Friday, June 29, 2007

Converting opportunities into health professional recommendations

Further proof of how Nestlé's aggressive marketing of baby foods is systematic and institutionalised. Today, what Nestlé expects of its infant formula marketing staff.

What I am about to report adds to the recent film from UNICEF Philippines and the Guardian investigation of Nestlé in Bangladesh. These show the tactics Nestlé and other companies are using at the present time to push their products. See:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2007/05/watch-film-from-philippines-here.html

We are running campaigns to stop the malpractice. As I reported here last week, Nestlé has indicated it will continue distributing promotional fliers for Lactogen infant formula to mothers in Bangaldesh through the health care system. This is a flagrant breach of the World Health Assembly marketing requirements, so Nestlé tries to mislead people as to the provisions. See:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2007/06/seeing-nestl-clearly.html

Further evidence of how such aggressive marketing practices are institutionalised comes from Nestlé Australia.

In Australia Nestlé is recruiting Nutrition Advisers. These will have: "full responsibility for building the image of infant nutrition products ethically across the state."

Ah. Ethical promotion. What could that entail? Monitoring evidence gathered by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) and the recent independent investigations find company reps. trying to endear themselves with health workers through gifts, such as air conditioners and travel tickets. Doctors are classified depending on their ability to influence mothers. Cards are kept with personal details such as birthdays for them, their spouses and children so presents can be given.

Here is how Nestlé's job advertisement describes these duties.

---Quote begins
Your ability to communicate effectively at all levels will ensure health professionals warm to you as you gain their trust as an expert in this dynamic field. As a result, you’ll be able to identify and convert opportunities within hospital and community health settings to health professional recommendation.
---quote ends

Former Nestlé Pakistan employee, Syed Aamar Raza, has provided documentary evidence of the system used for targeting health workers. His bosses approved payments for large items, on the condition that sales increased. His pay slips showed the bonus he received for hitting his sales targets, again a clear breach of the provisions of the World Health Assembly marketing requirements.

Another former Nestlé employee from China spoke out at a conference organised by WHO and UNICEF in the Philippines just last week. This was reported in Christian Science Monitor, which interviewed the former employee by telephone. See:
http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0622/p05s01-woap.html?page=3

Remember that the Code specifically prohibits company reps. from making direct or indirect contact with pregnant women or the mothers of infants and young children.

---Quote begins
Ms. Ding, who spoke by telephone from the UNICEF/WHO conference, said the Swiss company told expecting mothers attending antenatal classes that Nestlé's Good Start formula was superior and that many of them would be unable to produce sufficient breast milk for their baby.

"The company told the staff that infant formula is better. It didn't tell us that mother's milk is enough; they couldn't tell us the truth," she says.

Ding quit her job last year and now runs a breast-feeding website and volunteers on weekends to teach new mothers how to nurse. She says young women in Chinese cities are misled by false advertising and their own doctors, who are paid by formula companies to give out information sheets and free samples of their products.

---quote ends

In its policies and practices Nestlé targets mothers. It uses a strategy of denials and deception to try to divert attention and to undermine campaigns such as those Baby Milk Action runs.

Nestlé puts its own profits before infant health and mothers' rights.

But you can do something about it. Especially next week, which is International Nestlé Free Week. See my blog yesterday for news of preparations in some of the countries taking part.
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2007/06/nestl-free-week-preparations-around.html

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Nestlé-Free Week preparations around the world

We have been plugging Nestlé-Free Week for the past few months and the banner advertisements and logos are spreading through cyber space, bringing people to our Nestlé-Free Zone page. See:
http://www.babymilkaction.org/resources/boycott/nestlefree.html

Baby Milk Action's partners have been busy too. Yesterday INFACT Canada sent out a press release, which you can download here:
http://www.babymilkaction.org/pdfs/nestlefree/nestlefreeuscanada07.pdf

INFACT Canada coordinates the boycott for North America and is encouraging people in the Canada and the US to call Nestlé customer service telephone lines to tell the company they are supporting the boycott. You can download the briefing here:
http://www.babymilkaction.org/pdfs/nestlefree/callnestleuscanada07.pdf

Baby Milk Action has a poster about calling Nestlé and a video on the Nestlé-Free Zones page at:
http://www.babymilkaction.org/resources/boycott/nestlefree.html#posters

In Italy they are planning demonstrations. In Trieste and Modena on 4 July and in Modena and Rome on 7 July. See:
http://www.ribn.it/

In the Philippines, Sweden and Cameroon, they are publicising the week through the media. The Cameroon group has also produced leaflets in local languages.

Baby Milk Action is officially launching a range of reusable cotton shopping bags. The images used are below. They can be ordered at:
http://www.babymilkaction.org/shop/boycott.html

If you have a bag, why not send us pictures of you using them out and about.



Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Will Gordon Brown protect infants and mothers?

Today we have a new Prime Minister in the UK. This prompts us to ask: Will Gordon Brown protect infants and mothers?

As our press release relates, 12 years ago the Labour Party opposed the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations as being too weak and not reflecting the advice given by health experts. We had organised a campaign encouraging partners to comment and call for the measures to be brought into line with the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant World Health Assembly Resolutions. See:
http://www.babymilkaction.org/press/press27june07.html

Opposition in Parliament was led by Tony Blair, but when he became Prime Minster bringing the law into line with the Code and Resolutions was not a priority.

It has taken concerted campaigning to prompt a commitment from the government to strengthen the regulations and the recently-announced crack down on illegal practices. See:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2007/03/letters-that-took-12-years-to-write.html

Much will be made of the early decisions made by Gordon Brown and what it signifies for the direction of his administration.

We hope that our campaigning with our partners will ensure that protecting infant health and mothers' rights is one of the issues on his list and he will give it the attention he deserves. He has said he will prioritise the National Health Service and improving protection and delivering other aspects of the Breastfeeding Manifesto will save the NHS money while improving infant health. If you are in the UK you can encourage your Member of Parliament to sign up to the Breastfeeding Manifesto at:
http://www.breastfeedingmanifesto.org.uk/

Monday, June 25, 2007

Bare breasts interest the tabloids

Well, it is not news that the tabloid newspapers are interested in bare breasts. Here in the UK, The Sun newspaper set the standard, if that is the right word, with page 3 ‘topless models’. The phwoar factor that newspapers such as The Sun and ‘mens magazines’ promote and the low rates of breastfeeding, particularly in disadvantaged communities, means that many boys grow into men only ever seeing breasts as sexual objects. So perpertuating some mothers' reluctance to feed in public or even at home in front of family members.

These thoughts come to mind as colleagues in the Philippines report on a stunt outside the Supreme Court last week. On the 19th June the Ministry of Health and the pharmaceutical companies submitted final evidence in an oral hearing. The Ministry of Health is trying to defend baby food marketing requirements which the Supreme Court suspended after a legal challenge by the pharmaceutical companies and pressure on the President from the US Chamber of Commerce.

We launched an international campaign of support last November. See:
http://www.babymilkaction.org/philippines/

You can read an article from today’s Manila Times at:
http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?page=ritaLindaJimeno_june25_2007

It opens with the stunt at the Supreme Court:

---Quote begins
There are now more people whose eyes are open about the hazards of infant formula as a substitute for breast milk. Women with painted torsos bared their breasts outside the Supreme Court to dramatize their advocacy for breastfeeding and their protest against milk manufacturers’ attempt to block the implementation of the Revised Rules and Regulations of the Milk Code prepared and released by the Department of Health.
---quote ends

Your support for the campaign helped generate front-page newspaper coverage in the Philippines. See:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2006/11/your-messages-of-support-are-front.html

Apparently the stunt in front of the Supreme Court caught the attention of even the tabloid press in the Philippines and has been picked up in reports around the world. It was more tasteful than it may sound.

Here is the opening of the Philippines Sun Star:
http://www.sunstar.com.ph/static/ceb/2007/06/21/oped/michelle.p..so.caught.in.the.net.html

---Quote begins
THE photo was more eye-catching than the story. Why would it be not? It was of women of various stages of aging publicly baring their breasts. Baring is hardly an accurate term because the women had bodily painted themselves, putting art and slogans on their chest. So the paint was a camouflage for drooping bosoms, especially for those of the spunky 72-year-old lola.

The women, 21 of them and presumably all mothers, partly exposed themselves outside the Supreme Court building to show their support to the Department of Health’s strict regulation on infant formula milk advertisements. The breast demonstration came a few hours before the SC was about to hear the oral arguments on the Milk Code, which bans ads for breast milk substitutes for babies up to two years old and aims to promote breastfeeding.
---quote ends

Thanks to the campaigning over the past months, this story is now being picked up around the world, particularly in the US. Here is the Philadelphia Daily News story, based on an Associated Press report.
http://www.philly.com/philly/wires/ap/news/nation_world/8084012.html

What’s that? You want to see the photo? But the point was to draw attention to the story.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Seeing Nestlé clearly

Nestlé has responded to our campaign about its Lactogen infant formula fliers in Bangladesh exposed by The Guardian on 15 May 20007. The reply is both misleading and contains an unjustified criticism of Baby Milk Action. You might think such a response would annoy me, but, seeing Nestlé clearly, there are far bigger issues to be angry about.

A quick resumé of the background. The Guardian journalist found the wards in the hospitals she visited filled with sick infants who had been formula-fed. She also found pads of fliers distributed to health workers for handing on to mothers for Nestlé’s Lactogen infant formula. Nestlé’s Hilary Parsons, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, had a response published in the paper arguing the fliers were providing essential information to mothers and were a ‘safety measure’.

Nestlé is called on to ensure its practices at every level comply with the provisions of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk, adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981. The provisions are very clear. No promotion of breastmilk substitutes at all. Information to health workers must be limited to scientific and factual matters and materials are not to be passed on to mothers. The health care system is not to be used to display or distribute material on company products within the scope of the Code. Educational and information materials intended to reach mothers cannot refer to products within the scope of the Code.

I went through this provisions in detail on a past blog. See:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2007/05/nestl-responds-to-investigation-in.html

However you consider the fliers, they are violating the Code’s provisions.

We featured the case on our Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet, asking supporters to send a message to Nestlé calling on it to abide by the Code and stop such marketing practices in Bangladesh and all countries. See:
http://www.babymilkaction.org/CEM/cemjune07.html

The action sheet has a record of success, stopping some of the more blatant violations and helping to force policy changes. For example, we asked supporters to write to the companies for years over their failure to abide by the 1994 World Health Assembly Resolution saying that complementary feeding should be fostered from about 6 months. Companies continued to label complementary foods for use before 6 months of age. We also raised this at Nestlé’s shareholder meeting and worked with governments to implement the Resolution in national measures. After 9 years of campaigning, Nestlé finally agreed that it would stop marketing complementary foods for use before 6 months, at least in some countries. It told us mid way through a week of demonstrations we were holding at Nestlé sites around the country. We still find it breaking the provision, but it has been an important policy shift.

But there is another purpose for the Campaign for Ethical Marketing. It is to compel the companies to answer for their practices. They do not always respond to Baby Milk Action, but when members of the public, their customers, contact them, they are more likely to do so. We can then analyse their responses and see how they attempt to justify their actions.

So what of its promotional fliers? I have just posted Nestlé’s public response on our website, with an analysis. You can see it at:
http://www.babymilkaction.org/CEMresponses/CEMRjune07.html

I will quote it here too:

---Quote begins
Dear ****,

Thank you for your recent e-mail.

I would refer you to Article 4.2 of the WHO Code which states:

"Informational and educational materials, whether written, audio, or visual, dealing with the feeding of infants and intended to reach pregnant women and mothers of infants and young children, should include clear information on all the following points:

(a) The benefits and superiority of breast-feeding.
(b) Maternal nutrition, and the preparation for, and maintenance of, breast- feeding.
(c) The negative effect on breast-feeding of introducing partial bottle-feeding.
(d) The difficulty of reversing the decision not to breast-feed.
(e) Where needed, the proper use of infant formula, whether manufactured industrially or home-prepared.

When such materials contain information about the use of infant formula, they should include the social and financial implications of its use, the health hazards of inappropriate foods or feeding methods and, in particular, the health hazards of unnecessary or improper use of infant formula and other breast-milk substitutes. Such material should not use any pictures or text which may idealize the use of breast-milk substitutes."

The campaign group Baby Milk Action has failed to refer to this article in the WHO Code which allows such information to be given by health professionals to mothers.

Please see More detailed information can be found on www.babymilk.nestle.com and www.nestle.co.uk/ourResponsibility for an update on our position in the marketing of baby milk.

Yours sincerely,

Beverley Mirando
Senior Policy Adviser
---quote ends


The text Nestlé quotes is, indeed, part of Article 4. Baby Milk Action linked to the full text of it and summarised it, but only quoted directly the part relevant to fliers for Lactogen formula: "...Such equipment or materials may bear the donating companys name or logo, but should not refer to a proprietary product that is within the scope of this Code..."

It is irrelevant whether the other information specified in part 4.2 is there or not. Describing promotional materials as ‘informational and educational materials’ does not make them acceptable under the Code’s provisions. If they are referring to a product they are a violation. It could not be clearer.

So we immediately see three things from Nestlé’s response.

Firstly, it is prepared to misrepresent the Code to try to divert criticism. This is not a case of grey areas, or confusion over interpretation. What part of “should not refer to a proprietary product that is within the scope of this Code” can Nestlé claim is unclear? Nestlé hopes that people will take its quote at face value and not look to the full text of Article 4. There is one word to describe Nestlé's approach: dishonest.

Secondly, Nestlé is not going to stop distributing the Lactogen fliers, in Bangladesh or in other countries. If it does not accept the practice is prohibited, it is going to continue using health workers to promote its infant formula to mothers. As The Guardian article explains, and a recent film from UNICEF Philippines also exposes, health workers are offered gifts and other inducements by Nestlé. Former Nestlé employee, Syed Aamir Raza, has given the view from the inside on the tactics used to recruit doctors. Documents he has made public expose tactics such as giving large donations, for an air conditioner for example, on the condition that sales of formula go up. See his report Milking Profits. Handing out Nestlé’s promotional fliers is one way to achieve this. Health workers, who may not appreciate the risks of formula feeding and not be well trained on supporting mothers when they have problems with breastfeeding, too easily hand over a flier. Even when infants become sick, the connection with formula feeding may not be made. Yet the evidence of increased risk of diarrhoea and death, as well as other illnesses, is well documented. Certainly Nestlé is well aware.

Thirdly, Nestlé criticises Baby Milk Action in a totally unjustified way, trying to make it appear as if we have misrepresented the Code.

You might think that this third point annoys me, but there is a more significant finding from Nestlé’s response to get angry about.

Take a little time to look through the Code and Nestlé's policies and practices and its underlying strategy for its baby food business becomes clear. It is trying to divert criticism through a process of denials and deception so it can continue to boost sales of formula, regardless of the impact on infant health.

Nestlé’s response is part and parcel of the corrupt practices of this company. Nestlé's Public Relations machine and the anti-boycott team Beverley Mirando now heads exist to enable Nestlé to continue to put its own profits before other considerations – including the truth, mothers' rights and infant health.

That should make any human being angry. And, hopefully, motivated to take action.

In a world with the correct values, Nestlé executives would appear before a judge and be imprisoned for crimes against humanity. The company would be subject to punitive fines to more than offset any enrichment its aggressive marketing brings. Let us say, we are working on it! Legislation and the seriousness of the authorities works in some countries, such as Brazil. But not in others. In Costa Rica Nestlé ignored its court summons over illegal labelling and itself ridiculed the size of the fine the court imposed. We need more countries with independently monitored and enforced legislation and the global community as a whole needs to introduce systems to hold corporations as powerful as Nestlé to account when national governments fail to do so.

At the end of the day, Nestlé understands one thing: money.

Which makes every one of us very powerful.

We can deny Nestlé that it desires most: our money.

Every one of us can judge the evidence and then take appropriate action.

Refuse to give Nestlé money.

Join the boycott and spread the word. We have lots of resources to help you.

We are currently promoting International Nestlé-Free Week, (2-8 July) as a way for boycott supporters to approach people who are not already boycotting. You can add the logo and link that appears on this blog to your own. Click on it to see how.

If others are reluctant to support the boycott, you can ask them to at least give up Nestlé products for one week and tell Nestlé they are doing so. A suggested email is given on the campaign page. When they realise there are alternative products and it is not so hard to deny Nestlé money, perhaps they will continue.

If you do encourage people to boycott you may find they do not have the time or inclination to listen or to look into the issue. They may contact Nestlé and take its assurances at face value. They may wave Kit Kats in your face!

If you are like me, though, when you see Nestlé clearly then you find reserves of patience.

Any annoyance I may feel at its dishonesty and unjustified attacks on Baby Milk Action is as nothing alongside the injustice Nestlé does to mothers and infants around the world.

I feel I am very fortunate to be able to see Nestlé clearly, to see through its dishonesty, and I feel a responsibility to use the power I have to hold it to account.

I hope you feel the same.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Prosecute the law breakers in the UK

The UK Minister for Public Health was asked a straight question and gave a straight answer: legislation for the marketing of baby foods is to be enforced.

That is hardly a radical position to take, but it needs to be said. The Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations were introduced in 1995. Amongst their provisions are those applying to labelling. Claims can only be made if they are on a permitted list, given in the way specified and conditions justifying them have to be satisfied. There are 6 on the list. Things like 'now even closer to breastmilk', 'LCPs for development', 'protecting natural defences' are not on the list. Companies have been breaking the law for the past 12 years.

Lynne Jones, Member of Parliament for Selly Oak asked the Public Health Minister, Caroline Flint, about this. The question and answer are recorded in Hansard.

---
Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action she is taking to encourage relevant authorities to prosecute companies that continue to make claims on infant formula labels and promotional material for baby milk which are non-compliant with current legislation. [143720]

Caroline Flint: The local authorities coordinators of regulatory services issued updated guidance in late 2006 to clarify the types of claims about infant formula that are prohibited. All local authority enforcement offices have been made aware of the new guidance and encouraged to enforce the United Kingdom legislation to ensure companies comply with the rules on claims.

---

I wrote some time ago about the letters sent to the baby food companies and Trading Standards officers. See:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2007/03/letters-that-took-12-years-to-write.html

We have exposed what is wrong with labels. George Monbiot wrote about the non-compliant claims he found in his local shop earlier this week. See:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2106086,00.html

We have monitored any changes. Some labels are still to change. Some have been changed, but continue to include claims that are not on the permitted list. See:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2007/05/help-strengthen-uk-baby-food-law.html

We could ask why the authorities have not taken the law breakers to court already. But let's look to the future instead.

The Public Health Minister says the authorities are "encouraged to enforce the United Kingdom legislation to ensure companies comply with the rules on claims".

The authorities have already tried writing to companies, but the companies either haven't acted or issued new labels that still do not comply. They have the power to take the companies to court to enforce the legislation. The Food Standards Agency has a fund to underwrite legal action that is in the public interest.

So will they heed the Minister and enforce the legislation?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Is your site a Nestlé-Free Zone?

If you are supporting the Nestlé boycott, why not tell people about it with a banner advertisement on your website or blog?

Simply include the code you will find on our Nestlé-Free Zone page and the image will update to give information about Nestlé-Free Week, days of action or other news. Go to:
http://www.babymilkaction.org/resources/boycott/nestlefree.html

Nestlé Free


If this is too big, you can use this smaller image. Again you will find the necessary code on the Nestlé-Free Zone page.

Nestlé-Free small

Other resources on the Nestlé-Free Zone page include:

* A powerpoint presentation and short talk to download and adapt.

* Information on a role-playing presentation you could use to raise awareness.

* Details of our new "Fight the Nestlé monster" reusable shopping bag, to be formally launched at the start of Nestlé-Free Week. Order now to have one to use during the week.

* Links to monitoring evidence and recent independent investigations.

* Posters for you place of work or study showing it is a Nestlé-Free Zone.

* A draft email you can adapt to send to friends and colleagues.

Plus lots more.

Direct people to the page for background information and to involve them in the campaign.

Here's the link again:
http://www.babymilkaction.org/resources/boycott/nestlefree.html

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Laws, law breaking and the death of an infant

There is always a lot more going on than can be mentioned in these blogs. Today, three issues reached a moment of focus, revealing different aspects of the campaign to protect infant health and mothers' rights.

In the early hours of this morning an article from George Monbiot on baby food marketing in the UK went live on The Guardian website. Some hours later, the comment function went live and I was able to leave the first of them. The article examines the idealizing claims made by baby food companies in the UK, corporate efforts to oppose strong legislation and the failure of the government to act. Though we are looking forward to action in the coming months. You can read the article at:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2106086,00.html

The comments are revealing of the emotions raised by this issue. The focus is on corporate malpractice and the government's failure to act, but the discussion quickly moves to breastfeeding v. formula feeding. I responded to one comment myself as follows:

---
Barryinsweden wrote: "I remember the good old days when us liberals thought a woman had the right to decide what she did with her body without being told what was best for her by interfering men who couldn't possibly understand what they were talking about. Not any more apparently."

I don't understand what you are saying Barry. The article is suggesting that baby food companies should abide by the labelling requirements and stop making idealizing and misleading claims on formula labels. In other words, comply with the law.

That is not an unreasonable request. Nor is it forcing women to do one thing or another.

The article is also calling for the government to meet its obligations and implement the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, which was adopted by the world's health ministries.

Remember the Code is there to protect breastfeeding AND to ensure breastmilk substitutes are used safely if needed. As it says in the preamble: "in view of the vulnerability of infants in the early months of life and the risks involved in inappropriate feeding practices, including the unnecessary and improper use of breastmilk substitutes, the marketing of breastmilk substitutes requires special treatment, which makes usual marketing practices unsuitable for these products."

So it is perfectly reasonable to call the head of Milupa/ Cow&Gate (Mr. Jan Bennick), Heinz (Mr. William Johnson), Hipp (Mr. Klaus Hipp), Wyeth/SMA (Mr. Rober Essner) - all men, incidently - to stop their aggressive marketing practices. The Code calls on governments to implement and monitor it and Non-Governmental Organisations - such as Baby Milk Action - to report violations. Companies are limited to providing health workers with scientific and factual information on their products and it is for health workers to advise mothers.

The claims companies make are at best idealizing, but more often, misleading. A review of the research on LCPs shows the claims about development benefits are not substantiated. Cow & Gate's claims about prebiotics have a ruling against them from the Advertising Standards Authority. See:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2006/10/health-claims-goldmine.html

The Food Standards Agency has written to the companies telling them to abide by the law and change their labels. They continue to use prohibited claims.

If a mother has accurate information and good support then she can make an informed decision about how to feed her infant and no-one can make her feel guilty for evaluating her situation and deciding what is best for her and her child. But if she is misinformed, if she does not have support when she needs, then WE are guilty for failing her.

