Breaking the Rules

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New Nestlé director admits violations that company denies

There was controversy as Ann Veneman UNICEF’s former Executive Director was voted onto the Nestlé Board of Directors at its shareholder meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, on 14 April 2011.

Nestlé AGM 2011: Ann Veneman uses a pre-recorded video presentation. 

In a Reuters report the previous day a UNICEF spokeswoman said:

“Ms. Veneman left UNICEF nearly a year ago and is now a private individual. UNICEF would not presume to comment on any personal choices. I can confirm that UNICEF does not take funding from Nestle. I can also confirm that Nestle violates the code.”

Baby Milk Action’s Patti Rundall was prevented by Nestlé’s Janet Voûte from speaking to Ms Veneman until after the AGM. Then, as Ms Veneman looked through the Breaking the Rules Report, Ms Voûte hovered around, dismissing allegations of wrong-doing, and incorrectly citing Nestlé’s FTSE4Good listing as evidence of code compliance (see page 4). 

Patti Rundall asks Ann Veneman not to join the Nestlé Board

Following the meeting, to the Associated Press, Ms Veneman “acknowledged Nestlé isn’t fully complying with a voluntary breast milk code adopted by World Health Organization” and pledged to “work from within to change the world’s biggest food and beverage company.” 



Danone the new giant threat to infant health

Danone is rivalling Nestlé as a source of violations since taking over the NUMICO companies (Nutricia, Milupa and Cow & Gate).

According to Euromonitor Danone controls about 15% of the global baby food market. However other reports indicate that it plans to dramatically expand its presence.  In Ireland it will treble its capacity to 100,000 tonnes annually with 98% of its output exported and commercialized in more than 60 countries worldwide (Irish Times 15 July 2011). This is truly scary. Danone is very aggressive in Asia, and gained a strong foothold in India with its purchase of Wockhardt baby foods. It is also infiltrating many UN and health worker bodies where it is pushing health claims and other marketing strategies behind the scenes at (see page 16).

Danone and Mead Johnson are competing with Nestlé to buy SMA/Wyeth, Pfizer’s $10 billion infant nutrition business, which has over a quarter of its sales in China. The $6 billion chinese market is expected to double by 2016. See:  Nestle and Danone-Mead to battle for Pfizer unit (Reuters 2 March 2012).


However, Danone has promised to stop 50% of the violations listed in the Breaking the Rules report and, after the Immunofortis claim was deemed illegal in Europe, to stop that particular claim worldwide by the end of 2012. IBFAN has written to Danone asking it to end all claims on formulas and baby foods, for further information about the violations it claims it will stop and those it wont.

As we take stock of this emerging situation a four-point plan similar to that put to Nestlé for ending the boycott has been put to Danone.



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