Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Mass protest over Facebook policy on breastfeeding photos gains media attention

There has been a petition on the Facebook social networking site for over a year protesting about the removal of breastfeeding photos. I posted some of the images from our breastfeeding calendar in solidarity.

The argument continues and a virtual protest was held on the site this week and outside the company's headquarters. See:

This has been picked up by The Guardian today. See:

Also see Morgan Gallagher's blog and campaign collecting photos at:

The Guardian reports that Facebook has a clear policy on when a breastfeeding photo becomes obscene, quoting Facebook's Barry Schnitt as follows: "Photos containing a fully exposed breast, as defined by showing the nipple or areola, do violate those terms (on obscene, pornographic or sexually explicit material) and may be removed."

However, from Morgan's blog you can see that even 'nipple-free' photos have been deleted.

I've done a nipple hunt on our calendar and it passes the Barry test. You can order it here:

Our popular poster is borderline on the Barry test, however. You can order that one here:

This one from an earlier calendar would be hit by the ban as Barry would no doubt shout "nipple!"


You can sign the Facebook petition calling for it to revise its policy at:

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Two awards and an authority rating

News of two awards and something similar.

Firstly, Nestlé has won yet another shaming award. This time it is from a consumer group in Taiwan. The Taipei Times reports:

In the private sector, RT Mart, Fonterra and Nestle Taiwan all received the “Very Black Award” — “black” standing for black-hearted products — by the foundation for poor business practices during the melamine scandal.

Nestlé had criticised a delisting order from the food safety authorities, claiming the level of melamine in its products was within safe limits. Nestlé did say it would comply with the order, however. For more on the melamine scandal, analysis of the levels found in different products and Nestlé's response see the Nestlé Critics website at:

Meanwhile in Argentina, our partners in the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) are in the news for a breastfeeding photo compeitition. They received a silver medal from the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action in a 'marathon' during World Breastfeeding Week for staging the long-running event. See the report at:

Finally, not an award as such, but a reader of this blog has alerted me to a report by someone tracking the reputation of companies at:

This includes the following comments on the authority of blogs that are critical of the aggressive marketing strategies used for Cow & Gate (a brand owned by Danone):

Both websites have a greater authority than cowandgate.co.uk measured by how many sites are linking to them and how authoritative those sites are, on average.
  • Half Pint Pixie has 233 sites linking to it which are (on average) 240 times more authoritative than that site
  • Boycott Nestle has 167 / 114
  • Cow and Gate has just 71 / 60

So hurrah for us and raspberries for the misbehaving baby food companies.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Three awards

News of three awards.

Firstly, Nestlé has won yet another shaming award. This time it is from a consumer group in Taiwan. The Taipei Times reports:

In the private sector, RT Mart, Fonterra and Nestle Taiwan all received the “Very Black Award” — “black” standing for black-hearted products — by the foundation for poor business practices during the melamine scandal.

Nestlé had criticised a delisting order from the food safety authorities, claiming the level of melamine in its products was within safe limits. Nestlé did say it would comply with the order, however. For more on the melamine scandal, analysis of the levels found in different products and Nestlé's response see the Nestlé Critics website at:

Meanwhile in Argentina, our partners in the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) are in the news for a breastfeeding photo compeitition. They received a silver medal from the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action in a 'marathon' during World Breastfeeding Week for staging the long-running event. See the report at:

Finally, a reader of this blog has alerted me to a report by someone tracking the reputation of companies at:

This includes the following comments on the authority of blogs that are critical of the aggressive marketing strategies used for Cow & Gate (a brand owned by Danone):

Both websites have a greater authority than cowandgate.co.uk measured by how many sites are linking to them and how authoritative those sites are, on average.
  • Half Pint Pixie has 233 sites linking to it which are (on average) 240 times more authoritative than that site
  • Boycott Nestle has 167 / 114
  • Cow and Gate has just 71 / 60

So hurrah for us and raspberries for the misbehaving baby food companies.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Improving the search experience

A couple of search engine issues have been on the work plan for today.

Firstly we have a new search engine feature on the Baby Milk Action website. This not only searches that site, but the IBFAN website and the Nestlé Critics website. See:

I did try including this blog in the searches, but it pulled up irrelevant pages in my tests, due to the archive links that appear on the right. Until I find a solution (suggestions welcome), the blog will have to be searched separately.

Also on search engines, we had an issue with pages from the old IBFAN site appearing in search engine listings. People visiting that site might think corporate malpractice and the campaign to protect infant health stopped in 2005. So I've added re-directions to the new site. Personally I hate it when I follow an old link and it just takes me to the home page or a 'page not found' message. So I've tried to be a bit more user friendly and the re-directions take you to the actual page on the new site, or at least the relevant index.

Let me know what you think of these two developments.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Who is setting the global health agenda?

We have a new addition to our on-line Virtual Shop.

It is called Global Health Watch 2 and is an alternative world health report. Our Policy Director, Patti Rundall, contributed to the section on infant feeding.

If you are concerned about the corporate takeover of the health agenda it is a particularly relevant read. Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, is pumping large sums of money into initiatives such as GAIN, which is operating in the field of infant nutrition. GAIN has companies such as Danone on the board. Danone is a major violator of the World Health Assembly marketing requirements, more so since its takeover of the Nutricia, Milupa and Cow & Gate brands. We have asked Danone's Chief Executive to indicate the company will bring policies and practices into line with the WHA marketing requirements and he refuses to give this undertaking.

GAIN is pursuing the promotion of processed foods for addressing micronutrient malnutrition in developing countries. Critics suggest it is more beneficial, cost effective and respectful of indigenous cultures to promote more balanced use of local foods. But with the sums being pumped into GAIN and the involvement of transnational corporations there is a danger that the public health debate is being distorted.

You can find the book and lots more information about it (including a flier) at:

Friday, December 12, 2008

Nestle-Free Sweden

I've received pictures of the posters used by colleagues in Sweden for promoting International Nestlé Free Week in October.

You can continue to promote Nestlé-Free Zones using the resources on our website:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Take action against Nestle spying

I have been sent the following from victims of Nestlé's spying activities. You may like to sign their petition. You can find more on the Nestlé Critics website at:

Manifesto for freedom of expression and against spying by Nestle and Securitas

In June 2008, the TSR TV channel in French-speaking Switzerland revealed that the private security company Securitas had infiltrated a working group of ATTAC, the altermondialist movement, on behalf of Nestle. The group was working on a book on Nestle's policy in several areas, including genetic engineering, bottled water, milk powder and coffee, and in particular its attitude to workers and unions. In September 2008, the TSR revealed another case of espionage. A Securitas executive infiltrated the "Groupe anti-répression" in Lausanne, an organization that had collected information on case of police brutality. Recent revelations lead to the conclusion that spying operations continued well after 2005.

We, the undersigned, find it scandalous that private companies conduct such snooping operations. We condemn outright the spying activities carried out by Nestle and Securitas against ATTAC and other altermondialist organisations.

We demand that Nestle and Securitas stop all espionage immediately!

Rather than employing spies to work against people likely to be critical towards it, the food giant Nestle would do better to run its business in a way that makes that criticism unnecessary. The undersigned call on Nestle to respect workers and unions throughout the world, to guarantee fair prices to producers, to protect the environment and to ensure that their products are of high quality.

The undersigned demand that the Cantonal and Federal authorities expose the Nestle and Securitas scandals. Moreover, we demand that they take the necessary measures to protect the rights to free expression and freedom of association, from the clandestine actions of private companies.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Nestlé's Bear Brand coffee creamer in Laos

A peer-reviewed study in the British Medical Journal in September examined how parents are using Nestlé Bear Brand coffee creamer as a breastmilk substitute. It is unsuitable for this purpose and Nestlé prints a warning to this effect on the labels.

