Thursday, April 30, 2009

Policing the Nestle demonstration in Croydon and cyberspace

The annual demonstraton at Nestle UK HQ will take place in Croydon on Saturday 16 May 2009 from 11:00 to 12:00 (noon). For details and to sign up to let us know that you are coming, go to:

If you can't make it to Croydon, you could organise a local event at a Nestle factory, Body Shop (part-owned by Nestle) or a retail outlet selling Nestle products. See the above link for information, resources and leafleting guidelines.

This year we are also holding a virtual event, which you can sign up to on Facebook at:

The numbers of people signing up on Facebook has put the local police into a bit of a panic! We have been contacted asking to discuss arrangements for crowd control. I've responded pointing out that this is usually a problem with events in cyberspace!

However, just to be sure people are not jetting into Croydon from China, the US, New Zealand and some of the other places 'confirmed' participants live, please complete the online form if you are REALLY intending to come to the REAL event outside the REAL Nestle HQ.

We hope to see as many of you there as possible. This is a family-friendly event. There will be a short theatre piece alongside the leafleting and hopefully we'll be able to post this online soon afterwards for those who attended in spirit.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Nestle's 142nd AGM

Today it's Nestle's 142nd Annual General Meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland.

I bought a Nestle share a few years ago to attend and raise questions, but Nestle wouldn't allow me to register it to have this right, something the stockbroker had never come across before. All the same I was able to attend a couple of years ago, though not to speak.

Some people did raise some issues of importance to shareholders regarding the criticisms Nestle was facing around the world. They were hissed and booed for doing so. Read my report here:

There is a webcast from this year's AGM on the Nestle site. It will be interesting to see if they include any critics who are able to speak.

More on what happened shortly.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

April Fool: the American Academy of Pediatrics is not really cutting its links with formula companies

Did you see the apparent press release from the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) stating that the US body would no longer accept sponsorship from the infant formula industry? Did you notice the date was April 1st - April fools' day?

The fact is that the AAP, which has been criticised in the past for sponsored events and materials, is not cutting its links with the industry. The bogus press release which the hoaxer attributed to the President of the AAP stated: "Further, I would like to apologize for our past mistakes involving the> breastfeeding advertisement campaign and allowing the maker of Similac> infant formula to print its corporate logo on the cover of a special edition> of the academy's book on breastfeeding."

This was a reference to a past controversy, as reported in the Abott Ross entry in Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules 2004, produced by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) International Code Documentation Centre:

---Extract begins
This same strategy [of image transfer] was used for a well-known breastfeeding book published in 2002 by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP); Abbott bought 300,000 copies and added the Rosco bear to the cover. Mothers and doctors who receive a free copy, get a double message. Does it promote breastfeeding or Similac? The chairman of the AAP breastfeeding committee called it “Thievery”. But AAP makes a profit and agreed to sell Abbott another 300,000 copies in 2003. Abbott has continously nurtured close ties with the AAP by giving grants for its awards and donating at least $500,000 towards AAP’s operating budget. The company also contributes to the $1 million renewable grant to the AAP by several formula manufacturers. Little wonder that AAP came to the companies’ aid when they felt a 2003 US government campaign to promote breastfeeding was too hard-hitting on the risks of formula feeding. The campaign has now been watered down.
---extract ends

The hoax press release ended: "Again, I can cannot express enough regret and can assure you that the AAP will immediately seek compliance with the WHO Code and will promote the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative."

The issues of sponsorship and conflicts of interest are addressed by the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly, calling for care over links with commercial enterprises.

The hoax was sent by a doctor to the Lactnet discussion group. AAP's lawyers have called for past postings, from an identified doctor, to be removed after apparently being contacted by members of the public about the change in policy.

So to be clear, the policy has not changed. The AAP has yet to be persuaded to comply with WHA Resolutions on conflicts of interest, including the latest to deal with this WHA 58.32 from 2005, which calls for action to: "ensure that financial support and other incentives for programmes and health professionals working in infant and young-child health do not create conflicts of interest."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Baby care signs

People have been contacting us about promotional materials for the forthcoming European Parliamentary elections taking place in June.

It's one of those cases showing that bottle feeding is so deeply lodged in the culture that it is used to signify babies. One of the postcards states: "How should we help balance family and career?"

Family is symbolised by a feeding bottle.

We raised these concerns with the media. The Observer reported on the controversy last Sunday:

Too often the same approach is used with baby care rooms in pubic places, when it does not take very much imagination to use an alternative symbol.

A straightforward approach is to show a baby. This example includes braille for when it is used on a door, available at:

The Australian Breastfeeding Association is promoting this image along with minimum criteria for baby care rooms:

It is important to remember, of course, that providing a room for mothers to go with their babies is no justification for prohibiting them feeding their child elsewhere, whether bottle feeding or breastfeeding.

The International Breastfeeding Symbol organisation is promoting a logo for breastfeeding-friendly organisations. You can also place it on your site with a link back to:

The International Breastfeeding Symbol

Using a botle in the European Parliament campaign or for baby care rooms is sending a strong message about what is considered to be the norm for infant feeding, whether intentional or not. I'd be surprised if the Australian baby care symbol or even the International Breasfeeding Symbol have the same negative impact as the breastfeeding position is a nurturing position. I'm interested in feedback on this.

Of course, formula companies use similar images to link their products with the idea of breastfeeding. As with the SMA logo, subvertised in this short clip I put together:

Wyeth introduced this logo for its SMA formula after being required to remove its 'closer to breastmilk claim' from labels. However, enforcement authorities have taken no action on the grounds that the breastfeeding logo could just be a letter 'M'. My response is, if Wyeth wanted it to be a letter 'M' it would have used a letter 'M'.

Nestle uses a similar approach on its Bear Brand products - I highly irresponsible marketing approach as these are unsuitable for infant feeding. The example below is from coffee creamer:

After the impact of this logo in promoting misuse of the product as a breastmilk substitute was highlighted in research in the British Medical Journal Nestle eventually agreed to change it:

Which just goes to show the impact of images and why those behind the European Parliament campaign should re-think.

For more on the use of images to convey meaning and the feeding bottle in particular, see this blog from Morgan Gallagher:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Action to protect infant health - events coming up in May

Here is a round up of news and coming action, covering:

* Our new UK monitoring report: Hard Sell Formula 2009.

* Gather signatures for the ONE MILLION CAMPAIGN ready for the World Health Assembly in May 2009.

* Demonstration at Nestle (UK) HQ, Croydon, 16 May 2009.

Our new UK monitoring report: Hard Sell Formula 2009.

Thank you to everyone in the UK who has provided monitoring evidence to the project we run on behalf of the Baby Feeding Law Group. This evidence goes into reports sent to the UK enforcement authorities and the government panel reviewing the law. Past reports have profiled the main companies. The March 2009 follows an alternative approach, giving an overview of marketing strategies.

The strategies covered are:
  • START before they are born...
  • PUSH in supermarkets...
  • IDEALISE products...
  • OFFER gifts...
  • CO-OPT health workers...
The report can be downloaded free of charge. Printed copies can be purchased, which helps to fund the project. See:

Gather signatures for the ONE MILLION CAMPAIGN ready for the World Health Assembly in May 2009.

The World Health Assembly in May will be examining various health issues and members from the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) from several countries will attend to inform policy makers about the latest concerns regarding infant feeding. The practices exposed in our monitoring report and those of other groups around the world show the need for action to strengthen and enforce marketing standards.

To help gain policy makers' attention, people are signing a petition calling for action to protect breastfeeding. If you haven't signed already, you can do so at:

If you have a blog or website, why not add the logo shown on this blog?

For other ways to promote the campaign see the Facebook group at:

Demonstration at Nestle (UK) HQ, Croydon, 16 May 2009.

The annual demonstration at Nestle (UK) HQ will take place from 11:00 - 12:00 on Saturday 16 May 2009.

If you can't make it to Croydon, why not hold a demonstration at another site linked to Nestle, such as a factory, a Body Shop outlet (part-owned by Nestle) or shops selling Nestle goods?

You can find information and resources at:

Also see the boycott section of our online Virtual Shop for useful materials:

You can also support the online virtual demonstration, by signing up on Facebook at:

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The right to food book reviews

The book Global Obligations for the Right to Food has been reviewed in a couple of current publications. The International Lactation Consultant Association features it in its March 2009 review.

The Food Magazine, which examines the practices of the food industry and the action needed to protect and improve its impact on public health, carries a review in January/March 2009 issue (no. 84) available on its website:

My chapter on holding corporations to account is one amongst ten, edited by Professor George Kent. The Food Magazine review states: "Kent’s book is a valuable start into this world of politics, money and power. It pleads for greater institutional (national and UN-based) involvement in ensuring that the principles established in the right to food and the other charters and conventions that lay down human rights are put into practice in national law and international agreements."

You can find more at:

You can order the book at: