The Multinational Monitor


G L O B A L   N E W S W A T C H

Nestle Boycott Continues

When the Nestle corporation announced on March 16 that it was adopting a new policy on the marketing of infant formula, it may have thought that it had finally weathered the storm of protests and boycotts that had arisen over the company's aggressive marketing of infant formula. However, the international Nestle boycott is still very much on, and the Nestle policy change is losing credibility.

The Swiss-based Nestle is the world's leading manufacturer of infant formula, which when consumed under improper conditions can cause fatal reactions. The U.N. estimates that over one million babies a year die as a result of improperly using the product.

To put a stop to these deaths, the World Health Organization last May adopted a strict marketing code for breast milk substitutes. This March, Nestle issued what it called "comprehensive policy guidelines" for implementing the World Health Organization's code.

At first, international consumer groups reacted with cautious optimism to Nestle's decision, seeing it as a victory for the campaign to curb Nestle's marketing techniques (see MM, April 1982).

But on May 6, Doug Johnson, national chairperson of the Infant Formula Action Network, and one of the leaders in the Nestle boycott campaign, denounced Nestle's new marketing instructions as "a public relations fraud."

"Nestle continues distribution of free samples, the use of milk nurses, the use of propagandistic material to mothers and health professionals, and the not-so-subtle distribution of gifts to health professionals," Johnson said, pledging to keep the boycott going.

Nestle received a further jolt on May 10 when the director of UNICEF, James Grant, wrote a letter to Rafael Pagan, president of Nestle's Co-ordination Center for Nutrition, based in Washington.

Grant informed Pagan of UNICEF's "serious misgivings on Nestle's interpretation of significant aspects of the Code and on the possible harmful effect of its instructions in the implementation of the true spirit and intent of the Code."

Because of these misgivings, wrote Grant, "I must ask you and your colleagues in Nestle not to use the name of UNICEF nor mine in any way which suggests our endorsement of Nestle's instructions."

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