Danny Yee >> Baby Food Action



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 "improper practices in the marketing of breastmilk substitutes" can contribute to infant malnutrition, morbidity and mortality in all countries.

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 practices?"

Nestle by continuing to violate the WHO Code and other related WHA resolutions thus "inducing mothers away from breastfeeding" 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 "irrefutable ". These 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 "double talk" , 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, U.K.)

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)

Baby Food Action's Response:

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 stated "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 countries." (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 "the necessity of looking at ethical issues outside of Western philosophy." 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 policy stated "we have a policy of abiding by the WHO Code in every country in which it applies". (Nestle 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 stated "The WHO Code applies to infant formula and not to other products". (emphasis added)

Is this policy position consistent with Article 2 "Scope 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 their use." (emphasis added)

In their reply to "Breaking the Rules 1994" 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 substitutes." 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 of breastmilk.

"Nestle fully adheres to the WHO Code on the marketing of breastmilk substitutes" (Nestle Australia, February 1995).

Baby Food Action's Response:

Nestle responded to IBFAN's worldwide monitoring report "Breaking the Rules" (1994) in their publication "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 violations.

In their response to the IBFAN document Nestle specifically admit to:

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 worldwide". (Rev. Robert Stringer, Secretary for Social Justice, Uniting Church Australia, 29th May 1995). (emphasis added)

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 September 1993].

Baby Food Action's Response:

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).

Baby Food Action's Response:

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:

Nestle Australia circulated a statement at the IUNS Congress in South Australia in September, 1993 (two months before the UNICEF report was released) claiming "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 "free 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 pro-active actions" (Nestle Australia, Wednesday, November 22, 1995)

Baby Food Action's Response:

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.

The decade of delay and defiance.

  1. 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")

  2. 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)

  3. Following WHA Resolution 39.28 Nestle claims that the WHA Resolution does not apply to them!!!

  4. 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).

    April 1991:
    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.

    November 1991:
    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.

    July, 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 "Baby Friendly" 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 "support" the BFHI?

Nestle (Australia) claims the following statement is "irrefutable": "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 mothers."
(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 stating"...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 Code."

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 information." (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." (Nestle Australia, Tuesday, November 7, 1995)

The two issues Nestle refer to are :

  1. CHINA : Nestle (Australia) deny free and low cost supplies were distributed to health care facilities in China..

  2. 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 March, 1995).

Baby Food Action's Response:


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 "there was no evidence to suggest that any mother is given free lactogen or that lactogen is being fed to all infants." (Nestle Australia, Nov. 7th 1995) (emphasis added)

Yet Nestle UK in their publication "Nestle Response to Breaking the Rules 1994" stated "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 "to all members" (Nestle is a member) from the IFM dated 10th January, 1994.

It stated "--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 companies." "Peoples Republic 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 Order."

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 ABC stating "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 5.5.

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 everywhere.

"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 infants".
(Source : Nestle Australia correspondence dated 21st September, 1995.)

What Nestle really tells consumers and health professionals:
"Lactogen 1: The ideal milk food for babies up to six months."
"Why Nan 1 is as close to mother's milk as you can get."
"Nan 2 even ensures future security".
"Carnation (follow up formula from Nestle) means complete nutrition."
"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 feeding." (Article 7.2) (emphasis added)

As far back as 1916 Nestle Australia were claiming that their infant foods were indeed "The food of foods for infants." (Medical Journal of Australia 1916).

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.


Baby Food Action << Danny Yee