The Multinational Monitor


G L O B A L   S I G H T I N G S

Companies Reject Code

Nestle Boycott Continues

Multinational infant food companies have announced their intention to defy recommendations proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF to regulate the promotion of infant formula in the Third World. Since the conclusion of a major conference last October where corporate executives, public interest groups and U.N. officials collaborated on a set of proposals to serve as the basis for a code of conduct, industry officials have been denouncing the recommendations.

"The code is wholly irresponsible," says Barry Ricketts, an official with the British firm Cow and Gates. If implemented by companies, he claims, the proposals "would certainly kill hundreds and hundreds of babies."

Rickett's comments reinforce statements delivered by executives from three U.S. multinationals and Swiss-based Nestle at Congressional hearings held in Washington earlier this year. Company representatives uniformly opposed strict interpretation of recommendations that would ban "direct promotion, including promotional advertising." According to industry officials, their Third World publicity campaigns are of an "educational" rather than promotional nature. Prohibiting such marketing techniques would reduce the amount of information available to consumers, they claim. Public interest activists, scientists, and those U.N. officials charged with drawing up the non-binding code, disagree.

Nestle officials insist the guidelines will not force changes in their promotional programs. Arthur Furer, managing director of the giant multinational, has claimed the company "does not feel restricted in any way" by the WHO recommendations.

The continued unwillingness of the companies to introduce major changes in their marketing practices has led the Infant Formula Action Coalition (INFACT) to call for an intensification of the two-year-old Nestle boycott. Commenting on the selection of the Nestle-owned Stouffer Hotel and Restaurant chain and Rusty Scupper restaurants as the prime targets for the boycott over the next few years, Douglas Johnson, national director of INFACT, said, "It is crucial that we increase the public pressure on Nestle to modify its practices, and the Stouffer campaign represents a way of making a clear-cut economic impact on the company."

His comments came at the end of INFACT's three-day national conference held in Washington in March.

- Andrew Chetlee in London

Table of Contents