So why is it being used? Researchers found the warnings are undermined by the more prominent logo of a mother bear holding a baby bear in the breastfeeding position.

If Nestlé was concerned about this misuse of its product then surely it would take the simple step of removing this logo. That's what we are calling for. In a response to the article, Nestlé says it is reviewing the product and has currently stopped its distribution. Why has it taken so long to respond, however? The production of the logo was a deliberate act. It would be very interesting to know the results of the focus groups during its development.

Another product that is used inappropriately is Nestlé whole milk, marketed as Nido or Ninho in many countries and promoted in the infant feeding sections of pharmacies and supermarkets. We have asked Nestlé to remove it from this section as poor mothers who use powdered milk are more likely to buy this unsuitable product which is much cheaper than infant formula. Nestlé has refused.

It commented at the time: "Why would the company want to promote other non-suitable products to feed infants in competition with its own products?"

Because it gains extra sales and profits?

The question Nestlé has failed to answer is why does it continue with practices it knows to be harmful? Why does it take exposés and campaigning to force changes?

See more on this in our Boycott News 41 newsletter at:

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Melamine found in Nestlé formula in US and Saudi Arabia - what levels are safe?

I've written previously about the double standard shown towards contaminated formula in China. A ban was put on all Chinese-manufactured formula by the US in case it was contaminated with melamine, which can harm a baby's kidneys. On 12 September 2008 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said:

---quote begins
For infant formula, the safety/risk assessment concludes that at this time FDA is unable to establish any level of melamine and melamine-related compounds in infant formula that does not raise public health concerns. In large part, this is because of gaps in our scientific knowledge.
---quote ends

This is archived on various blogs and the nowpublic site.

The FDA arranged testing on rats and came up with a figure for Tolerable Daily Intake of 0.63 mg/kg bw/d (milligrams/kg body weight/day). A 10-fold safety tolerance has been applied for infants, giving a TDI of 0.063, which, for a 3kg infant, equates to:
0.063 mg/kg-bw/d x 3 kg/infant = 0.189 mg melamine/infant/day.
The calculation continues:

---extract begins

To estimate the level of melamine that does not raise public health concerns, FDA used a worst case exposure scenario in which all of an infant’s total daily dietary intake (typically 0.15 kg powdered infant formula) is contaminated with melamine. The previously determined (see above) total amount of melamine/infant/day:

0.189 mg/infant/day divided by 0.15 kg of food = the food contamination level that would provide this amount of melamine to a 3 kg infant per day. Thus, 0.189 mg melamine divided by 0.15 kg of food = 1.26 mg melamine/kg food.

Therefore, if 100% of the diet were contaminated at a level of 1.26 ppm of melamine, an infant’s daily intake would equal 0.063 mg/kg bw/d. This value of 1.26 ppm is rounded down to 1.0 ppm melamine to provide an additional margin of safety.

---extract ends

The FDA also arranged testing of US-manufactured and found contamination with melamine, but below this 1.0 ppm level.

This information was not released, however, and it took a Freedom of Information request from the Associated Press. They report on the manufacturers whose formula is contaminated with melamine and/or cyanuric acid, which is often found together and has been ascribed the same safety limit. See:

---extract begins

Mead Johnson's Infant Formula Powder, Enfamil LIPIL with Iron found melamine at levels of 0.137 and 0.14 parts per million. Three tests of Nestle's Good Start Supreme Infant Formula with Iron detected an average of 0.247 parts per million of cyanuric acid.

---extract ends

So the FDA does not include these products on its list of those to avoid. It does, however, continue to list "infant formula manufactured in China" as a blanket prohibition. See:

Melamine has also been found in Nestlé formula in Saudi Arabia, though the levels are not given.

Levels in Sanlu/Fonterra formula that caused the problems in China were 1,000 times higher than those found in these US formula, but at the time Nestlé boasted that no melamine had been found in Nestlé products - though this was not true as a Nestlé whole milk was on the contaminated list. See:

Nestlé hasn't commented on its website on the latest cases where melamine has been found in its products.

CNN has a response from a US trade body. See:

---quote begins
A spokeswoman for the Atlanta, Georgia-based International Formula Council, a trade group, said she had not seen the data, but was encouraged that the quantity found was below levels deemed safe in infants by the governments of China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Canada and New Zealand.

"Apparently these trace levels can be found in lots of food," said spokeswoman Mardi Mountford.
---quote ends

So to summarise, the levels found in Nestlé and Mead Johnson formula is about one thousandth of the level that led to thousands of babies being hospitalized in China and at least four deaths. However, little is known about the effects of lower-level contamination. Evidence used for the FDA analysis is based on preliminary studies on rats.

It is in the industry's interest to downplay the risks, because it could affect their profits. And we may not actually know for some years what the impact may be.

With other medicines (and strictly speaking, formula is a nutritional medicine intended for specific cases of intervention) successful tests on animals and even human trials do not detect all problems. It is not unusual for drugs to be recalled after problems are detected when they are used in far larger populations.

However, any sickness that may be caused by even low levels of melamine in formula may possibly be difficult to detect given that due to the shortcomings of formula, compared to the biological norm of breastmilk, formula-fed infants are more likely to suffer short and long-term illness in any case.

We call for a precautionary principle to be followed and known toxins be excluded from foodstuffs, particularly those for infants.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Companies see profits in melamine contamination worries

The scandal of formula and other products contaminated with melamine in China, which resulted in 4 deaths and 54,000 babies hospitalized, was seen as a 'rather positive' situation for Nestlé by Chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, as he claimed Nestlé products were free of melamine. However, Nestlé was claiming that tests had shown none of its products were contaminated despite one whole milk product being on the contaminated list. Nestlé didn't link to the test results in its press release, but we did in our report posted to the Nestlé Critics website. See:

Nestlé is not the only company trying to cash in on the crisis by portraying itself as a 'safe' alternative. The International Code Documentation Centre has issued a legal briefing which examines the approach taken by Abbott in three different countries. These range from providing information onn which products are clear to full-on promotion of brands. The different approaches depend on the level of implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. This limits companies to providing scientific and factual information to health workers who are given responsibility for advising parents.

As ICDC states in its briefing, available at:

---quote begins
Companies misbehave depending on what they can get away with !!

Following the Sanlu melamine-in-milk scandal in China which resulted in 4 deaths and more than 54,000 babies falling ill, baby food companies took out expensive ads in major dailies and public places to assure parents in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia of the safety and quality of their products. How they go about it depends on the national measures which are in force.

• In Hong Kong where the International Code has not been implemented at all, the Abbott Ross ad is so promotional it amounts to a Code violation.

• In Singapore, where there is an industry-led voluntary Code, the ad is slightly more restrained but is still very promotional.

• In Malaysia, where a stronger voluntary Code is actively overseen by the government, the ad is reduced to little more than bare information.

These ads show how the Code is a useful tool in protecting breastfeeding when implemented carefully at country level.
---quote ends

The Code, which companies are supposed to abide by independently of government measures, limits companies to providing scientific and factual information to health workers who are given responsibility for advising parents. Authorities can provide this information, such as on the website of the Hong Kong Government's Food and Environmental Health Department, where Nestlé's contaminated milk is listed alongside a list of products that were found to be uncontaminated.