Corporations like to attack those reminding them of their responsibilities as if they are dictating to women. Let us keep clarity. We are talking holding some of the most powerful corporations in the world to account. We are talking about holding our government to account. And men and woman have the right and responsibility to do so.
---

Over 10,000 km away in the Philippines today, the Supreme Court has been receiving oral testimony from the pharmaceutical industry and health advocates on the marketing regulations introduced by the Ministry of Health last year. Following pressure on the President from the US Chamber of Commerce, the Supreme Court suspended the regulations. It remains to be seen whether the Judges review of the evidence will convince them of the rightness of the case for protecting infant health and implementing the World Health Assembly marketing requirements.

But the fact is that efforts to ensure mothers receive accurate information and support, does not take place in a vacuum. Companies go to the limits of the regulations and beyond to promote their products and use all sorts of tactics to weaken them. Case studies from 7 countries we published in 2004 show how this is true in countries that now have exemplary regulations, such as Brazil and India, just as it is true in those countries where industry pressure for weaker measures has won out, such as Kenya and Bolivia (Bolivia has introduced regulations since the report). See:
http://www.ibfan.org/site2005/Pages/article.php?art_id=124&iui=1

One of the things we work for are improved warnings on formula labels and clearer instructions so carers can reduce the risks of possible intrinsic contamination from pathogens such as Enterobacter Sakazakii. You can read more about that particular problem at:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2007/02/powdered-infant-formula-is-not-sterile.html

The industry is refusing to change labels voluntarily and is lobbying against changes being introduced at the Code Alimentarius Commission. Why? Because it does not want to undermine the impression that formula is the same or almost the same as breastfeeding.

Parents who would have appreciated that information went to court in Belgium today. They are taking legal action against Nestlé and the hospital where their child was born and put onto Beba infant formula. The child developed and died from meningitis at 5 days old in 2002. This was linked to Enterobacter Sakazakii contamination of the formula, which was subsequently recalled from some of the countries where it was on sale. See:
http://www.ibfan.org/site2005/Pages/article.php?art_id=135&iui=1

We talk about laws, but we are really concerned about parents and their children.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Global Strategy on Infant and Young Child Feeding is 5 years old

Hurrah! The Global Strategy on Infant and Young Child Feeding is 5 years old. We were there at the birth at the World Health Assembly in 2002, calling for this to put the interests of mothers and infants before corporate profits. Even though it was adopted by the HEALTH Assembly, industry lobbyists and governments pushing their agenda are there in force, trying to weaken text that could have an impact on sales.

We and our partners in the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) took a strong line. Policy making on health should be in the public interest, not corporate interest. This point was stressed when our colleague Annelies Allain addressed the Assembly shortly after the Global Strategy was adopted. For her intervention see:
http://www.ibfan.org/site2005/Pages/article.php?art_id=397&iui=1

Here is an extract:

---Quote begins
IBFAN is quite prepared to join WHO in this effort, and to throw its weight behind the Global Strategy, but we need to know who else will be involved in the implementation. Involvement by the commercial sector is most likely to create conflicts of interest and may undermine everything the Strategy tries to achieve.

In the current euphoria over partnerships with the private sector, some of you may wonder about IBFAN´s insistence on keeping industry out of breastfeeding, about keeping commercial companies out of all places where infant feeding decisions are made. But we are consistent with WHA Resolution 49.15 of 1996 and we have good reasons to be wary. We have seen too many cases of industry interferenc. We have seen the Nestle letters to the Ministers of Health lobbying to reverse the effect of the Code. We have seen the PR handed out in Latin America, stating the Code is fully complied with. We know that is not true. We have seen the information to mothers with conflicting messages by companies like Nutricia. Partnership in the light of these cases is like inviting the fox to the chicken coop. There can be no partnership in policy making.

We are concerned, that the Strategy could be seriously eroded if its implementation becomes privatized. We are pleased that the Global Strategy highlights (para 44) one simple role for the for-profit sector, and that is that "their conduct at every level conform to the Code, subsequent Health Assembly Resolutions, and national measures that have been adopted to give effect to both". We ask industry to fully respect this in order to avoid conflicts of interest between commercial objectives and the public health agenda.
---quote ends

In a press release issued today, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), of which we are also a member, reminds us of key provisions in the Global Strategy. You can download the press release at:
http://www.waba.org.my/pdf/PR_GSIYCF.pdf

Here is an extract (with my comments on how the UK Government is doing):

---
The Global Strategy identifies nine operational targets with the first four incorporated from the Innocenti Declaration.

The targets are:

(1) The appointment of a national breastfeeding coordinator of appropriate authority, and establishment of a multisectoral national breastfeeding committee;

[In the UK there are infant feeding coordinators or equivalent in every country except England, where the post has been discontinued. A national breastfeeding committee has not been established].

(2) Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding (the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative) practiced in all maternity facilities;

[UNICEF UK is active in promoting the initiative, but far from all maternity facilities have implemented the ten steps. Present figures show that 51 out of 320 maternities are accredited as Baby Friendly].

(3) Global implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes and subsequent relevant World Health Assembly Resolutions in their entirety;

[The UK Government has yet to implement the Code and Resolutions in their entirety. In 2002 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child called on it to do so. We are still waiting - and campaigning].

(4) Enactment of imaginative legislation protecting the breastfeeding rights of working women; and establishment of means for enforcement of maternity protection;

[There has been some progress with maternity leave extended and, as reported here last week, there are moves to strengthen discrimination legislation to protect mothers further].

(5) Implementation of comprehensive government policies on infant and young child feeding;

[The UK Government is currently taking a piece meal approach. Comprehensive action could improve infant health, reduce health inequalities and save the National Health Service a fortune].

(6) Full support from health and other sectors for two years of breastfeeding or more;

[The vast majority of UK mothers who stop breastfeeding in the first few weeks say they did not want to stop. There is a lack of support for mothers. In particular I think the Government should do far more to support the mother-to-mother organisations while stopping baby food companies from targeting mothers].

(7) Promotion of timely, adequate, safe and appropriate complementary feeding (addition of other foods while breastfeeding continues);

[While the UK Government has changed its advice to give 6 months as the recommended age for introduction of complementary foods, it has done nothing to stop baby food companies promoting complementary foods for infants younger than this. Promotion of foods for use from 4 months of age is widespread].

(8) Guidance on infant and young child feeding in especially difficult circumstances, and related support for families and caregivers; and

[One thing I would like to see the government do in this area, is support the UK milk bank network. A postcode lottery is in operation at present, with just 17 milk banks. These are under-resourced. Milk banks not only improve the survival chances and health of premature infants, they save money on longer-term treatment. In Brazil milk banks are centres of excellence for breastfeeding support. Why don't they have the same support here? ]

(9) Imaginative legislation or suitable measures giving effect to the International Code as part of the national comprehensive policy on infant and young child feeding.

[UK legislation in this area is poor. It is narrow and poorly enforced. We are calling for the Code and Resolutions to be implemented in the UK. You can send a message of support by clicking here].
---ends

To encourage comprehensive action and implementation of the Global Strategy in the UK, we are backing the Breastfeeding Manifesto campaign. You can do the same. Find out more at:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2007/05/launch-of-breastfeeding-manifesto.html

Friday, June 15, 2007

UNICEF Philippines film now available

You can now order copies of the UNICEF Philippines film from our on-line Virtual Shop.



Click here.

Why not arrange a gathering at your house, workplace, school or college to show the film?

You could ask people to sign the petition of solidarity with the Philippines which you can download, or people can sign up on line. See:
http://www.babymilkaction.org/CEM/cemnov06.html

You can send letters to the companies responsible. Details are on the same page.

Nestlé features prominently in the film. You could hold your event during International Nestlé-Free Week (2-8 July). Find out more about that and download materials at:
http://www.babymilkaction.org/resources/boycott/nestlefree.html

Thursday, June 14, 2007

World breastfeeding record - participate!

Earlier this week I wrote about moves in the UK to protect a mothers right to breastfeed in public places and yesterday cited a study from the US about the impact of a social advertising campaign in changing attitudes. Now some news on an approach that has been followed in the Philippines: mass breastfeeding events.

The history is explained by campaigners there as follows: "Simultaneous breastfeeding started out as a protest that mothers resort to when they are admonished not to breastfeed in public. The act’s popularity rose to become a form of celebration during occasions like the World Breastfeeding Week."

Today, I am giving my blog over to this message from campaigners in the Philippines.

---
Children for Breastfeeding, Inc., a Philippine-based advocacy group invites you to join us to establish a new record for “The most women in synchronized breastfeeding around the world.”

Children for Breastfeeding, Inc. proposed and was authorized by the Guinness World Records Ltd. to initiate the event. Previously, our organization broke the world record for the most women simultaneously breastfeeding in a single site (3,541 with the City of Manila and Nurturers of the Earth in 2006), and in multiple sites (about 14,000 as of the last count in more than 400 sites throughout the Philippines this year). The first attempt of synchronized breastfeeding is tentatively scheduled on August 7, 2007 during the World Breastfeeding Week.

[See my earlier blog about these records:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2007/05/philippines-mothers-go-for-mass.html]

We are calling for volunteers to be national coordinators to submit to us their national tally and the necessary documents. Thus far, New Zealand, Greece and India have committed to join the attempt. You can create your own web section for this event like New Zealand. Please visit their site:
http://www.womens-health.org.nz/breastfeed/bfweek2007.htm

Nurturers of the Earth, our event coordinator will put up a website for this event. We will announce when the website is online. Meanwhile, please visit the website they put up for Guinness World Record on Simultaneous Breastfeeding in Multiple Sites at http://www.breastfeedingphilippines.com/ to know more about our organizations. Click Sabay-sabay, Sumuso sa Nanay web banner to know more about our simultaneous breastfeeding in multiple sites.

The purpose of this activity is to encourage breastfeeding EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD as a world prayer of thanksgiving for the gift of motherhood and breastfeeding. We also aim to promote it as the only perfect means to nurture our children to better health, and as the most far-reaching and cheapest strategy for the alleviation of poverty. This is especially urgent in an impoverished Third World country inveigled by propaganda to use its meager resources to import formula milk from cows at the cost of its health, and abandoning breastfeeding which is free and nutritious unlike formula milk.

This attempt will be done with the spirit of cooperation rather than competition, to advance the breastfeeding movement. Because of the different time zones in the world, it is necessary to stagger the times of participation, like the celebration of New Year, to the same designated time in every time zone, over a period of 24 hours, starting from the country initiating the attempt. For example, the attempt is first initiated in Manila, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Beijing and Hong Kong at 10 am local time; an hour later in the next time zone, 10 am local time in Tokyo and Seoul; the next hour at 10 am local time in Melbourne, Guam and Vladivostok; etcetera, etcetera, for 24 hours till the attempt is made at 10 am local time the next day in New Zealand, Bangkok, Hanoi and Jakarta.

According to the Philippine proposal, there will be no minimum in the number of sites required and no minimum in number of nursing women required in each site. Since the advent of the Internet and the computer, it is now possible to document any event simultaneously in the entire world accurately, expeditiously, and in real time. Participation forms may be downloaded anywhere through the Internet, the attempts documented with two independent witnesses at each site, and the results sent back to the initiator through e-mail. Even the attempt of one lone nursing mother in her own house with the required witnesses, may thus be documented. To avoid confusion and cross-purposes, there will be only one attempt authorized by Guinness to proceed at any designated time and date.

We hope you can experience people and faith power in this unique Filipino way!

Yours truly,

Elvira L. Henares-Esguerra, MD, FPDS, RPh, IBCLC

Director
Children for Breastfeeding:
Mobilizing children to support pregnant and breastfeeding mothers
Nurture our Children!
Nurture the Earth!
---

So once a national coordinator is found, there will be potential to become involved as a mother, organiser or witness.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Breastfeeding in public - changing cultures

Yesterday I wrote about a UK government consultation on equality legislation which may protect a mother's right to breastfeed in public. See:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2007/06/right-to-feed-infant-in-public-in-uk.html

Legislation sends an important message, but there is more to changing cultures. Consider the situation in Herkimer County in New York State. Figures in a survey found that 54% of men and 35% of women were comfortable with having their child breastfed in public. The Healthy Start partnership for the Country launched an advertising campaign with billboards and films. The campaign worked. Three months later the numbers were up to almost 69% of men and 46% of women saying they would be comfortable with having their child breastfed in public after the campaign.

You can find out more Cornell University Chronicle Online website at:
http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/June07/breastfeeding.sl.html

This includes the posters and television and radio advertisements.

The Chronicle reports Christine Olson, Cornell professor of nutritional sciences, saying: "I was amazed by the findings. The evaluation shows that this kind of community intervention can create a social environment that is more supportive for breastfeeding."

Imagine that. Advertising influences people.

With that in mind we have posted some Nestlé boycott images on our website for people to use to promote the campaign. We can describe these as retro as they were donated to the campaign many years ago. It seems appropriate to bring them out again as we approach the 30th anniversary of the first Nestlé boycott. That led to the marketing code for baby foods and a promise by Nestlé to abide by it. Nestlé broke its promises so the boycott was re-launched. Nestlé is the target of the boycott because monitoring around the world shows it to be responsible for more violations of the World Health Assembly marketing requirements than any other company. For my past blog on the 30th anniversary see:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2007/01/30th-anniversary-year.html

Here are some of the images:


You can access these through our on-line Virtual Shop in the Do-it-Yourself section.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The right to feed an infant in public in the UK

Today the UK Government launched a consultation on a Single Equality Bill, incorporation a review of existing discrimination legislation. Partly this is to simplify existing legislation on discrimination and partly to see if there are any gaps where there needs to be protection.

You can read the Government's press release here:
http://www.gnn.gov.uk/Content/Detail.asp?ReleaseID=290924&NewsAreaID=2

It covers many issues. One highlighted in the press release I quote here:

---
New protections for new mothers. The law would make clear that expectant and new mothers are protected from discrimination in relation to goods, facilities and services generally. For example, a mother with a baby under one-year-old could no longer be made to leave a cafe when they are discreetly breast feeding their baby.
---

This is potentially progress on one of the points in the Breastfeeding Manifesto, a campaign that Baby Milk Action is supporting. Point 5 is on the right to feed an infant in public. See:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2007/05/launch-of-breastfeeding-manifesto.html

While the presentation in the government press release suggests a limited provision, specifying the age of child, a business premises and using the value-judgement word 'discreetly', a law introduced in Scotland is much clearer.

The Breastfeeding etc. (Scotland) Act 2005 is: "An Act of the Scottish Parliament to make it an offence to prevent or stop a person in charge of a child who is otherwise permitted to be in a public place or licensed premises from feeding milk to that child in that place or on those premises."

The Scottish Act does not differentiate between breastfeeding mothers or mothers using formula, which seems sensible to me, though I have only heard of breastfeeding mothers being asked to stop feeding.

A child in the Scottish Act is defined as up to two years. Why someone should be free to stop a mother feeding a child who is 2 years and a day is unclear. Particularly when the World Health Organisation recommnedation is for exclusive continued breastfeeding into the second year of life and beyond.

The Government's consultation is for Great Britain as a whole. There is the opportunity for calling for necessary protection in the consultation. It appears to me on first reading that the current proposals do not specifically refer to infant feeding at all, despite this being highlighted in the press release.

Rather, proposed amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 would make it an offence to discriminate against anyone seeking or being provided with a service.

We all have the opportunity to submit comments to the consultation calling for a specific reference to a mother's right to feed her child in a public place.

You can find the relevant papers and contact email at:
http://www.communities.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1511211

You can also sign up to the Breastfeeding Manifesto campaign and call on your Member of Parliament to do the same. See:
http://www.breastfeedingmanifesto.org.uk/

And we can work to gain publicity for this issue and the role that breastfeeding plays in reducing health inequalities, as recently published research has again demonstrated.

Here is a short piece on a news website arising from a journalist contacting me about the story this morning. See: Baby Milk Action: Breast feeding in public is 'a right'.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Stop the Nestlé monster shopping bag

Wow! You need one of these!

A re-usable cotton shopping bag with the 'Fight the Nestlé monster' logo donated to us by Rebecca Clark on both sides, with our website address.

Great for your shopping. Great for the environment. Great for promoting the boycott.

Order from our on-line Virtual Shop now and feel free to copy the above image and send to your friends and post around the net, with a link to:
http://www.babymilkaction.org/shop/boycott.html#reusablebag

Check the Virtual Shop for the price. All profits go to fund the campaign, but we don't want to be greedy! Is it too cheap? Too expensive? Let us know how much you would be prepared to pay.

If you would like a hi-res image for printing promoting the bag in a newsletter, then click here.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Bob Geldof on HIV at the G8

The G8 meeting of the world's richest Western nations, plus Russia, broke up today. After the promises of action on climate change and in support of Africa made at the previous G8 meeting two years ago, to applause from veteran campaigner Bob Geldof, we have been brought down to earth with a bump. There has been much back-tracking and weasel words from the G8 to try to cover the fact that action and aid promised will be much less than first suggested.

This time Bob has not been taken in and called the communique issued at the end of the meeting a rude word, which probably was bleeped out by much of the world's media. Thoroughly deserved it was too.

As George Monbiot wrote earlier this week, while the rich-country governments profess to care, they will not take action if it conflicts with their own financial interests. And will take action to promote their financial interests, the example of US pressure on the Philippines government to scrap its new baby food marketing regulations being used to illustrate the point. See:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2007/06/wyeths-assault-on-law-and-logic-in.html

Bob was asked on BBC television's 'Newsnight' programme what the scaling back in promised aid would mean to Africa in practical terms. He cited children who had been going to school, who would no longer be able to do so.

And then he said this: "A child who picked up aids from its mothers breast. Chances of life, minimal..... No more medicines so you die."

It is a valid point that if the Global Fund for Aids does not receive its promised funding, people who need drugs will suffer. But invoking breastfeeding as the cause of a child picking up Aids is ill informed and ultimately a dangerous message to send.

Yes, there is a risk of transmission through breastfeeding. However, if current UN health guidance is followed by a mother in conditions of poverty the risk of transmission is not only relatively small (at 4% in a new study), her child will be more likely to survive other illnesses than a child given formula, even free formula.

The best people to listen to on this issue are people on the ground in Africa. The International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) has had African partners for 25 years and recently the coordinating office has posted an overview of HIV and infant feeding to the IBFAN website:
www.ibfan.org

You will find lots of other valuable information from people who are experts in their fields and at the sharp end of infant feeding issues in their countries.

You can find the specific document from IBFAN Africa on HIV and infant feeding at:
http://www.ibfan.org/site2005/Pages/article.php?iui=1&art_id=485&articulo_id=895

As with everything IBFAN does it is evidence and science based. Here is an extract:

---Quote begins
Recent research by Coovardia H.M[4] (Lancet Vol. 369 March 2007) has made very valuable findings for Africa and the developing world. The researchers from the Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies have found out that there is only a 4% risk of postnatal transmission of HIV to infants who are exclusively breastfed from 6 weeks to 6 months of age. The researchers are now calling for the United Nations Guidelines to be changed to promote exclusive breastfeeding for mothers in developing countries. This study has serious implications for resource poor countries where over 60% of populations live below the poverty line. According to the study, infants who receive supplements such as commercial formula or cow’s milk were two times as likely to be infected as infants who were solely breastfed, while those given solids in addition to breastmilk were 11 times more likely to be infected than those who exclusively breastfed.

The study that involved around 2700 babies born between 2001 and 2005 further found that the death rate by 3 months of age for babies who were exclusively breastfed was less than half that of infants who received formula milk alone. Over 15% of babies whose HIV positive mothers did not breastfeed them died by 3 months compared to only 6% of the babies whose mothers breastfed them exclusively.
---quote ends

So it is critically important that the message of the importance of exclusive breastfeeding is not lost or distorted in sound bites about children becoming infected at their mother's breast. The UN has indeed strengthened its language in a new consensus statement, as we reported in Update 39:

---From UN Consensus Statement
“Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for HIV-infected women for the first 6 months of life unless replacement feeding is acceptable, feasible, affordable, sustainable and safe for them and their infants before that time.... Breastfeeding mothers of infants and young children who are known to be HIV-infected should be strongly encouraged to continue breastfeeding.... Governments should ensure that the package of interventions referenced above, as well as the conditions described in current guidance, are available before any distribution of free commercial infant formula is considered.”
---Quote ends

Breastfeeding saves lives in poor conditions, even for those infants whose mothers are infected with HIV.

Even before the reduced risks of exclusive breastfeeding were properly researched and the practice recommended, it was true that more infants were infected with HIV in utero than through breastfeeding (a risk that anti retro viral drugs can reduce).

But lets not let these facts distract from the starkness of the absolute figures cited above.

6% of the babies who were exclusively breastfed in the Coovardia study died by 3 months. 15% of those who were formula-fed had died by 3 months. Every death is a tragedy.

For comparison, in the UK the infant mortality rate is about 5 per 1,000 live births. Or, to put it another way, 0.5% have died by one year of age.

Considering the population as a whole, infant mortality rates in Africa are far higher than in the rich world. I've just turned up a figure of 92 infant deaths per 1,000 live births for Malawi where I used to work, nearly 20 times the UK rate.

The bigger killer is poverty and I believe Bob Geldof is right to blast rich-country leaders for their lack of action, particularly when so many of their citizens and tax payers have called for action. Particularly when so much of the wealth of rich countries comes through abuse of power over poorer countries.

It is great that he is heard by the world's media (beeps aside), but I hope for greater clarity in future when touching on mother-to-child transmission of HIV, please Bob.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Nestlé's action and inaction

Nestlé has a new marketing strategy in the United States. It is to get formula to mothers via fathers. This is from advice Nestlé will be promoting to fathers via a new initiative on its Very Best Baby website with "Daddy-Guru Armin Brott":

---Quote begins
Since your wife will have so much on her mind, Brott highlights that one easy way for dad to help when getting ready to leave the hospital is to be the one to remember to ask hospital staff for a complimentary baby gift bag such as the new 2007 NESTLE GOOD START Limited Edition Backpack. It is filled with valuable information about infant care and nutrition, special gifts including a changing pad, plush baby blanket, instructional DVD to help parents through baby's first days, and is handy for organizing and safekeeping everyday baby essentials. In addition, the GOOD START Backpack contains a 12 oz sample of Nestle's newest infant formula, GOOD START NATURAL CULTURES(TM) which has beneficial cultures to support a healthy immune system. Parents will appreciate that the high quality black canvas backpack can be worn by mom or dad without embarrassment.
---Quote ends

This is a very clear violation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, which Nestlé is expected to abide by independently of government measures under Article 11.3.

Specifically there should be no free samples or gifts to parents and no direct or indirect contact. A few token words from Nestlé on its website about supporting breastfeeding, does not excuse such aggressive marketing practices.

Remember in the United States there used to be a voluntary advertising ban for formula, but that collapsed when Nestlé entered the market. See:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2006/11/waiting-to-applaud.html

Nestlé has launched a media campaign around its targeting of fathers. See:
New Checklist of 'Daddy Duties' Supports Dads-to-Be and Delights Moms

Nestlé is committed to acheiving significant year-on-year growth for its infant nutrition business, leading to wholesale systematic breaches of the marketing requirements in the US and in other countries. See my report from this year's shareholder meeting at:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2007/04/glimpse-of-nestls-soul.html

It is not just in the US where Nestlé targets parents with infant formula promotion - and tries to justify it. We have recently see Nestlé's Head of Corporate Social Responsibility in the UK, Hilary Parsons, defend distributing fliers for mothers for Lactogen infant formula in Bangladesh. See:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2007/05/nestl-responds-to-investigation-in.html

We are asking people to write to Nestlé's Chief Executive Officer, Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, about this flagrant violation in Bangladesh. See:
http://www.babymilkaction.org/CEM/cemjune07.html#2

While putting time and resources into new promotions in every country where it markets formula, Nestlé's action on the marketing requirements is sadly lacking, despite Mr. Brabeck claim that he personally investigates any hint of a violation.

This is perhaps best summed up by the 'Code Action Reports' on the website Nestlé promotes to divert criticism of its baby food marketing. The most recent report is from June 2003 (click here). These were launched in 1999 as a monthly update on Nestlé's 'Code Action' but very soon became an embarassment for Nestlé and faltered and have now, apparently, stopped after 7 irregular editions. See:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2006/10/searching-for-action.html

It is clear where Nestlé's priorities lie.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

It is illegal to promote formula in UK clinics

We have been contacted repeatedly in recent months about clinics in the UK promoting infant formula with special displays and discounts. These practices violate the World Health Assembly marketing requirements, are illegal under UK law and are against Department of Health policy. If you see such practices then please bring the following information to the attention of those responsible.

It seems the promotions have arisen as the UK introduces the Healthy Start scheme. This provides vouchers to low-income mothers for purchasing fruit, vegetables, milk or infant formula. The scheme has already been exploited by formula companies, such as Heinz Farley’s, encouraging health workers to promote its formula to mothers receiving the vouchers. See our Hard Sell Formula pamphlet.

It appears that some clinics are trying to clear stocks of formula by special displays and price cuts. Think about it. They are trying to increase the turnover of the formula they sell by encouraging people to buy formula from them they would not otherwise have bought.

The intention may be to help mothers who would have bought formula anyway to save some money by buying it at the clinic rather than the supermarket or pharmacy. But as mothers on low income who use formula can use the Healthy Start vouchers in any case, it is not really a valid argument.

A negative impact is that people may buy the discounted formula to pass on to those they think may benefit. Mothers or mother-in-laws for daughters who continue to breastfeed, perhaps. Studies have shown that such family pressure is a major obstacle to breastfeeding, particularly in disadvantaged communities. See:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2007/05/uk-breastfeeding-awareness-week-begins.html

As the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, adopted by the World Health Assembly, states: “in view of the vulnerability of infants in the early months of life and the risks involved in inappropriate feeding practices, including the unnecessary and improper use of breastmilk substitutes, the marketing of breastmilk substitutes requires special treatment, which makes usual marketing practices unsuitable for these products.”

So that is the logic for why retailers - whether they are shops or clinics - should not try to clear formula out the store cupboard in the same way a shop would clear stocks of last year’s hot toy.

There are several articles of the International Code that apply specifically to clinics selling formula.

Article 6.2: “No facility of a health care system should be used for the purpose of promoting infant formula or other products within the scope of this Code.”

Article 6.3: “Facilities of health care systems should not be used for the display of products within the scope of this Code, for placards or posters concerning such products…”

Article 5.3: “…there should be no point-of-sale advertising, giving of samples, or any other promotion device to induce sales directly to the consumer at the retail level, such as special displays, discount coupons, premiums, special sales, loss leaders and tie-in sales, for products within the scope of this Code….”

Article 5.3 continues: “This provision should not restrict the establishment of pricing policies and practices intended to provide products at lower prices on a long-term basis.”

On this basis, we campaign for companies to stop profiteering from formula – a product with one of the highest mark-ups. It also means the government Healthy Start vouchers are permitted.

We campaigned successfully for the previous voucher scheme to be changed, because that provided equal volumes of milk to mothers whether they were breastfeeding or formula-feeding. As the doorstep milk that breastfeeding mothers were entitled too had a lower cost than the equivalent amount of formula, this effectively devalued breastfeeding.

The new vouchers are of equal monetary value and a breastfeeding mother can use them to purchase fruit, vegetables and milk. This can help her own diet or make savings on the family budget, perhaps freeing up money for nursing bras or other items the mother may wish to purchase. For information on our past campaign see Update 35:
http://www.babymilkaction.org/update/update35.html#6

What does the UK law have to say about clinics doing special displays of formula and discount prices? In this instance as far as inant formula is concerned, it is in line with the International Code. See:
http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si1995/Uksi_19950077_en_1.htm

---Quote begins
Restrictions on promotion of infant formulae

19. No person shall at any place where any infant formula is sold by retail—

(a) advertise any infant formula;
(b) make any special display of an infant formula designed to promote sales;
(c) give away—
(i) any infant formula as a free sample; or
(ii) any coupon which may be used to purchase an infant formula at a discount;
(d) promote the sale of an infant formula by means of premiums, special sales, loss- leaders or tie-in sales; or
(e) undertake any other promotional activity to induce the sale of an infant formula.
----quote ends

So clinics with special displays and discounts could be prosecuted by Trading Standards for illegal promotion.

We have discussed this issue with the umbrella body for Trading Standards and with the Department of Health.

The Department of Health has informed us that the price at which strategic health authorities (SHAs) can sell formula is strictly regulated under the 1976 Sale of Goods to Mothers and Children (Designation and Charging) Regulations. The regulations allow SHAs to sell goods they consider appropriate for use by mothers and babies - which includes infant formula - at a price that is precisely the cost price to them plus a margin of 10%.

The Department's regular updates to NHS contacts about Healthy Start make clear that
it does not encourage Trusts to sell formula to the public at all and many have acted on this by stopping completely. But if they consider they must do so in order not to make a loss on any remaining formula they have over from the old Welfare Food Scheme then they must do so fully in accordance with these regulations, with the knowledge/consent of their SHA.

Trusts that do sell formula under the regulations, have been encouraged to do so for the shortest period of time possible and to make very clear that this does not signal that the NHS endorses formula use or that formula sales are in any way linked to the Healthy Start scheme.

So Baby Milk Action asks that if you find a clinic selling formula at discount then please do report this to us via our monitoring project with the Baby Feeding Law Group and inform the clinic of the above facts.

You could also suggest they contact they contact the Department of Health if they require further clarification. The best person to ask for is probably the Maternal & Infant Nutrition Policy Manager.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Wyeth’s assault on law and logic in the Philippines

Today we launch a new campaign to target Wyeth malpractice in the Philippines.

And today the campaign to defend the baby food marketing requirements introduced by the Ministry of Health in the Philippines receives major coverage with an article by George Monbiot. See:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,,2095675,00.html


While we are probably best known for promoting the boycott of Nestlé, the worst of the baby food companies, the main focus of our work is monitoring the industry as a whole and working for implementation of international standards in independently monitored and enforced legislation. The minutes and days are ticking away until the Supreme Court in the Philippines rules on whether to heed the industry’s challenge and strike down the governments Implementing Rules and Regulations. As you know if you have been following this blog, the court rejected the industry’s initial attempt, only reversing that decision after the US Chamber of Commerce threatened the President of the Philippines with a loss of investment in the country if she did not interfere in the court case. Four days after the letter from Mr Thomas Donohue the Supreme Court imposed a temporary restraining order on the regulations.

Many of you will have signed our petition of solidarity with the Philippines, which has generated front-page stories there, breaking through the medias reluctance to report on stories critical of big advertisers. See:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2006/11/your-messages-of-support-are-front.html

We have also asked you to send letters to the companies responsible for aggressive marketing. This was exposed graphically in a film from UNICEF Philippines released in May, which you can view on line here:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2007/05/watch-film-from-philippines-here.html

Company responses have either ignored the issue or, in the case of Wyeth, defended the attack on the Regulations. Nestlé, which is not part of the legal action against the regulations but is guilty of aggressive marketing in the Philippines, is trying to undermine our campaign by sending secret letters to key policy makers attacking Baby Milk Action. It has refused to give us a copy.

You can read company responses to our Campaign for Ethical Marketing at:
http://www.babymilkaction.org/CEMresponses/CEMRnov06.html

Wyeth said, in part: “The IRR will remove information that mothers need in order to make good food choices, and would apply at a time when her baby is most vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies, namely 6 to 24 months of age or beyond.”

Well, what does Wyeth mean by the information? This on its Bonna infant formula labels perhaps?


"Helps promote physical growth, increase resistance to infection, and enhance brain development."

This undermines the required ‘breast is best’ message and is more than a little misleading in a country where 16,000 infants die as a result of inappropriate feeding. Where in the capital, Manila, only 4% are connected to a sewer network. See:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2006/11/message-from-philippines.html

Or does Wyeth mean the series of events it has been holding, where mothers of infants from 6 to 15 months are invited to try its Bonna milk? Here is an example from 28 May 2007:


Mothers were told the company reps. would be back in 7 days and they could win a prize by presenting a pack of Bonna milk.

Here’s the van and a bill board showing how Wyeth presents its formula as making kids grow to be big and strong.

As well as intelligent and protected against infections.

As UNICEF has tried to alert mothers in the Philippines, these idealizing claims hide the risks of formula feeding and the benefits of breastfeeding. See:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2007/03/infant-feeding-information-in.html

But the best way to protect mothers is for the regulations to go ahead to stop the idealizing promotion.

At the same time we need to remind companies that they are required to abide by the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly independently of government measures. The Code and Resolutions prohibit idealizing claims on labels and direct or indirect contact between company representatives and mothers.

So please do send a message to the Chief Executive of Wyeth letting him know you are watching what his company is doing and the Philippines and demanding that it is stopped immediately.

See our Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheer for June 2007 at:
http://www.babymilkaction.org/CEM/cemjune07.html

While you are there, you can also send a message to Nestlé’s Chief Executive over his company’s defence of targeting mothers in Bangladesh with fliers for Lactogen infant formula, as discussed on this blog recently.
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2007/05/nestl-responds-to-investigation-in.html

Don't let them get away with assaulting laws and logic.

Don’t let them get away with putting profits before infant health.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Misleading claims in Bournemouth

This is how it works. Nestlé puts out misinformation. Other people relay it. Those hearing it from the second source may give it credance as being independent and objective. Even if it is untrue.

In the Public Relations industry this relaying of misinformation - wittingly or not - is known as two-step communication. A pioneer was a guy called Raphael Pagan who developed the strategy for Nestlé in the 1970s. See the Cornerhouse briefing paper, Engineering of Consent, available at:
http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/item.shtml?x=51961

This is currently playing out in Bournemouth, where an exclusive contract has been awarded for the supply of Nestlé-branded ice cream at sea-front outlets. It has been challenged as Bournemouth Council has given its support for the boycott in the past. Nestlé profits from the ice cream, which also promotes the Nestlé name, though it is now manufactured by another company (it is on our list). Fortunately one of our directors is in Bournemouth - and now a Councillor - and so better informed than most.

In defending the deal, another Councillor has cited that the Church of England dropped its boycott. Yet, as I related last week, the inference that Nestlé was cleared of malpractice by the Church is false. Demonstrably untrue. The documentary record shows it. Research organised by the Church of England found 'systematic' violations of the baby milk marketing requirements. The 1997 Synod adopted a motion calling for companies to change their practices. UNICEF stated the monitoring we conduct with our partners was 'vindicated'.

UNICEF met with Nestlé to address the concerns and concluded: "Our meeting thus regrettably reconfirmed the historic and on-going divergence between the best interests of children as represented by UNICEF and those of the infant feeding industry."

You can download the documents to see for yourself. See:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2007/05/we-have-duty-to-remember.html

But damage has already been done. This is what the Bournemouth Echo reported last Friday:

'Cllr Michael Filer, cabinet member for economy and tourism, said: "By 1997 both the General Synod of the Church of England and the Royal College of Midwives Council had lifted their boycott of Nestle. It could be unreasonable of Bournemouth to continue the boycott some 10 years later."'

Why would it be unreasonable? Ten years ago both the Church of England and RCM acknowledged on-going systematic violations by Nestlé and other companies. Our monitoring - 'vindicated' according to UNICEF - finds Nestlé to be the source of more violations than any other company.

Nestlé has rejected the four-point-plan put to it for ending the boycott. Though it told the Bournemouth Echo it "adopts the World Health Organisation code on the marketing of breastmilk substitutes as a minimum standard in developing countries" this means nothing in reality. Its policies are not in line with the Code and the subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly and, as has been repeatedly documented, it violates the provisions.

Last month independent reports by The Guardian and UNICEF Philippines showed on-going malpractice and its impact. Look for yourself at:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2007/05/watch-film-from-philippines-here.html

Nestlé attempted to justify the distribution of promotional fliers to mothers by misrepresenting the Code and ignoring the relevant provisions. See my analysis at:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2007/05/nestl-responds-to-investigation-in.html

Nestlé is the most boycotted company in the UK and one of the four most boycotted on the planet. Nestlé-branded ice cream is not really going to be the most welcomed by visitors to Bournemouth. The proposed deal is exclusive, so there will not even be alternatives available for those who support the boycott.

Damage has already been done by the misleading statement published in the Bournemouth Echo. Now the facts have been made known, I hope an informed debate will take place.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Photo archive and RSS feed

Here are a couple of innovations. We have a photo archive site now on Flickr and you can set up to have an RSS reader tell you when new information is posted to this blog.

For a long time we have been posting photos on our press releases - see the 'Lates News' section of:
http://www.babymilkaction.org/

These include high resolution versions suitable for printing. This has led to articles on the news stories with quotes and pictures without the journalist even having to contact Baby Milk Action! If you see any such reports, do let us know as we no longer have a cuttings service as part of our cost-cutting strategy.

To make it easier to find photos, we have uploaded them to a Flickr account at:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/babymilkaction/

Some of these still need additional information added and putting into directories for easier browsing, but you will see it is a very rich collection.

In particular, we encourage journalists and picture editors to contact us if they need a picture to illustrate a story about the Nestlé boycott or other aspect of the issue. We have had the experience a few times where picture libraries have supplied pictures for a boycott story that either do not show Nestlé products or do not show violations of the baby food marketing requirements. This has opened the door for Nestlé to have a response published saying it is 'typical' of the campaign to use the activities of other companies to accuse it. We do no such things, being extremely careful in researching the cases we highlight. Even if using an image from a picture library, feel free to contact us to check out it is really appropriate for the article.

The Flickr site has an RSS feed, which means you can tag our page using an RSS reader on your computer and this will alert you when anything new is posted.

You can do the same with this blog on the blogger version. Then whenever I post here, your RSS reader will tell you and you can read a summary and come to the blog for the full article if it is of interest. The blog is updated every week day, though not at the same time (and sometimes in the early hours of the next day).

I found an RSS reader by searching the internet. You can also add RSS links to certain portal home pages. For example, if you are registered with Google.

Alternatively, you can set up a bookmark to this page and come back from time to time.