Monday, August 31, 2009
Nestlé, one of the world's most boycotted companies, is about to launch a £ 43 million promotional campaign in the UK for Nescafé coffee, the principal target of the boycott.
You can obtain leaflets and posters with the 'Give Nescafé the Boot' logo from Baby Milk Action or download them here:
There are many other resources for promoting the boycott at:
I've posted the following comment on The Guardian website, which has a report on the promotional campaign at:
Nescafe is, of course, the principal target of a consumer boycott over Nestle's aggressive marketing of baby foods. Monitoring around the world by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) - consisting of more than 200 groups in over 100 countires - finds Nestle to be the worst of the companies in pushing breastmilk substitutes in breach of international standards adopted by the World Health Assembly. Such tactics contribute to the unnecessary death and suffering of infants - according to UNICEF 1.5 million babies die every year for not being breastfed - and puts infants that have to be fed on formula at risk.
You can see current examples of malpractice highlighted by the UK group Baby Milk Action - including how Neste labels its formula as 'protecting' babies, when in truth they are more likely to become sick and, in conditions of poverty, to die than breastfed babies. See:
As The Guardian has previously reported, Nestle is one of the four most boycotted companies on the planet. See:
In the past it has tried to improve its image by launching a 'fairtrade' coffee - backed by a misleading national advertising campaign which failed to mention that just 0.1% of coffee farmers dependent on Nestle were involved in the scheme. The strategy was widely criticised, not least because Nestle's poor treatment of farmers and role in driving down prices paid to them, is a matter of record. See:
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Senator Edward Kennedy passed away on Tuesday. He played a pivotal role in the baby milk campaign, calling Senate Hearings in 1978 and putting company executives on the spot about their aggressive marketing practices. The added calls for a marketing code was taken up by WHO and UNICEF and led to the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes three years later.
A press release on our website tells more. See:
Here's a clip of a Nestlé executive being put on the spot. The Hearings are so significant that even today Nestlé is trying to discredit them, distributing a paper with misrepresentation of what happened. See:
Senator Kennedy found that executives felt they had no responsibility for investigating the conditions under which their formula was used.
You can find transcripts and a scan of a contemporary article from the Washington Post (24 May 1978) on the Hearings at:
Here's an extract from the Washington Post: "Oswaldo Ballarin, President of the Nestlé Co. Brazil, which produces infant formula, angrily denied the charges, saying: 'The US Nestlé Co. has advised me that their research indicates this is actually an indirect attack on the world's free economic system.' A red-faced Kennedy shot back: 'Now you can't seriously expect us to accept that... that these people are involved in some worldwide conspiracy to attack the free world's economic system.' Ballarin apologised."
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Danone picked up another ruling against its Milupa Aptamil follow-on formula this week from the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). This time it was for its television advertising, which suggests that Aptamil protects babies against infections because it contains IMMUNOFORTIS - a made up name, which is itself an idealizing claim.
Two weeks ago the ASA ruled Danone could not claim that IMMUNOFORTIS protects against infection or that Aptamil is the 'best follow-on formula' and that it had breached the Advertising Code's clauses on substantiation, truthfulness and comparisons. See:
Baby Milk Action did not figure in the latest ruling, and we were not aware of or consulted on the draft ruling or invited to submit evidence. This is surprising as we have been complaining about the television advertising to the authorities since it appeared and featured it as an example of malpractice in the monitoring reports we produce for the Baby Feeding Law Group, which are submitted to the ASA. It was listed in the March 2009 report as 'ASA investigating' - but we were not subsequently contacted. See:
Congratulations to the members of the public who registered complaints with the ASA. Despite these recent rulings, the ASA has a very poor record in even taking up the cases reported to it, generally rejecting them out of hand. It has also rejected the role assigned to it in the Guidance Notes accompanying the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations 2007 (see correspondence in the March 2009 report stating: "We have no remit or authority to apply standards to promotions or communications that are beyond the scope of the Codes (regardless of the sector in question) and the ASA Council cannot be bound by the content of a guidance document."
The advertisements show a protective glow around children fed on Aptamil, with the suggestion this wards of germs, such as when other children sneeze on them.
Friday, August 07, 2009
Have you sent messages to the companies that put infants at risk by pushing baby milk in ways that breach the marketing standards adopted by the World Health Assembly? That contravene the right of mothers' to receive accurate information on formula? Cases were highlighted on our Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet for July 2009, which is available on our website at:
You can send messages via company websites. I only give the general link to the site as the companies keep moving the specific contact page, perhaps trying to shake us off.
But for now, those below work. On the campaign sheet you find a suggested message that you can cut and paste into the comment box on the company website and edit as you see fit (though I prefer it if people don't get abusive as this may be used against the campaign!)
Nestlé - for claiming its formula 'protects' when children fed on it are more likely to become sick than breastfed babies, and other cases.