Find out more about the melamine scandal in our Update 41 newsletter, now available online at:

Monday, December 01, 2008

The right to post information on Nestlé and debate its activities

This blog has been locked by blogger over the past ten days, supposedly as a 'spam blog'. This happened once before. I believed at the time this was because I was posting daily and the Google algorithm thought this must be the work of an automaton!

But it happened ten days ago and again today - I am not even sure if this will post as my unlock request is still listed as pending.

People can flag blogs as objectionable and potentially this has happened. Certainly over on the Nestlé Critics website there have been some recent comments from people complaining about it being one sided. This despite the fact it directs people to Nestlé's own site and, in specific instances, Nestlé's press releases and other materials and allows people to comment.

Anyway, I have no objection to people hearing from Nestlé employees - that's why a section specifically for them to leave comments exists on the Nestlé Critics site. See:

Here's the recent comment:

Get balanced, why you are having 1 sided view in 21st century?
. I am a boiler operator in Nestle' factory in India.
Let me share, ok you find out:
- Check water reduction to produce same product in last 5 years.
- Check energy reduction to produce same product in last 5 years.
- OK check the CFC phase out & check with other MNCs
Having no comment from any of Nestle' worker should be enough to review your opinion
l am lucky to be with Nestle'

And another couple of pro-Nestlé comments from the visitors section:

when you are stoping this site?
We are pained to see the -ve propaganda from ill informed people......
Ok, guys. You are enjoying the freedom of expression.
Fine one day some one shall alunch a site "friends of Nestle'"


I caution readers that this site does a disservice to the public. Promoting breast feeding is admirable and should continue whole-heartedly. However, presenting misleading or half-truths about Nestle (or any infant formula manufacturer) does not further the health of children in this country or elsewhere. I work in academia (not industry) and it is essential for facts to be presented in a forum where many experts can comment (representatives from academia, healthcare, and industry). Sites like this one do just the opposite and no one can make a decision to boycott or promote anything related to infant nutrition from reading information solely from this site.

Anyone who is familiar with the campaign and the evidence-base for all claims made about Nestlé malpractice will be able to form their own opinion about such comments.

I'm all for debating Nestlé malpractice and took part in many debates myself with Nestlé Executives until they called a halt having being embarassed at losing them and fueling support for the boycott in the process.

Today Nestlé refuses to even set out its terms and conditions for attending an independent expert tribunal we have proposed.

So, yes please, let's have more debate, not less.

And whoever keeps getting my blog locked, please stop it!

Friday, November 21, 2008

A gift that helps to save lives and reduce suffering

If you are looking for an unusual and useful gift for someone for Christmas - or any other time - how about membership of Baby Milk Action?


Here's what Baby Milk Action is about:

Baby Milk Action

Baby Milk Action is a non-profit organisation which aims to save infant lives and to end the avoidable suffering caused by inappropriate infant feeding. We work as part of the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) to strengthen independent, transparent and effective controls on the marketing of the baby feeding industry. IBFAN has over 200 member organisations in more than 100 countries.

Protecting breastfeeding

There is no food more locally produced or sustainable than breastmilk. A breastfed child is less likely to suffer from gastroenteritis, respiratory and ear infections, diabetes, allergies and other illnesses. In areas with unsafe water a bottle-fed child is up to 25 times more likely to die as a result of diarrhoea. Reversing the decline in breastfeeding could save 1.5 million lives around the world every year. Breastfeeding helps fulfill the UN Millennium Development Goals and has the potential to reduce under-5 mortality by 13%. A further 6% of deaths could be saved through appropriate complementary feeding. Breastfeeding also provides health benefits to the mother, such as reduced risk of some cancers.

Protecting babies fed on formula

Breastmilk substitutes are legitimate product for when a child is not breastfed and does not have access to expressed or donor breastmilk. Companies should comply with composition and labelling requirements and other Code requirements to reduce risks - independently of government measures. Parents have a right to accurate, independent information.

Baby Feeding Law Group

Baby Milk Action is the Secretariat for the Baby Feeding Law Group (BFLG) which is working to bring UK legislation into line with UN Resolutions. BFLG members include consumer and mother-support groups and professional bodies such as the Community Practitioners and Health Visitors’ Association, the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, and UNICEF's Baby Friendly Initiative. We are also on the Steering Group of the Breastfeeding Manifesto Coalition (BMC) which has 7 Objectives to support and protect breastfeeding. Ojective 7 is to implement the Code and Resolutions.

International Code

We work for controls implementing the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (The International Code). This Code was adopted in 1981 by the World Health Assembly (WHA), the world’s highest policy setting body. The International Code bans all promotion of breastmilk substitutes and was adopted as a ‘minimum requirement’ to be implemented by member states ‘in its entirety’. The International Code and the subsequent relevant WHA Resolutions, which have clarified or extended certain provisions of the Code, must be considered together in the interpretation and translation into national measures.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Become a member and receive our newsletter

Baby Milk Action members will shortly be receiving copies of our latest newsletter.

If you are not yet a member, you can join today through our on-line Virtual Shop. If you opt to pay by standing order, you can even gain a free gift (see conditions). Go to:

The newsletter is made available on line for the general public after being sent to members - and members can elect to receive it electronically to save on postage and printing costs and the Earth's resources.

Non-members can also sign up for alerts, but do please consider becoming a member, because the fees (which start from just £ 7.00 per year) are essential for funding our work. Sign up for alerts at:

Friday, November 07, 2008

Baby-led Weaning

I've had the good fortune to hear Gill Rapley speak on her work on baby-led weaning a couple of times. In the talks she passes films of babies who were given the chance to decide when and what they would eat from 4 months of age. The recommended age for introducing complementary foods - foods in addition to breastmilk (or formula) - is 6 months of age. And, left to their own devices, that is the age when babies seem themselves to choose to eat. Now Gill has co-authored a book on her studies, available at:

Prior to 6 months they put food - and just about anything they can get their hands on to - into their mouths, but they don't swallow. They explore colours, shapes, textures and tastes, but don't actually eat until 6 months or thereabouts. The poop proves it.
The World Health Organization has studied the subject extensively and the World Health Assembly adopted a Resolution in 1994 giving a public health recommendation of promoting complementary feeding with local foods from about 6 months of age. Under most conditions, their research suggested there is no nutritional need for foods in addition to breastmilk (or formula) prior to 6 months and introduction of foods other than breastmilk before this age makes them more likely to develop infections.

From my experience, companies try to promote the introduction of foods at an earlier age because, in the words of an executive from one company, it stops parents 'drifting into home-prepared foods'. They make special concoctions to be fed by spoon and some parents are drawn into seeing it as a positive sign of development if their child takes to 'solids' at a younger age than its peers.
The industry fought long and hard against the recommendation from the World Health Assembly introduced in 1994. It took further action by the Assembly and a lot of denunciations of breaking of the Resolutions and pressure from the Nestle boycott before Nestle, the largest of the baby food company, agreed, in 2003 (9 years later) that it would stop promoting complementary foods from before 6 months - a promise it has not entirely kept and recent indications are it is backsliding on it. Get babies onto processed foods and the chances are they will then 'progress' through the entire range.
Most countries, including the UK, have adopted policies of not promoting complementary feeding before 6 months of age, though that does not preclude different medical advice if necessary.

With baby-led weaning, babies can share in the family meals (with attention given to salt levels, of course). They develop a discerning palate. And while they may be behind the babies eating processed pap off a spoon, at 8, 9 months they are feeding themselves with a spoon and enjoying what they eat.

At least that is what you see in the films in Gill's presentation and there is plenty of supporting testimony on various discussion groups and boards.

