THE NESTLE "COVER UP" IN AUSTRALIA
BABY FOOD ACTION'S RESPONSE TO NESTLE AUSTRALIA'S SEVEN "IRREFUTABLE" STATEMENTS. by Greg Perry, March '96
This document should be read in conjunction with
"Breaking the Rules 1994
" (IBFAN) and
"Profit Before Health 1995
" (BMA - UK)
Nestle has recently exposed their weak inconsistent policies related to the marketing of infant formula and other baby food products internationally.
They have boldly acknowledged the widespread existence of their dangerous and irresponsible marketing practices which undermine breastfeeding.
Nestle's refusal to rectify such blatant policies and practices is an open
challenge to all those including governments, WHO, UNICEF, and the many
NGO's and individuals committed to the protection, promotion and support of
breastfeeding. The WHO has stated that
practices in the marketing of breastmilk substitutes
contribute to infant malnutrition, morbidity and mortality in all
Are we going to sit by patiently and passively and allow WHO to tell us
again in 1996 that a further
"1.5 million infant deaths
could (have been) averted through improved breastfeeding
Nestle by continuing to violate the WHO Code and other related WHA
"inducing mothers away from
" contribute to this obscene death toll.
Nestle has made it abundantly clear that their ongoing violations of the WHO Code, and other relevant World Health Assembly (WHA) Resolutions, will continue and most likely expand even further.
Nestle (Australia) has recently made a number of statements on this issue
they deem to be
statements have been circulated to the general public in an attempt to
bolster Nestle's stocks; a desperate attempt to defend the indefensible.
This publication dismantles Nestle's
" , and exposes a rhetoric that is manipulative,
misleading and dishonest.
"For those who remain
concerned, nothing has changed - the struggle to put people, especially
babies, before profits continues
". (Christopher Hall 14th
July 1994. Notes from the Church of England General Synod debate on Nestle,
Only when Nestle's deceptive public relations machinery is rendered ineffectual, are they likely to address their entrenched disregard for the way they market their baby milk and baby food products.
Nestle (Australia) continues to wholeheartedly implicate themselves with Nestle's damaging and dangerous marketing practices internationally by their unqualified defence of those practices. Nestle (Australia) must be held fully accountable for this indefensible complicity and the horrific consequences of Nestle's practices.
Baby Food Action is committed, through it's continued advocacy and boycott campaign, to influence Nestle and all the other Infant Food Manufacturers (IFM's) to comply with the WHO Code and other relevant WHA Resolutions in their entirety, in all countries.
The elimination of industry's harmful and life threatening practices is an essential element to advance the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding everywhere.
Nestle (Australia) claims the following statement to be IRREFUTABLE:
"Nestle's worldwide policy on marketing infant formula responsibly in line with the WHO Code
(Nestle Australia, Wednesday, 22 November 1995)
Representatives of the Social Responsibility and Justice Committee of the
Uniting Church in Australia met with Nestle representatives in 1995.
Subsequently a report on this meeting was made available. The report
"It was interesting to note that in each
case the company (including Nestle) policy was less than full commitment to
keeping the WHO Code.
" The report stated that
"... it is obvious that the companies(incl. Nestle) are
not able to say they are totally complying with the Code internationally
... noting that there seems to be a great discrepancy between their
commitment to the Code and their performance in many
" (emphasis added) (Extract from a
report by Rev Robert Stringer, Secretary for the Social Responsibility and
Justice Committee, Uniting Church, Australia, 29 May 1995)
In November 1995 Nestle spokesperson Thad Jackson told a US conference on
business ethics in a global economy of
necessity of looking at ethical issues outside of Western
" Another speaker at the Nestle
sponsored conference was even more explicit:
"In many (if
not all) emerging markets it is simply impossible to make money without
overt violation of normal Western ethical principles.
(Nestle in the Dock, New Internationalist, January 1996)
A Nestle (Australia) spokesperson when questioned on Nestle's international
"we have a policy of abiding by the WHO
Code in every country in which it applies
Australia, Jan 1994).
Nestle is obviously suggesting and implying that the WHO code does not apply in all countries. However both WHO and UNICEF have stated that the adoption and adherence to the WHO Code in its entirety in all countries is a minimum requirement in order to protect healthy practices. ie no exceptions - all countries.