Danone - requesting that it respects the Advertising Standards Authority ruling against claims it makes about Aptamil and Cow & Gate formula, and removes the untrue claims from all materials and labels. Danone is the parent company, owning Nutricia, Milupa and Cow & Gate brands (and it is Milupa Aptamil). They may pass it on to the subsidiary company, but we want to reach the people at the top of the empire so they know people are concerned. It is Danone that may face a consumer boycott in the future if it does not take action. It is starting to rival Nestlé for malpractice, particularly in Asia as it tries to compete.
You can find Danone country sites at:
The UK site is:
Mead Johnson - for making untrue claims about its Enfamil formula (claims similar to those the ASA ruled against in the Danone case, above).
The US site contact form requires US address information, information on children in the family and offers free samples. I was able to submit the form, putting in my real address, with the Mead Johnson Zip code (477421). The link is:
I also tried the UK site at:
You can find address and fax numbers via these links.
Sunday, August 02, 2009
Professor Kramer has given an interview to the Independent on Sunday explaining how journalists misrepresented his research and what he said about it when writing articles suggesting the benefits of breastfeeding are questionable.
These articles appeared shortly before the UK Advertising Standards Authority published a ruling against Danone/Milupa's claim that Aptamil is the 'best follow-on formula' and claims about it building a child's immunity, leading to references to the 'controversy' over the benefits of breastfeeding appearing in some reports. Now it is World Breastfeeding Week, there is the same danger. See:
Whether the hidden hand of the formula industry was behind the articles, or it was simply journalists looking to stir up an argument and being sloppy or dishonest with their representation of Professor Kramer's research is probably something we will never know.
However, this is what Professor Kramer has said to the Independent on Sunday, see:
"Journalists certainly have the right to express their own opinions, but not to misquote experts they choose to interview in order to support those opinions. That sort of sensationalist journalist would not surprise me from the tabloids, but I had expected better from The Atlantic and The Times."
The article continues:
The Times quoted Kramer, who is based at McGill University, Montreal, as saying there was "very little evidence" breastfeeding reduces the risk of a range of diseases from leukaemia to heart disease. Yet, what he actually said was: "The existing evidence suggests that breastfeeding may protect against the risk of leukaemia, lymphoma, inflammatory bowel disease, type 1 diabetes, heart disease and blood pressure." All he did concede was that we need "more and better studies to pursue these links", a common cry from academics lacking in funding.
As for the article merely casting him "in the camp that believes that breastfeeding will turn out to have a slight effect on brain development", well, that hardly squared with his life's work, he said yesterday. "There is an IQ advantage to breastfeeding by as much as three or four points. It's not the difference between Einstein and a mental retard at an individual level, but it means having a smarter population on average, fewer children with school difficulties, and more gifted children."
He added: "There really isn't any controversy about which mode of feeding is more beneficial for the baby and the mother, but when you read the article in The Times it sounds like there is." Furthermore, he points out: "I'm not aware of any studies that have observed any health benefits of formula feeding. That's important, and any mother weighing the benefits of breastfeeding vs formula feeding needs to know that."
Professor Kramer also told the journalists that the benefits of breastfeeding are so clear there is no need for breastfeeding advocates to overstate the case. This was flipped to suggest he was condemning advocates for overstating the case.
Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour programme, Professor Kramer again commented on how the quote attributed to him regarding the evidence for the benefits of breastfeeding was incorrect. He did suggest greater research was needed and that public health advocates should not rely on older studies, particularly with regard to allergy prevention. You can listen to Professor Kramer and Professor Mary Renfrew at:
He stressed there have been no health benefits found for formula feeding. The discussion also covered why the issue had blown up, the support needed for breastfeeding and that mothers who use formula should not be made to feel guilty. He stated clearly that he has no problems with the expression 'breast is best' and that there is no question that 'breastfeeding is better than formula feeding where it is possible'.
The articles have led to these misrepresentations of Professor Kramer's work and statements being reproduced in other reports - such as some on the ASA ruling - and on talkboards, causing harm that will likely echo on for years and undermine the right of mothers to accurate information.
Conspiracy or cock-up? It is always difficult to judge.
Even the Independent on Sunday article, setting out to set the record straight, misleadingly labels Baby Milk Action as 'anti-formula campaigners', both unwarranted and an industry portrayal we are trying to escape. It states clearly on our home page 'Baby Milk Action is not anti-baby milk', so what we have here is probably a journalist in too much of a hurry. But we have to live with the consequences.
To set that record straight, let me stress we are 'infant health campaigners' and work both to protect breastfeeding and to protect babies fed on formula. We do this through monitoring baby food company policies and practices against the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions adopted by the World Health Assembly - companies are expected to abide by this code independently of whether it has been introduced in government measures.
We work for legislation implementing the Code and Resolutions and hold companies to account through campaigns such as the Nestlé boycott, which targets the worst of the companies. This does not make us anti-formula - as it explains on our home page:
"Breastmilk substitutes are legitimate products for when a child is not breastfed and does not have access to expressed or donor breastmilk. Companies should comply with composition and labelling requirements and other Code requirements to reduce risks - independently of government measures. Parents have a right to accurate, independent information. Baby Milk Action is not anti-baby milk. Our work protects all mothers and infants from irresponsible marketing."