Event 25 - 31 October 2010
Nestlé is the target of a boycott over its aggressive marketing of baby milks around the world. International Nestlé-Free Week (25 - 31 October 2010) is a time for those who support the boycott to do more to promote it and for those who don't boycott to give it a go, at least for a week, by avoiding Nescafé, the principal target of the boycott, and other Nestlé products. Nestlé is one of the four most boycotted companies on the planet, according to GMI, and the boycott has forced important changes. During International Nestlé-Free Week 2010, Baby Milk Action is calling on the public to email Nestlé over its latest global baby milk marketing strategy. Nestlé is targeting mothers and health workers with the claim its formula 'protects' babies even though babies fed on formula are more likely to become sick than breastfed babies and, in conditions of poverty, more likely to die. Nestlé is accused of undermining the 'breast is best' message by claiming its formula is 'The new "Gold Standard" in infant nutrition' (image below). Nestlé is also accused of refusing to provide important information to parents and carers who use formula. Nestlé has already received thousands of emails, but is so far refusing to drop this marketing campaign.
The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981, prohibits companies from putting idealising text and images on labels and limits them to providing scientific and factual information to health workers, who are given responsibility for advising parents.
Nestlé is also accused of refusing to warn on labels that powdered infant formula is not sterile and may contain harmful bacteria and the simple steps to follow to reduce the risks. Following a Baby Milk Action campaign, such warnings now appear on powdered formula labels in the UK.
Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action said:
"Breastmilk is a living substance containing antibodies and other protective factors. Nestlé competes with breastfeeding by claiming its baby milk 'protects' babies. The boycott campaign helped force companies to put 'breast is best' messages on labels, but Nestlé is trying to trump these with its more prominent colourful 'protect' logos and false claims of health benefits from using baby milk. International Nestlé-Free Week, including a call to boycott Nestlé products during Halloween, helps to expose Nestlé's selfish and immoral behaviour and put pressure on it to change. Nestlé cares about its profits more than the well-being of babies, so we have to hit it in the pocket to persuade it to abide by the international marketing standards that it systematically violates."
It has been estimated that improved breastfeeding practices could save some 1.5 million children a year.
The WHO briefing on the International Code states:
Improper marketing and promotion of food products that compete with breastfeeding are important factors that often negatively affect the choice and ability of a mother to breastfeed her infant optimally.
Baby Milk Action, which promotes the boycott in the UK, has put a four-point plan to Nestlé for saving infant lives and ending the boycott on behalf of the International Nestlé Boycott Committee, but this has been repeatedly rejected by the company.
In July 2010, the United Reformed Church Assembly renewed its support for the boycott.
The Nestlé boycott first began in 1977 and led to the adoption of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes by the World Health Assembly in 1981. The boycott was relaunched in 1988 after Nestlé failed to deliver on a 1984 promise to abide by the International Code. It has forced Nestlé to stop such practices as sending representatives dressed as nurses into health facilities and putting pictures of babies on formula labels. In 2000, Nestlé finally agreed to translate warnings on labels into the language of the country where products are sold (helped by exposure on UK national television - watch here). In 2003, Nestlé said it would stop promoting complementary foods from too early an age when the annual demonstration at Nestlé (UK) HQ gained international media coverage. However, Nestlé is accused of continuing to systematically violate the World Health Assembly marketing requirements and being the worst of the baby food companies. Nestlé continues to dominate the baby food market with a 29% share (ref: Euromonitor, which places Danone in second place on a 15% share). Nestlé is accused of driving down standards for the industry as a whole and has even been challenged by competitors over violations. International Nestlé-Free Week, now fixed on the last week of October, is in its fourth year. Past events have been successful in increasing exposure of Nestlé malpractice:
2009 Nestlé-Free Week: Nestlé's Twitter PR disaster boosts the week, particularly in the US, where the week encompasses Halloween and Nestlé candy was boycotted.
2008 Nestlé-Free Week: Nestlé attempts to derail launch of Nestlé Critics website, drawing more attention to it.
2007 Nestlé-Free Week: Nestlé's Global Public Affairs Manager admits Nestlé is 'widely boycotted'.
People wishing to find out more about Nestlé baby milk marketing practices should go to: http://info.babymilkaction.org/nestlefree
For further examples of Nestlé's current global baby milk marketing strategy and the Email Nestlé campaign see: http://info.babymilkaction.org/emailnestle
For Nestlé's response to the email campaign, see: http://info.babymilkaction.org/cem/cemjul10
Experts on other areas of Nestlé's business activities are also critical of the company. The Nestlé Critics website provides further information. The Nestlé Critics coalition is currently pursuing a complaint against Nestlé with the UN Global Compact for egregious violations of the Global Compact Principles and for bringing this voluntary initiative into disrepute. See: http://www.nestlecritics.org/
For further information contact Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator, on 07986 736170 (Int: +44 7986 736179) or Patti Rundall, Policy Director, on 07786 523493 (Int: +44 7786 523493).