Additionally Nestle Australia as with Nestle internationally, misrepresent
the full scope of the WHO Code. In a
"Presentation to the
Royal College of Midwives
"(UK) March 7, 1994 Nestle
"The WHO Code applies to infant formula
and not to other products
Is this policy position consistent with Article 2
of the Code
"The Code applies to the marketing, and practices related
thereto, of the following products: breastmilk substitutes, including
infant formula; other milk products, foods and beverages, including
bottle-fed complementary foods, when marketed or otherwise represented to
be suitable, with or without modification, for use as a partial or total
replacement of breastmilk; feeding bottles and teats. It also
applies to their quality and availability, and to information concerning
" (emphasis added)
In their reply to
"Breaking the Rules
" Nestle made numerous admissions regarding
the promotion of products (other than infant formula) covered by the WHO
Code, yet repeatedly stated categorically that
"weaning cereals are not breastmilk
" Nestle labels recommend the use of
weaning foods from three months in some countries, thereby
representing them to be suitable for use as a partial or total replacement
"Nestle fully adheres to the WHO Code on the marketing of breastmilk substitutes
"(Nestle Australia, February 1995).
Nestle responded to IBFAN's worldwide monitoring report
"Breaking the Rules
" (1994) in their
"Marketing of Infant Formula. Nestle Response
to 'Breaking the Rules' 1994.
" (Nestle Corporate Affairs
Dept, Nestle UK Ltd). Nestle stated they were prepared to take corrective
action in only six cases despite admissions of widespread WHO Code
In their response to the IBFAN document Nestle specifically admit to:
- Advertising infant formula directly to mothers
- Giving free supplies
- Giving mothers free samples of their infant formula
- Sending mother's direct mail promotion of their infant formula
- Mothers of newborn children receiving free samples
- Distributing free supplies in China
- Labels not in local languages
- Nestle's non scientific and non factual claim that Nan 2 is
"the ideal to ensure optimal growth and development
- Hospitals given low cost supplies
- Labels recommending 'weaning' foods from three (3) months
Nestle admits to numerous other violations of the WHO Code and related WHA Resolutions and simply deny many more.
"I am not convinced that the companies,
(including Nestle), are going to keep the Code
". (Rev. Robert Stringer, Secretary
for Social Justice, Uniting Church Australia, 29th May 1995). (emphasis
Clearly Nestle's claims to adhere to the WHO Code is a fabrication and more disturbing is their decision not to rectify the situation. We can assume Nestle intend to pursue their irresponsible and harmful practices unless subjected to increased community and consumer pressure to change.
Nestle (Australia) claims the following statement to be IRREFUTABLE: Nestle's repeated assertion that if anyone acting in good faith, provides us with current and verifiable evidence of non-compliance with the Code, then it will investigate allegations and take corrective action if necessary
"(Nestle Australia, Wednesday 22nd November 1994).
Nestle (U.K.) have similarly stated
"Nestle has always taken prompt corrective
action when it is satisfied that it's marketing activities
in any country are not in conformity with it's public
commitments with regard to the International Code
(Nestle Code Compliance; Nestle U.K. Ltd). [undated but published after
Nestle's policy of responding promptly and taking corrective action to rectify practices inconsistent with the WHO code 'worldwide' is a sham. A further example of their 'double talk' and dishonest rhetoric.
Even though Nestle admitted to 91 cases of baby milk promotion and 64 cases of baby food promotion, they have taken steps to only address six. Clearly they are unwilling to, or are incapable of complying with the WHO Code in its entirety in all countries. This has been demonstrated time and time again.
Nestle appear to be reverting back to their 'hard line' stand towards their critics that they adopted in the 1970's and 1980's. This was a public relations disaster for Nestle, and it will be again. What they are saying in essence is Yes we do violate the WHO Code, we will continue to do so and who is going to, or is capable of stopping us? This is their challenge of the late 1990's to all those working to protect breastfeeding from their dangerous practices. Their 1980's and early 1990's rhetoric or 'cooperation', 'working together' and 'pooling of efforts' has served it's purpose in diffusing much public criticism.