This new book gives plenty of information on the theory and practice of baby-led weaning. It is well worth investigating. Available at:

Monday, November 03, 2008

Latest victory gets us nowhere

This is a recurring story. Brazil has one of the most effective systems regulating baby food marketing and breastfeeding rates have increased markedly over the past 20 years - median duration has gone from less than three months to ten months. Rates had declined drastically after Nestle entered Brazil a century ago. Now the main concerns are targeting of health workers and the promotion of whole milks, which are used by a high proportion of poor mothers who don't breastfeed instead of infant formula. We have exposed how Nestlé promotes its Nido whole milk in the infant feeding sections of pharmacies and supermarkets, a practice it refuses to stop, arguing it is not against the regulations. See:

Whole milks do require a warning that they should not be used for infant feeding. Repeatedly this has been challenged in the Congress and Senate by representatives allied to the dairy industry. It is pretty disgraceful that the desire for profits is so great that the industry is prepared to pursue sales through misuse of the product. The text has already been weakened slightly, with the heading "Ministry of Health Warning" changed to "Ministry of Health Information" - you may have supported our campaign last year which persuaded the Senate to reverse this change, only for the Congress to reinstate it. See:

Over the past few months the issue has come up again, with a move to weaken the text further still, if not remove it altogether. Our partners in the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) Brazil asked for letters of support that could be used by representatives in the Congress to oppose the dairy industry's politicians. IBFAN groups from around the world sent letters. I wrote on behalf of Baby Milk Action. You can find the letters here:

The good news is that on 29 October the move to weaken the text further was defeated!

Now this shows the need to be eternally vigilant because the industry does not give up. It also shows that campaigning works.

But it also illustrates the difficulty that we and our partners face in protecting infant health.

An international mobilization was necessary to protect mothers and babies. Without this effort, the industry would have won, inappropriate use of whole milk would likely have become even more common and infants would have become sick and some died due to the greed of the milk companies. But we won, meaning the situation is unchanged - the warnings remain as an important step in stopping inappropriate use of whole milk.

Now when we try to fundraise for our work we have a problem because most funders are not focused on tackling root causes of problems. It is hard to raise money for enforcing the baby food marketing requirements, because money is directed at treating babies once they are sick or at interventions that deal with mothers and babies directly.

It is harder still to raise money for the action we have to take to stop the industry weakening the measures already won. Funders like targets and to see them met. In this particular case, there is no progress. We have simply stopped something bad from happening.

It is a tribute to everyone involved in the campaign that we are not only able to stop the extremely-well-resourced industry from weakening measures, but on many fronts are achieving new, stronger regulations and having them enforced. The support from members of the public, both financially and in sending letters, is vital for this.

Donations can be made at:

Monday, October 27, 2008

Do we need a World TNC Regulatory Authority?

As companies grow ever larger it becomes harder for governments to regulate them. If a company misbehaves in a country, the government may be reluctant to act. Nestlé threatened to pull out of Zimbabwe if it introduced strong regulations on the marketing of baby foods. When the Philippines was introducing regulations, the US Chamber of Commerce threatened the President with disinvestment.

At the same time, the home country of a company is often reluctant to act because of the contribution a company makes to its economy - and unethical companies that break the rules may make a bigger contribution than those that are forced to abide by the rules. Often there is a double standard where companies are allowed to get away with behaviour abroad that is unacceptable at home. An example of double standards from last week was the claims Nestlé makes for Maggi Noodles in Bangladesh that was ruled as unacceptable in the UK. We campaigned in the past over Nestlé's objection to labelling products in Sri Lanka in three languages, while it uses three languages on labels in Switzerland.

In theory there are minimum standards. Companies are called on to abide by the World Health Assembly marketing requirements independently of government measures, but they do not do so. Where there is independently monitored and enforced regulations or pressure from campaigns such as the Nestlé boycott companies can be forced to comply, showing it is not impossible to do so, but where national measures are not in place or not enforced there is currently no way to hold corporations to account.

As a member of a Task Force of the UN System Standing Committee on Nutrition I contributed a chapter to a book on 'Global Obligations for the Right to Food' about holding corporations to account. This draws on my experience dealing with Nestlé and other companies and argues that there needs to be an international regulatory framework for when national measures fail. The book is available at:

We are building alliances to promote regulatory frameworks in place of the voluntary UN Global Compact system, which has no monitoring or enforcement system.

As part of this process I have submitted a summary of the proposals from my chapter for inclusion in the Simultaneous Policy, an international campaign where people vote on the action they want to see taken on global problems. Speaking in my personal capacity, I am particularly fond of the Simultaneous Policy approach, because of its focus on solutions. The campaign does not protest against current action by government, nor is it calling for changes existing policy as such. Both of these approaches are important. The Simultaneous Policy has a parallel approach, promoting an international democratic discussion on what policies people wish to see implemented to address global problems. In other contexts these aspirations are often drastically curtailed by what is possible, what powerful vested interests will tolerate. In the Simultaneous Policy the focus in on the policies we would like to see implemented if we, the people, could decide, if there was a global democratic space where we had a voice. It aims to create that democratic space.

Politicians are simply asked to pledge to implement these policies alongside other governments - and an increasing number are doing so, including in the UK. The theory is that it is easy for politicians to say they will do something if other countries will do so too (such as properlty regulating transnational corporations), partly because simultaneous implementation removes the fear of putting the country at a competitive disadvantage and partly because they may think it will never happen. If politicians are also asked to sign during elections and see votes in it, that's another incentive. Those signing up to the Simultaneous Policy campaign (which is free) are asked to either give a preference at elections to candidates, within reason, who make this pledge, or to encourage their preferred candidate to make it. When there are sufficient politicians who have made the pledge it would become government policy, so building to the day when there are enough governments. On that day the Simultaneous Policy would be ready, with solutions to global problems that have the backing of people around the world.

That's the theory.

At the same time the discussion of policies itself is important for raising awareness and encouraging implementation of them - or aspects of them - through other means. Accordingly I've summarised aspects of the proposal in the Global Obligations to the Right to Food book and submitted this as a call for a World Transnational Corporation Regulatory Authority.

Annual voting on policies is currently taking place until 1 November. Proposals that receive high levels of support are given space in campaign publications and at public meetings, which will be a good way to promote this proposal to a wider audience. You can find out more about this campaign, the proposal for a World Transnational Corporation Regulatory Authority and how to vote on this and other proposals on my personal, dedicated blog at:

For a briefing on the shortcomings with the UN Global Compact system see the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) site at:

Friday, October 24, 2008

On-line monitoring course to improve protection of child rights

I wrote recently how the UK Advertising Standards Authority cleared an advertisement for formula which breaches international marketing standards. See:

A key part of the campaign to have these minimum standards implemented in the UK is monitoring of the baby food companies.

Baby Milk Action is developing an on-line training course for people who are interested in learning more about the marketing requirements, how they are implemented in the UK nd how to monitor.

Wherever you are in the world, we would be delighted if you could complete a short questionnaire about you preferences for the course. You will find this at:

You can find our latest report, produced on behalf of the Baby Feeding Law Group, in our on-line Virtual Shop where it is available as a free download. Printed copies can be purchased, which helps to fund the monitoring project. See:

The cover shows some of the cases featured: Hipp's Goodnight milk promotion, Wyeth's SMA hoody gift to mothers, Heinz launch of its new 'Nurture' brand with promotions in supermarkets and on television and Danone's Cow & Gate advertisement, which the ASA cleared, showing its contempt for child rights and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

It was evidence from this project that was submitted to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to show how baby food companies are marketing formula in the UK. The Committee concluded in its report: "The Committee, while appreciating the progress made in recent years in the promotion and support of breastfeeding in the State party, it is concerned that implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes continues to be inadequate and that aggressive promotion of breastmilk substitutes remains common."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

UK Advertising Standards Authority ruling today shows contempt for child rights

I wrote yesterday about the report on the UK from the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child which called for the marketing regulations for baby milk to be implemented. Having received evidence from the monitoring project we coordinate on behalf of the Baby Feeding Law Group it commented that it: "it is concerned that implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes continues to be inadequate and that aggressive promotion of breastmilk substitutes remains common." See:

Three weeks on from that report we see the response from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), an industry-funded, self-regulatory body handed responsibility for regulating print and broadcast advertising.

It has just cleared this Danone television advertisement for its Cow & Gate brand of formula:

Baby Milk Action has issued a press release about this which can be found at:

For a UK audience I would say the ASA ruling is contemptuous two-fingered salute to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

In 2002 the Committee also called on the UK government to implement the marketing requirements.

The government is conducting a review of the regulations. We will continue to submit monitoring evidence to this exposing new company marketing practices and the action (or lack of it) by the authorities.

As a footnote, the ASA has upheld complaints against a Nestlé advertisement for Maggi noodles broadcast on Nepali TV in the UK. It objected to health claims used to promote the noodles. See:

---Extract from ASA ruling on Nestlé Maggi Noodles
We considered that, because we had seen no evidence that the protein in Maggi Noodles would "help to build strong muscles and bones" we considered that the ad was misleading and that Nepali TV should not have broadcast it.


Because we had seen no evidence that the calcium in Maggi Noodles would "help to build strong muscles and bones", we considered that the ad was misleading and that Nepali TV should not have broadcast it in the UK.
---extract ends

Nestlé said there had not been any intention to broadcast it in the UK and the ASA noted that: "Nestle said the ad had been approved for broadcast and complied with the necessary legal requirements in Bangladesh."

Which just goes to show how important health claims are as marketing tools for companies and how important it is to have minimum standards in a globalized world.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

UK government condemned once again : "aggressive promotion of breastmilk substitutes remains common" says UN.

One of the reasons we and our partners in the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) monitor the baby food industry is to provide information to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Governments that have signed up to the Convention of the Rights of the Child are required to submit a progress report about every five years. Citizens' organisations can do the same and we do so through the Children's Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) and the Geneva Infant Feeding Association (GIFA - a partner in IBFAN).

The UK submitted evidence recently and the Committee issued its report on 3 October. There are a few things I've been saving up to say about this and the UK situation, which I'll look at this week.

In its last report in 2002, the Committee called for the UK government to "adopt the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes." The government made some encouraging noises in its Public Health White Paper in 2004, but this proved to be illusory as when it came to reviewing the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations, it followed the industry line of minimal changes, rejecting the recommendations of health advocates and its own Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition.

So hardly any surprise that when the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child considered the evidence we provided and the claims of the government for the action it had taken, it concluded:

---paragraphs 58 and 59
The Committee, while appreciating the progress made in recent years in the promotion and support of breastfeeding in the State party, it is concerned that implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes continues to be inadequate and that aggressive promotion of breastmilk substitutes remains common.

The Committee recommends that the State party implement fully the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. The State party should also further promote baby-friendly hospitals and encourage that breastfeeding is included in nursery training.
---quote ends

The government has a review panel looking at the law. Let us hope it will save the government from being embarassed yet again in five years times for failing to protect child rights.

Let us see if the regulatory authorities, Trading Standards and the Advertising Standards Authority, will heed this condemnation and act to protect child rights. The quarterly monitoring reports we are producing will show what happens.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Three things to do on World Food Day 2008

Today is World Food Day.

Here are three things to do to celebrate.

1) Order our 2009 breastfeeding calendar - there can be no food more locally produced and tailored to the needs of the recipient than breastmilk. See:

2) Visit the Nestlé Critics website to find out about concerns over the practices of the World's Largest Food Company (tm). This is the website Nestlé tried to hi-jack in advance of International Nestlé-Free Week last week. Use resources on the Baby Milk Action website to promote Nestlé-Free zones. The Nestlé Critics website is:

3) Order the book Global Obligations for the Right to Food in Baby Milk Action's on-line Virtual Shop. This contains ten chapters on action that can and should be taken to protect and deliver the right to food. My chapter is based on experiences holding the baby food companies to account and proposes action at the international level for cases where national measures fail. See:

I am promoting these proposals both at United Nations level and to other campaigning organisations. The Simultaneous Policy campaign is currently running a vote on policies that have been put forward for inclusion in its package of measures for addressing global problems. See my personal blog for information on how I am promoting the proposals there.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Nestle Critics website - search it out

Nestlé's pretence for trying hi-jack the website we launched for International Nestlé-Free Week (4 - 10 October) was the absurd claim that it was "passing off" as a company website.

Aside from it being obvious when visiting the preview site (and the current site) that it was not a Nestlé website (and it directed people to the company website for the company's words), the meta data for the site, used from the beginning, makes it clear it is not a company site.

Meta data is invisible on the page, but is used by search engines in their listings. An example of this is shown in the screen shot below. This is for a Google search on 'Nestle and melamine'. We have been getting a lot of traffic to the site from this and similar Google and other searches and so I was interested to see how the listing appeared.

On the second page the top item is:

Nestlé reaffirms that all our milk products in China and Hong Kong are absolurely safe, and none are made with milk adulterated with melamene.

The next item is:

Nestlé's 'no melamine found' found in products claim examined
Nestlé's actions speak louder than its words. Visit this site for information on concerns about Nestlé practices.

It is the meta data that appears under the article headline.

I happen to think it is clear which is the Nestlé site and which is not a Nestlé site. The whole point of the site is to provide objective, independent information to people who want to know if Nestlé's words are reflected in its actions.

To further deflate Nestlé's pretence, we are promoting the site with the domain name:
http://www.nestlecritics.org/ rather than the previewed Nestlé's Actions domain name.

We haven't handed the old domain name over to Nestlé however, as we have good reason to be suspicious of what it would put on the site - it has previously hired a secret agent to "pass off" as an activist to gather information on campaigners.

In its press release appearing in the search results above, Nestlé referred to a testing report from The Hong Kong Government's Food and Environmental Health Department. You can find it from a link on the Nestlé Critics site (though curiously there is no link from the press release on the Nestlé company site). There, on the "Unsatisfactory results of testing of Melamine" list, is a Nestlé whole milk. See:

The site is providing a valuable service and, thanks to the way search engines work, people are able to find information they may find useful. Information that very clearly is not coming from Nestlé, but from those with concerns about Nestlé practices.

The site is also being promoted around the world. For launch information in Swedish, for example, see:

Please do link to :

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Logos for promoting Nestlé-free Zones

To mark International Nestlé-Free Week we have received a donation of the following image, apparently created by a campaigner in Switzerland to promote Nestlé-Free Zones there.

To add this or other logos to your site to declare it a Nestlé-Free Zone, use the code you will find on our site, so that it will automatically link back to that. See:

Below is another logo that has been around for most of the past twenty years of the current boycott of Nestlé.

