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Nestlé: the bastards!
from SchNEWS Issue 227, 10th Sept 1999

"Over 4,000 babies die every day in poor countries because they're not breastfed. That's not conjecture, it's UNICEF fact."
Baby Milk Action.

" Many people now believe in modern superstitions, these include the use of bottle milk; these are superstitions no less pernicious than the unhealthy folk traditions. But while the wrong traditional ways are superstitions borne out of ignorance, the wrong 'modern' ways are superstitions borne out of greed. And we all know that greed has strong powerful interests"
A former Philippine Health Secretary.


SchNEWS has an old chestnut for you this week. Corporate giants, Nestlé would have us believe they're overflowing with 'the milk of human kindness' these days; a response to Baby Milk Action's long-term campaign exposing dodgy dealing in developing counties.

A few months back back the company got their wrists slapped and advert banned by the Advertising Standards Authority after claiming they marketed their babymilk 'ethically and responsibly. So they turned to advertising gurus Saatchi and Saatchi who suggested Nestlé 'go on the offensive' by using advertising 'showing the benefits of Nestlé's financial contributions to charities'

Nestlé general manager, Arthur Furer stated, 'it is clear we have an urgent need to develop an effective counter-propaganda operation.

With an annual promotion budget of nearly $8billion, Nestlé has a slight advantage over mothers who produce breastmilk naturally and do not have a fortune to spend promoting the advantages of their 'product'.


Their new tactic has been to advertise through publications who are respected for their discerning views (such as the Big Issue) and to make self-promoting donations to childens' charities and the church. The first, presumably to counteract the mental image that the word Nestlé conjures up of third world babies dying in their millions after converting from breast to bottle; the latter to persuade the church to chill out on their Nestlé boycotting campaign.

Nestlé have now launched a new range of baby food on the European market. Reliable sources indicate that in the remaining 4 months of this year Nestlé's promotion budget of £2 million for their new range exceeds the equivalent expenditure of the two rival brands for the whole year. Plenty of scope for 'Nestléing' up to the public.


"A bottle fed child is 25 times more likely to die from diarrhoea than a breast fed child where water is unsafe."

Just to remind you of the facts, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimate that more than a million babies die every year as a result of diarrhoea picked up from unhygienic bottle feeding. That's one baby every 30 seconds.

Nestlé control about 40% of the world baby milk market, aggressively promoting their babymilk products in developing countries, and discouraging breastfeeding. Of course, after a short period of bottle feeding a mother's breastmilk dries up and another consumer is born.

They give 'sweeteners' to healthworkers encouraging them to promote their products. They are still 'donating' freebies to health facilities in Gabon, Africa, to encourage the use of their product; despite the Gabon government asking them to stop.


In the Philippines, the company have been exposed for hiring graduate nurses as 'health educators' to visit mothers at home and try to convince them to use their products. Ignoring WHO recommendations that complimentary foods only be introduced from 6 months, Nestlé market teas labelled for feeding 2 week old infants.

They do not always provide clear information and in some cases the labels are in a language that mothers can't understand.

Sickeningly, Nestlé have been getting away this for longer than you would believe possible. As early as 1873, Nestlé was exporting its 'milk food' to the colonised world. It's a measure of their power that 126 years on they still see themselves as above the law, and they're 'milking it' for all it's worth.


Currently in court in India over their baby food labels, Nestlé's reaction is to use their clout to have key sections of the Indian baby food marketing law scrapped. Back in '39 they were exporting condensed milk to Singapore and Malaysia as 'ideal for delicate infants', though it was banned in Britain for causing rickets and blindness.

In a speech that would sadly be as relevant 60 years later, Dr Cecily Williams said 'misguided propaganda on infant feeding should be punished as the most miserable form of sedition; these deaths should be regarded as murder'

Breast feeding: some facts...

"Breast feeding declined rapidly between 1960-70 as the formula milk market expanded. In Mexico from 100% to 40%, in Chile from 90% to 5% and in Singapore from 80% to 5%"
UN Food Group.

  • In the 50's & 60's, doctors working in the' 'developing' world observed that diarrhoea, infections and malnutrition were increasing in babies. This is rare amongst breastfed babies.
  • Breastfeeding is vital not only because of the nutrients but because the anti-infective properties protect against disease.
  • In developing countries, extra food for the mother can cost as little as one tenth of the cost of artificial food for the baby.
  • Poor people often over-dilute baby milk powder with unsafe water to make it last longer resulting in malnourishment.
  • Recent research by the British Medical Council found that cowmilk at 26p a pint is just as good for six month old babies as formula milk which Costs around £5 for 10 pints.

fact file!
Nestlé is the worlds largest food manufacturer, with factories in more than 80 countries and a turnover of $52 billion, taking over £l,000 a second.

They are also the focus of the worlds longest running consumer boycott (22 years) 'Breaking the boycott is like crossing the world's longest running picket line' said a pissed off hack.

As a final accolade, when the European Parliament start holding public hearings on multinational responsibility and corporate abuses later this year, Nestlé are the first company they intend to put in the hotseat.

Nescafe, Gold Blend, Rowntree, After Eights, Quality Street, Sarsons seasonings, Perrier, Buxton, Findus, Buitoni, Crosse and Blackwell, Maggi, Branston pickle , Sun-Pat, Shredded Wheat, L'Oreal and Lancome cosmetics, Winalot, Felix and Choosy pet foods and many, more...

For a comprehensive list contact:

Baby Milk Action, 23 St Andrews St., Cambridge CB2 3AX Tel: 01223 464420

...or drop Nestlé a line: Nestlé UK Ltd., St George's House, Croydon, Surrey CR9 INR.

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