Nestle's preparedness to take the 'ultimate risk' and lie to members of the General Synod of the Church of England in the UK in 1994 confirms their arrogant disregard for people of good will and the consequences of their harmful and dangerous practices.
Nestle (Australia) claims the following statement to be IRREFUTABLE: UNICEF's report (State of the World's Children 1995) that of 72 developing countries which in the past allowed free or subsidised supplies of infant formula to be distributed in maternity clinics and hospitals, only one has not acted to end this practice. The WHO acknowledgment of industry's contribution to this progress
"(Nestle Australia, Wednesday, November 22 1995).
Note that Nestle Australia's claim relates to the action of '72 developing countries' which have taken action to end free/low cost supplies - not to Nestle's actions themselves. Another attempt by Nestle to ride on the back of the efforts of others who have made an authentic contribution to ending this dangerous practice. Their statement refers to an 'acknowledgement (by WHO) of industry's contribution' generally, not Nestle's in particular.
How does Nestle 'co-operate' with government action to implement official measures to end free and low cost supplies of breast milk substitutes/infant formula?
In November 1993 UNICEF completed a preliminary monitoring report of
non-compliance with government action ending free and low
cost supplies of breast milk substitutes/infant formula. The results:
- 34 third-world countries monitored by UNICEF.
- 20 of 34 confirmed non-compliance by companies with
Government initiatives to end free supplies.
- 12 out of the 20 countries were still receiving free supplies
from Nestle including China, Indonesia, Thailand, Oman, Morocco,
Bolivia, Peru,. Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil, India and Bangladesh.
"that free and low cost supplies of infant formula have been replaced by alternative procurement procedures in all but four developing countries. (Nestle Australia, 30th September, 1993)
Only three months after UNICEF's monitoring results were completed Nestle
Australia were falsely claiming again that
and low cost supplies from manufacturers have now ended in all but two
developing countries." (Nestle Australia, 24th February, 1994).
Nestle Australia have never produced any evidence to support these fallacious claims regarding the cessation of free and low cost supplies in those countries listed by UNICEF.
Nestle (Australia) claims the following statements to be irrefutable:
"Nestle Australia has worked long and hard to bring about these advances (helping draft the Australian Agreement in 1992, ending free and low-cost supplies of infant formula to maternity hospitals in Australia - August 31, 1995)
"Nestle's pro-action eg in writing to every government
health department to offer co-operation, following the 1986 WHA Resolution
(39.28) calling on governments to 'ensure that the small
amounts of breast milk substitutes needed for the minority of infants who
require them in maternity wards and hospitals are made available through
the normal procurement channels and not through free or subsidised
supplies'. Nestle received just one response
"Australian Government and ACTU recognition of Nestle's
" (Nestle Australia, Wednesday,
November 22, 1995)
To respond to Nestle's absurd claims that they have been 'proactive' and 'worked long and hard' to end free and low cost supplies of infant formula it is instructive to view the historical context of this issue.
- 25 September, 1984
"Nestle will support whatever technical advice is offered by WHO/UNICEF and will encourage governments to develop strong enforceable definitions which apply to all sections of the health care system and to all members of industry
"Addendum to the Nestle Statement of Understanding
- 16th May, 1986
Technical advice provided to the WHA
"in the context of Article 6.6 of the International Code.
The 39th WHA urges member states 2(6)
"to ensure that the small amounts of breast milk substitutes needed for the minority of infants who require them in maternity wards and hospitals are made available through the normal procurement channels and not through free or subsidised supplies.' (Resolution 39.28, 1986)
- Following WHA Resolution 39.28 Nestle claims
that the WHA Resolution does not apply to them!!!
- May, 1989.
Member of WHO's Executive Board responds to Nestle's reaction to WHA 39.28.
"As the principal sponsor of WHA Resolution 39.28 concerning the provision of free and low cost supplies of breast milk substitutes -
"I am concerned about the misrepresentation of this document as evidenced by the Nestle Publication
"Infant formula donations to hospitals : Q's and A's (February, 1989).
"I am dismayed to learn that this Resolution is currently being misused and misrepresented ---- the Resolution is addressed to manufacturers as well as governments ---- manufacturers must recognise and bear their own responsibilities in stopping free supplies ---.
"(Professor O Ransome-Kuti, Minister for Health, Nigeria. Member of the WHO's Executive May 16, 1989).
