The IBFAN sets this out clearly in its briefing paper on sponsorship. IBFAN notes that the World Health Assembly has addressed the issue of sponsorship in Resolution 49.15 from 1996 and again in Resolution 58.32 from 2005 where it stated care was needed: "to ensure that financial support and other incentives for programmes and health professionals working in infant and young child health do not create conflict of interest".
For further information contact Mike Brady on 07986 736179.