Nestlé and co's US$400 million threat against the Philippines

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Campaigners in the Philippines are exposing a threat levelled at the economy by Nestlé and other transnational companies if baby milk marketing regulations successfully defended in 2007 are not replaced. 

Nestlé and its partners are pushing for a new, weak law to be introduced, which will allow them to advertise milks for use from 6 months of age (with the same branding as milks for use from birth) and target mothers directly. 

The Department of Trade and Industry has been lobbying legislators on the industry’s behalf, writing to Members of Congress: "The proposed ban on advertising for milk products jeopardizes multinationals’ plan to invest $400 million." 

Meanwhile the Department of Health, WHO and UNICEF have said in joint statement that the draft bill: "aims to support multinational companies while damaging the Filipino society: families, the mothers and children."

Campaigners have organised events such as protests outside congress (above - click for large image). They point out that elections for congress take place in 2013 and they have been hearing politicians warned that investment in their constituencies will be cancelled if they do not back the bill.

Nestlé has formed the Infant & Pediatric Nutrition Association of the Philippines with formula companies Abbott Laboratories, Fonterra Brands, Mead Johnson Nutrition and Wyeth (which it now owns) to lobby against the existing marketing requirements - yet Nestlé and other companies cite anti-trust regulations when called on to mutually agree to stop violations of the international minimum standards adopted by the World Health Assembly.

If Nestlé’s law is passed it will no longer have to put clear notices on labels about the benefits or breastfeeding, as shown right. 

The Department of Trade and Industry told Congress: "The benefits derived from the performance of the infant formula industry in terms of government revenues and employment opportunities cannot be overemphasized."

• In the Philippines the industry is arguing that no country regulates the marketing of products for children over 6 months of age, falsely claiming this goes beyond the Code and Resolutions. In fact many countries have laws covering products for children to two or three years of age. (See page 14 for recent additions to the list.) 

Fiji's Marketing Controls - Foods for Infants and Young Children which was gazetted in May 2010 and was presented at the World Breastfeeding Conference by Ateca Kama, a Senior Nutritionist at the National Food and Nutrition Centre, Ministry of Health, covers products for children up to five years of age.


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