The UNICEF Executive Board adopted a Resolution (1991/22) calling upon manufacturers and distributors to end the distribution of free and low cost supplies of infant formula by December, 1992.
Nestle Australia stated to Community Aid Abroad (CAA Australia) that
"Of course it is planned to end free and low cost supplies of infant formula to maternity wards and hospitals by the end of 1992.
Despite the efforts of WHO and UNICEF Nestle Australia remains defiant (and anything but co-operative) by continuing to misrepresent and undermine the issue claiming that
"It has sometimes not been understood that industry is permitted to provide such supplies under the International Code --.
14th October 1994:
Meeting of community and health organisation representatives convened by the ACTU and Baby Food Action to address the issue of ceasing free and low cost supplies in Australia.
November 23, 1994:
Further meeting of a wider representation of community, church, health and welfare organisations. Coalition formed and committed to full implementation of WHA Resolution 47.5. In particular
"to ensure that there are no donations of free or subsidised supplies of breast milk substitutes or other products covered by the International Code of Marketing of breastmilk substitutes in any part of the health care system.
"(WHA Resolution 47.5 2(2)
The Coalition wrote to IFM's in Australia seeking advice on their respective positions re: ceasing free and low cost distribution of infant formula within the health care system.
With a formidable coalition committed to ending this dangerous and outdated practice the major companies unilaterally decide to end free and low cost supplies in Australia.
This brief summary clearly demonstrates Nestle's lack of co-operation, and indeed their obstructive tactics, and lack of action for over a decade in not complying with their responsibilities to end free and low cost supplies.
Nestle Australia state they fully support the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) to further the protection, promotion and support of breast feeding.
However, mindful of industry's 'track record' UNICEF outlined
"parameters for involvement
" of the
infant formula industry with the BFHI:
"By far the most
important contribution which industry can make to support the BFHI is to
achieve the agreed goal of ending free and low cost
supplies --- industry's full efforts should be
concentrated on this goal....
" (emphasis added)
To date only two maternity hospitals have been designated
" in Australia. The
Royal Women's Hospital (RWH) Victoria was successfully assessed as a Baby
Friendly Hospital in September, 1994. Hospitals cannot be 'Baby Friendly'
whilst receiving free and low cost supplies. However after the hospital
assessment process Nestle continued to provide the RWH with free
and low cost supplies of infant formula. Is this an example of
how Nestle Australia intend to
" the BFHI?
Nestle (Australia) claims the following statement is
"Nestle Australia markets its infant formula products responsibly. (1994 and 1995 Government Advisory Panel reports prove this. Why then do critics like IBFAN and BFA continue to allege Nestle violates Codes in Australia?
"In countries where governments have instituted their own
codes, such as Australia ---- Nestle has pledged to abide by
whichever is the stronger of the two.
"It (Nestle) does not distribute free samples to
(Source: Infant Formula in Australia. Nestle Australia Ltd., August, 1991.)
Baby Food Action's Response:
Despite their 'pledge' and denials Nestle Australia continue today
to violate Article 5-2 of the WHO Code which states
"manufacturers and distributors should
not provide, directly or indirectly, to pregnant women,
mothers or members of their families, samples of products
within the scope of this code.
" (Promotion to the
general public and mothers).
The Director General of WHO recently singled out this practice
"...what appears to be occurring in some cases is
that quantities of infant formula are being provided free or at low price
to some institutions --- including --- health centres, for
use in feeding infants---this would of course be equivalent to
providing samples, which is expressly disallowed by the
Whilst Nestle has announced their intention to end free and low cost supplies/samples in August 1996, (15 years after the WHO Code was adopted!!) it is only with comprehensive follow-up monitoring that the situation can be objectively assessed. It should be noted that Nestle did not honour the undertaking to CAA to end free supplies by the end of 1992. As late as November 1995 Nestle Australia were still denying that they actually gave samples. (Nestle correspondence 22nd November, 1995.)
Additionally, as we have stated elsewhere in this response we continue to be gravely concerned that Nestle Australia fully and publicly defend the indefensible : Nestle's marketing policies and practices internationally.
"IBFAN received over 300 complaints alone about Nestle's
promotion to mothers in health care systems. These included free samples,
prescription pads, instruction sheets and infant feeding books which give
misleading information and promote bottle feeding
" (Profit before Health. An analysis of
Nestle's baby food marketing policy. Baby Milk Action, May 1995)
By being prepared to defend and cover up these harmful and dangerous practices Nestle Australia implicate themselves fully with those practices and rightfully attract the same condemnation as the perpetrators they seek to defend.
"I trust that on the basis of this evidence below in
response to the two issues you raise, that you will give
some thought to the tactics of the groups that are urging you to boycott
" (Nestle Australia, Tuesday, November 7,
The two issues Nestle refer to are :
- CHINA : Nestle (Australia) deny free and low cost supplies
were distributed to health care facilities
- PHILIPPINES : Nestle (Australia) deny any knowledge that Nestle
offered incentives of gifts and cash to
community-based health volunteers whenever
they sell a discounted Nestogen
Infant formula to their neighbours (Reported
Nestle Australia's response at no stage acknowledged that
free and low cost supplies were distributed to hospitals in China. They
stated that Nestle investigations found
no evidence to suggest that any mother is
given free lactogen or that lactogen is being fed to all
" (Nestle Australia, Nov. 7th 1995) (emphasis
Yet Nestle UK in their publication
"Nestle Response to
Breaking the Rules 1994
"It is true that Nestle still gave limited
quantities of free supplies
" to hospitals in
China in 1994 giving the extraordinary excuse that it was not aware that
the government banned the practice in 1992.
However as a member of the International Association of Infant Food
Manufacturers (IFM) Nestle received a letter
" (Nestle is a member) from the IFM
dated 10th January, 1994.
"--we need to report progress in some of the
key countries where government measures to ban free and low cost supplies
are not being respected by all
of China (PRC): Ministerial Order banning supplies issued
in April 1992 but not enforced. ... IFM has been attacked by
UNICEF for failing to respect the Ministerial
Nestle's claim of ignorance and 'confusion over official government policy' is a classic demonstration of how they are incapable of and/or unprepared to comply with their corporate responsibilities to market their products according to government bans supporting relevant WHA Resolutions.
Nestle (Australia's) attempt to 'cover up' and deny Nestle's involvement with this practice in China fully implicate them with those practices.
Nestle (Australia) deny any knowledge of the tactics being used by Nestle in the Philippines to induce sales of Nestogen to families.
Nestle (Australia) has previously denied similar
activities by Nestle representatives in the Philippines. They
made such denials on ABC radio in 1993. Yet subsequently they wrote to the
"It is true that employees of Nestle
gave samples of milk products and cereal food (not infant formula)
to mothers in health care facilities.
Such contact by Nestle representatives is a violation of WHO Code Article
Nestle's only concern about
"the tactics of the
groups that are urging you to boycott Nestle
" is that
they continue to reveal actual situations which embarrass Nestle and
highlight their disregard for the health and welfare of infants
"Nestle has always believed that breast
feeding is best
(Source : Nestle's Baby Milk Bulletin : February, 1995.)
"Nestle has always acknowledged that
breast feeding is the optimum form of nutrition for
(Source : Nestle Australia correspondence dated 21st September, 1995.)
What Nestle really tells consumers and health
"Lactogen 1: The ideal milk food for babies up to six
"Why Nan 1 is as close to mother's milk as you can
"Nan 2 even ensures future security
"Carnation (follow up formula from Nestle) means complete
"Good Start infant formula (Nestle product) ... make it
your routine recommendation.
THE WHO CODE STATES:
"Information provided by
manufacturers and distributors to health professionals
regarding products within the scope of this code (including infant formula)
should be restricted to scientific and factual matters,
and such information should not imply or create a belief that
bottle feeding is equivalent or superior to breast
" (Article 7.2) (emphasis added)
As far back as 1916 Nestle Australia were claiming that their infant foods
"The food of foods for
" (Medical Journal of Australia
And the final word:
"The bottle IS a passport to death for the majority
of our babies
(Source Indian Paediatrician Dr. Raj Anand, Interviewed on Yorkshire TS's 3D Documentary 1995)
Let us increase our efforts to pressure Nestle to market their artificial baby milk formulae and baby food products responsibly everywhere.