Babies need you - decision makers are failing them

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Both in the UK and overseas, campaigners are stopping some of baby food companies’ marketing strategies. For example, Tesco, the UK’s biggest supermarket, withdrew its “Big Price Drop” promotion on infant formula after we forwarded your evidence to Tesco and Trading Standards (page 12).

Internationally, Danone said it would withdraw globally the Immunofortis claims highlighted in Update 43 and that it would stop 50% of the violations in the Breaking the Rules 2010 report. But what about the other 50%? (page 17).

Nestlé, the biggest violater of the Code, said it would take action over just 3% of violations, once again disputing our interpretation and rejecting our four-point plan for saving infant lives and ultimately ending the boycott (page 20).

Nestlé has been emboldened by FTSE’s decision to drop its standards for the FTSE4Good Ethical Investment Index to allow companies to be included even while violations continue (pages 6-7). The United Reformed Church ended its support for the boycott as a direct result (page 22).

Concerted action by civil society to hold corporations to account against United Nations standards and regulations rather than against weak company codes, remains essential. Although over 60 countries have brought in legislation implementing the International Code and Resolutions, these laws need to be defended against challenges orchestrated by the baby food industry. As the industry analysts Euromonitor said, “The industry is fighting a rearguard action against regulation on a country-by-country basis.”

When too much attention is paid to industry’s own self-regulated measures, essential regulation to protect the vulnerable gets forgotten by policy makers, the UN and NGOs alike.

At a series of international meetings on nutrition-related diseases and health inequities, we promoted a statement on conflicts of interest. This has now been endorsed by 150 global and national networks and NGOs and has given birth to a new Conflicts of Interest Coalition that is calling on the UN and governments to keep health policy setting free from commercial influence (pages 4 & 5).

As some European Parliamentarians try to end bogus heath claims and advertising of follow-on and ‘toddler’ formulas (page 13), SMA launches a wall to wall follow-on formula advertising campaign in the UK prompting complaints from UNICEF UK and others. Is this to dissuade lawmakers from curbing this market, or an attempt to increase sales and share value before SMA is bought by either Danone, Mead Johnson or Nestlé? (see Page 17).


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