In it's legal challenge to the new Nestlé Critics website, Nestlé tried to assert copyright over this image, despite never raising it during past years. It seemed a little cheeky and stifling of the right to fair comment, but, all the same, we consulted trade mark and copyright lawyers (pro bono - many thanks to them) and are confident Nestlé has no case.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Nestle-free week launch success

Our press release on the successful launch of Nestlé-Free Week is available on our website at:

This picks up on the fact that Nestlé tried to hi-jack the site officially launched on Saturday 4 October. This site has the theme: "Nestlé's actions speak louder than its words". In the first few days there have been over 10,000 views of the site. As someone has commented in the visitors' book: "What an excellent idea to round up all of Nestle's ruthless and underhanded activities and put them all under one handy little link! Well done to all involved. That makes it so much easier to pass it all on!"

For details of how Nestlé tried to hi-jack the site, see:

There's also a fair bit of traffic coming for the article examining the claim Nestlé made in a press release on 22 September saying "no melamine found" in products tested in China. Yet while referring to products on a 'not contaminated' list, there was a whole milk on a 'contaminated' list. The article (which first appeared on this blog) links to the test results and to a briefing from the World Health Organisation on melamine and compares the levels of contamination found in Nestlé's product in China - above the statutory limit, but below WHO's 'tolerable' level - with the far higher levels found in its competitors Sanlu/Fonterra formula that has resulted in thousands of infants being hospitalized and four deaths. The aim is for the site to be recognised as a source of objective and accurate information - as with everything we do. See the article at:

Friday, October 03, 2008

Happy Nestlé-Free Week : 4 - 10 October

The 4 October marks the 20th anniversary of the launch of the current boycott of Nestlé over its aggressive marketing of baby foods in the US. So tomorrow has been selected as the start of International Nestlé-Free Week this year. For ideas on how to promote it see:

What is Nestlé-Free Week? It is a week to tell people about the boycott. If you are a boycotter, you will probably know people who say they can't give up one or other Nestlé product. Ask them to do so just for Nestlé-Free Week, this year and every year until Nestlé makes the required changes to its marketing policies and practices. If you don't boycott all Nestlé products yourself (the focus in the UK is on Nescafé coffee) then give it a try during Nestlé-Free Week. You and your friends and colleagues may find alternatives that you will stick with. Fairly traded products are a good way to go as Nestlé is also criticised over its treatment of coffee farmers and for failing to act on child slavery in its cocoa supply chain.

To mark Nestlé-Free Week this year, we planned the launch of a website to serve as a portal to expert information on all aspects of Nestlé business. Because of the boycott people come to us with concerns other than baby food marketing, so this seemed a good way to make different campaigns mutually supportive (and not counter-productive), while giving us an easy resource to direct people too. I've been talking about this new site, which has the theme "Nestlé's Actions speak louder than its words" on this blog for the past couple of months. Nestlé must have been worried as it tried to hi-jack the site by demanding we hand over the Nestlé's Actions domain name by Monday, 29 September. We refused and the launch has gone ahead, with the site now being promoted as the Nestlé Critics website. Find details of the hi-jack attempt on the site itself at:

If Nestlé thought it would manage to intimidate us into taking the site down so people would not have access to the information, then its strategy badly misfired. With our announcement of the hi-jack attempt, we had over 3,000 visitors to the site in the first 48 hours. You can help to make it even more popular by promoting it as a source of independent information on Nestlé. If you have a website or blog, please link to the address:

Recent information there includes Nestlé hiring someone to pass themselves off as a campaigner to infiltrate the Swiss ATTAC campaign group to gather sensitive and confidential information on campaigners. See:

You'll also find the analysis I also posted on this blog yesterday examining Nestlé's claim about its products in China: 'no melamine found'. That wasn't true at the time, as a Nestlé milk product was on the contaminated list in Hong Kong. Nestlé also used the argument that this toxin (which has led to thousands of babies being hospitalized and four deaths due to high levels in the formula of a competitor - Sanlu/Fonterra), is found in most foods at 'safe' levels. In Taiwan the authorities have called for Nestlé to remove products found with melamine, arguing that there are no acceptable levels for toxins. Nestlé says it: "fails to understand temporary delisting request". See:

While there are many concerns raised about Nestlé practices, the boycott we promote concerns its baby food marketing practices. In the past 20 years the boycott has been instrumental in stopping many cases of aggressive marketing designed by the company to persuade mothers to buy the company formula, regardless of the impact on health. The biological norm of breastfeeding provides all a baby needs for the first 6 months of life and continues to provide protection and nutrition alongside other foods beyond this. Infants fed on formula are more likely to suffer short and long-term illness. Around the world 1.5 million infants die every year because they are not adequately breastfed (click here for sources of this statistic).

In the past Nestlé promoted its formula with pictures of chubby babies on labels and by sending marketing staff dressed as nurses into hospitals. Today these practices have changed, thanks to marketing requirements adopted by the World Health Assembly, legislation implementing these measures and our work with our partners in monitoring company behaviour and promoting the boycott. Yet Nestlé's latest practices are only slightly more subtle. It presents its formula as containing 'brain building blocks' and suggests that it 'protects' babies, all the time knowing that infants fed on formula do not develop the same as breastfed infants and miss out on the protection provided by the living anti-bodies and other protective factors in breastmilk. They are more likely to become sick and in conditions of poverty, they are more likely to die.

Global monitoring conducted by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) finds Nestlé to be the worst of the companies. And as market leader it sets trends others follow and so drives down standards. As we have exposed recently, in South Africa not only the Department of Health was critical of its marketing practices, but also its competitors, who filed a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority - they lost and may feel compelled to resort to push similar promotional tactics through the regulatory loophole Nestlé has created. See:

It is regrettable that the boycott continues to be a necessary tool to put pressure on Nestlé and to raise awareness of its marketing malpractice. But the new Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Paul Bulcke, has, like his predecessor, rejected the plan put to Nestlé for saving infant lives and ultimately ending the boycott. Instead Nestlé tries to divert criticism with expensive Public Relations initiatives and underhand methods such as those described above. The changes it makes are grudging. More boycott action will help to persuade it. Last year, after denying for years that the boycott had support, Nestlé's Global Public Affairs Manager owned up to Nestlé being 'widely boycotted'. Independent research has found it to be one of the four most boycotted companies on the planet. See:

The parallel strategy to the boycott is bringing in legislation. In the case of South Africa, for example, we ran a campaign of international solidarity earlier this year as it seeks to bring in stronger regulations to stop the type of promotion we have exposed. Over 70 countries have brought in measures, some of which are proving to be very effective and breastfeeding rates are increasing.

Parents who use formula, for whatever reason, also need protecting and we continue to call on Nestlé to make changes, such as improving instructions and stopping promoting powdered whole milk alongside more expensive infant formula in supermarkets and pharmacies. It knows that poor mothers are more likely to use the whole milk because it is much cheaper, but has even greater risks.

So happy Nestlé-Free Week. Have fun spreading the word and seeking out non-Nestlé alternatives for the coming week and, hopefully, beyond.

Although there is no willingness from Nestlé to accept the plan for ending the boycott at present, other companies have come to us because they are willing to change their marketing practices and want advice on how best to comply with the World Health Assembly requirements.

One day Nestlé will realise it is best for its business and for mothers and babies if it accepts it needs to change.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Nestle's response to the Sanlu melamine scandal

I've written about various aspects of the contamination of Sanlu formula in China with melamine and Enterobacter Sakazakii and how Sanlu/Fonterra and transanational corporations such as Nestlé and Nutricia have undermined breastfeeding through aggressive promotion.

This is an update of some of the information that has emerged since, including how Nestlé sees profit to be made from the scandal and an analysis of the stories of Nestlé formula also being contaminated and its denials.

The contaminant, melamine, is allegedly added to increase the protein level of milk, so farmers can meet quality specifications, perhaps because the milk has been watered down to increase volume. The sciencebase blog is written by someone who has worked in the dairy industry and questions how contaminated milk could have passed through the testing process. He also points out that the authorities suggested 0.25% melamine has been found in the milk, which would augment its protein reading (because it is an organic compound with high Nitrogen content - formula C3H6N6) - but only by 1.2%. This is an expensive strategy, unless the melamine itself is low quality and may be a contaminated contaminant, bringing other chemicals into the milk. See:

A briefing from the World Health Organisation (WHO) gives the same figure for the contamination of powdered formula and calculates: "the Sanlu product incriminated in the cases in China was contaminated at a level of over 2500 mg/kg powder, corresponding to approximately 350 ppm in reconstituted product (assuming a 7-fold reconstitution factor)."

WHO suggests, with lots of qualifications, what a tolerable level may be: "Considering a 5kg infant, the tolerable amount of melamine would be 2.5 mg per day. This amount would be reached when consuming 750 ml liquid (or reconstituted) formula contaminated at a level around 3.3 mg/l (ppm)."

In other words, the melamine level in the reconstituted formula is over 100 times this amount. Also implicated is one of the contaminants of the contaminant, cyanuric acid: "Melamine alone is of low toxicity, however experimental studies have shown that combination with cyanuric acid leads to crystal formation and subsequent kidney toxicity."

To download the WHO briefing as a pdf, click:

Now on 21 September Nestlé issued a press release saying its products were not affected after reports of melamine being found in Neslac Gold 1. It was Neslac that was found to have too high levels of iodine in 2005, which Nestlé also blamed on milk suppliers and refused to withdraw. As I've written previously, the China Daily reported: "Nestle was caught remarkably flat-footed for a multinational firm of its global standing. Many believe it reacted with the speed and alacrity of a sailor drunk on shore leave." See:

Nestlé said in its press release:

---Nestle press release extract
Following press reports in Hong Kong earlier today claiming that traces of melamine had been found in a Nestlé growing up milk, Nestlé is confident that none of its products in China is made from milk adulterated with melamine.

The Hong Kong Government's Food and Environmental Health Department has just released a report declaring that Neslac Gold 1+, which was mentioned in the media reports, is safe and that no melamine was detected in the product. Neslac Gold 1+ was previously tested by government-approved independent laboratories such as the Hong Kong Standards and Testing Centre Ltd. (18-20 September) and the Food Industry Research and Development in Taiwan (16 September). Neither test detected melamine in the product.
---extract ends

It's always worth checking source documents to see if Nestlé is presenting them accurately, because too often it takes things out of context and misrepresents official statements (its misleading use of statements from the UK Methodist Church to try to undermine the boycott is a good example).

There has been a media report of a child fed on Nestlé formla being admitted to hospital with kidney stones in Macau - see the Macau Daily Times 24 September. But checking the Hong Kong government's testing report, you will indeed find Neslac Gold 1+ on the uncontaminated list of products. Go to the Centre for Food Safety website by clicking here. Neslac Gold 1+ appears on the 'Milk products (other than infant formula)' list under the column: 'Satisfactory results of testing of Melamine'.

Nestlé goes on to give this assurance:

---Nestlé press release extract
Nestlé has a very close relationship with its milk producers in China and advises them continuously on the quality of milk production. Nestlé also has the same stringent quality control system in place in its factories in China as in any other part of the world. Over 70 different tests are routinely conducted in the course of producing infant formula and other milk products. In fact, the Chinese authorities have issued official certificates for all tested Nestlé products stating that no melamine has been detected in any of them.
---extract ends

But that's not true. Nestlé has just referred to the Hong Kong government's report. There is a Nestlé product on the unsatisfactory list of products contaminated with melamine: Nestle Dairy Farm UHT Pure Milk with 1.4 ppm. This is within the 3.3 ppm tolerable level suggested by WHO, but above the government's limit of 1 ppm. However, it isn't quite covered by Nestlé's claim that "no melamine has been detected" in any tested products.

Nestlé has now issued a press release, 2 October, about recalling formula in Taiwan. It has the tite: "Nestlé and Taiwan Department of Health reaffirm products are safe - Nestlé fails to understand temporary delisting request."

Nestlé has been requested to withdraw products that have been found to contain melamine.

Nestlé says: "In line with Nestlé’s Corporate Business Principles, the company immediately complied with authorities’ request."

Those business principles and Nestlé's actions do not always marry up (see the Nestlé Critics website). In this case perhaps Nestlé has been stung by the 'drunk sailor' accusation from when it refused the Chinese authories' instruction to withdraw products - and the fact we remind people of this and it's failure to recall formula in 2002 in Switzerland from a batch incriminated in the death of a 5-day-old child in Belgium due to contamination with Enterobacter Sakazakii.


I've not as yet found details of the testing in Taiwan. Nestlé's press release suggests that Taiwan has safety levels 50 times lower than other countries. I guess this is Nestlé's way of adjusting the claim that Nestlé products have no melamine, to suggesting they don't have very much.

Back to Nestlé's 22 September press release and the company states:

---Nestle press release extract
In general terms, melamine is found throughout the food chain across the world in minute traces which do not represent any health risk for consumers. There is a generally accepted tolerable daily intake of melamine in food in the EU (0.5mg/kg of body weight/day) and in the US (0.63mg/kg of body weight/day).
---extract ends

So rather than there being no melamine, the argument is we're all eating melamine anyway.

Formula is a particularly dangerous way for contaminants to reach infants. They are at the most vulnerable stage of development of their lives, outside the womb. Chemical contaminants also reach babies in utero through the accumulation of these 'tolerable' levels of contaminants in their mother's body through foods and the environment. Body loads of contaminants are often tested through breastmilk as many are fat soluble and it is easier to access milk than to take a biopsy. From a quick search of past reports, I've not found any indication of melamine being found in breastmilk. Other environmental contaminants are found at different levels, depending to a large extent on the use of chemicals in the home. These test results lead to scare headlines of contaminants in breastmilk, which miss the point that, as Nestlé suggests, contaminants are found throughout the food chain, and, more significantly, that breastfeeding a child helps it to excrete the far more dangerous in utero load of contaminants. IBFAN has a working group on residues in breastmilk, including objective information on risks and guidance on 'breastfeeding in an contaminated environment' - see:

Aside from the obvious need to investigate the catastrophic failure of the quality control systems of Fonterra/Sanlu, what else can be learned?

We need effective and trustworthy monitoring systems. This is something that Baby Milk Action and our partners in the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) have been calling for for years. When there are cases of contamination like this, and the many others that have led to recalls of infant formula, parents who use formula need to know that affected products will be pulled from the shelves and have access to information they can trust on which products are safe. We can't trust companies, as Nestlé's 'no melamine found' overstatement demonstrates.

There need to be robustly independent food standards agencies that parents can look to and believe in.

Not for nothing has Baby Milk Action action questioned the wisdom of the appointment of the new director of the UK Food Standards Agency - he comes from the dairy industry, which, at the very least, does not give the appearance of indepndence.

Nestlé has claimed it has support from the Department of Health in Taiwan. In the UK, Nestlé sponsors the Parliamentary secretary of a Department of Health minister and took her on an all-expenses-paid jolly to South Africa earlier in the year. Not surprisingly links like these give rise to questions of how independent even official bodies are. See:

Surely it would actually benefit companies to have credible independent bodies. Their efforts to gain influence lead to distrust.

We have been reminded that we live in a contaminated environment - 'melamine is found throughout the food chain' to quote Nestlé. Which is the result of living in a throw-away, mass-produced, processed world. How to clean it up is a bigger question than I'm going to look at on this blog.

And, of course, breastfeeding avoids these problems. You cannot get a more locally produced food. One that delivers both nourishment and protection, reduces a baby's contaminant load and doesn't pollute the environment.

Breastfeeding has been declining in China, not helped by the aggressive marketing of Nestlé and others.

Even with this tragedy in China, Nestlé's response is to look to its profits. It does not see this as a wake-up call for mothers and the wider society to think about arranging life to make it easier to breastfeed children, it sees a marketing opportunity.

Here's how company Chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathé responded to questons on the illness and death in China, according to Reuters reporting on his visit to India. See:

---extract begins

"All our products are 100 percent safe... Sales in China are rather being favoured," Peter Brabeck-Letmathe told reporters in India's capital, when asked whether the scandal would affect the company's business.

"It's rather positive than negative," Brabeck said.

---extract ends

Monday, September 29, 2008

Nestle tries to hi-jack boycott site just days before Nestle-Free Week

Regular readers of this blog - which surely includes Nestlé - will know that we have prepared a website called "Nestlé's actions speak louder than its words", containing information from experts on different aspects of Nestlé's business. I've been writing about the site here since the beginning of August. You will also know that the site is to be launched on Saturday 4 October, the start of International Nestlé-Free Week.

What I can now tell you is that Nestlé's lawyers wrote to us last week threatening legal action over the site and demanding that we hand over the domain name to Nestlé by today, 29 September. So I've been a little distracted from writing this blog and other promotion for International Nestlé-Free Week. Which is surely the point of this being dropped on us with a deadline just days before the official launch of the site. Nestlé was using the pretence that the site was "passing off" as being from the company, yet as it stated its purpose clearly and directed people to Nestlé's own site, this is absurd and the launch goes ahead using the domain name:

Of greater concern is why Nestlé demanded the domain name. Perhaps to cost the campaign money in reprinting leaflets and re-doing websites. However, the domain name has only been publicised on this blog to date and the metadata for use in search engine listings makes it clear that it gives concerns about Nestlé practices. So anyone visiting the site will be well aware it is a campaign site. And that is the danger I see. If Nestlé takes over the domain name, we don't know what it would put on the site. Consider the fact that in Switzerland at the moment the media is full of the story of Nestlé hiring someone to pose as a campaigner to gain sensitive and confidential information from those with concerns about Nestlé and you will understand why I am worried about what Nestlé - or its secret agents - might put on the domain.

So we've replied to Nestlé's lawyers by their deadline of today explaining that we are not handing over the domain.

If Nestlé was genuinely concerned people might be confused by the domain name we were using, then that has been addressed with us publicising nestlecritics.org for the launch. If they continue to pursue their claim for the original domain then we will fight it because if anyone has genuine reason to fear the domain might be used to mislead people, then it is campaigners.

For additional information see the entry on the Nestlé Critics website - and bookmark it or subscribe to the RSS feed to keep updated on the wider concerns about Nestlé practices.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Enterobacter Sakazakii found in Sanlu formula in China

I wrote recently here about the worryingly common occurrence of formula being contaminated. While the case of melamine in formula in China, apparently originating from milk supplies, is particularly serious, other contamination has resulted in deaths and the general inferiority of formula leads to increased risk of short and long-term illness and health disadvantages. Around the world 1.5 million babies die every year due to inappropriate feeding.

A case in point, is contamination of powdered formula with Enterobacter Sakazakii. A Belgian child was killed by such contamination in Nestlé formula in 2001 - and Nestlé still refuses to warn parents of this risk. See:

According to a new report, the Fronterra/Sanlu milk in China has also tested positive for Enterobacter Sakazakii. See:

Fronterra/Sanlu has been pushing formula in ways that breach international marketing standards, as have European countries, such as Swiss Nestlé and Dutch Nutricia (now owned by Danone). See:

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sanlu pushed formula in China in breach of international standards

The International Code Documentation Centre - part of the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN - Baby Milk action is the UK member) has issued a press release about the Fonterra/Sanlu scandal of selling contaminated formula in China.

ICDC coordinates IBFAN's global monitoring project and points out that Fonterra/Sanlu has promoted its formula in breach of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, by, for example, offering gifts on purchase of infant formula (see the image below).

ICDC also questions the public statement from Fonterra that it called for action to be taken in August 2008, by which the New Zealand company is attempting to distance itself from responsibility for the company in which it holds a 43% share. ICDC states that the first cases were known about in March 2008.

For my take on the coverage of the story see:

Here is ICDC's press release, which can be downloaded as a pdf by clicking:

---ICDC press statement 20 September 2008

The Sanlu fiasco: risks of formula feeding

The whole world recoiled in horror at the recent Sanlu milk scandal in China: over 6,000 babies ill, including more than 150 in critical condition, and four deaths. News that melamine, a toxic chemical was deliberately added to local brands of baby milk to falsify protein levels have compelled Chinese parents to seek imported brands.

Responding to this, well-known foreign brands have reportedly requisitioned more stocks from abroad to meet the surge in demand. What people are failing to see is that artificial feeding itself is a risk to infant health. Records compiled by IBFAN-ICDC show that foreign brands also are susceptible to contamination.

Serious questions about the safety of such products have been raised time and again in many countries, not just in China. The World Health Assembly has in recent years adopted several resolutions regarding the dangers of intrinsic contamination of powdered infant formula but these red flags have been swept under the carpet or hushed up by companies so as not to affect sales and profits. Now they are riding high on the anxiety of Chinese parents.

In the wake of the Sanlu tragedy, the government is looking for culprits. Although it is imperative for those guilty to be publicly charged, it is even more important for China and the rest of the world, to take serious stock of the inherent dangers of bottle feeding and work towards having more mothers opt for breastfeeding instead. Apart from giving consumers up-to-date and consistent information about infant and young child feeding, including the risks of formula feeding, vigorous steps must be taken to ensure that mothers can make decisions free of commercial influence.

China has had national regulations which implement the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes since 1995 but the lack of enforcement means that companies have been able to treat the regulations with impunity and behave as if no law exists.


A billboard on an overhead bridge in Shijiazhuang, China, Sanlu’s headquarters, promotes a full range of Sanlu baby milk products. The large slogan shouts “More Sanlu More” !

Sanlu is 43% owned by the New Zealand Fonterra company which claims it has warned Sanlu since August 2008 about suspected contamination. Yet the first complaints over sick babies came in March 2008.

A bus on one of the busiest routes in Beijing serves as a mobile ad for Sanlu “the best selling infant formula for 12 years”.

Such advertising is forbidden by the International Code.
Promotion in a China store: Buy one bag of Sanlu infant formula and receive a toy. Buy two bags and get a feeding bottle.

Such gifts are a violation of the International Code.

The pictures show how Sanlu, imitating foreign brands, aggressively promotes its products to Chinese mothers and turns them away from the age-old tradition of breastfeeding.

Breastmilk is the optimal food for babies from birth up to the age of two years. It has the correct amount of nutrients, it is safe and hygenic, does not require sterilisation or preparation. It is available for free but it is not being promoted. Instead, aggressive marketing of cow’s milk formula has made mothers oblivious to all the benefits of breastfeeding.

The Chinese officialdom has stepped in to address quality of milk. That they must do but they must also pour in resources for activities which promote, protect and support breastfeeding.

P.O. Box 19, 10700 Penang, Malaysia
Fax: +60-4-890 7291 • Email: ibfanpg(AT)tm.net.my
Web: www.ibfan.org

To see the full Recall List of contaminated baby milks, click the link: