Media coverage: Irish Examiner 28 August 2014.
Update 31 August: People concerned about Nestlé promoting its SMA formula brand through the pregnancy and baby show in Dublin produced leaflets with the support of Baby Milk Action to offer to those arriving.
Nestlé’s website for the event shows the scale of its SMA branded stand, with the slogan ‘Come on board’. It claims, ‘Over 115,000 mums have visited our show.’ (click on images for larger versions).
Nestlé has cancelled an SMA Study Day in Darlington scheduled for 4 September after health workers raised concerns about conflicts of interest. This is great news and shows that while the government is failing to implement World Health Assembly (WHA) Resolutions on conflicts of interest, health workers are starting to put their own house in order.
Nestlé is not able to target health workers in most health facilities as they prohibit company representatives from targeting staff. Under UNICEF Baby Friendly guidance, company reps. should be restricted to providing information on products to a designated expert who can assess it for accuracy and only communicate what is required. Time and again, information has been found to be misleading.
To bypass these restrictions, Nestlé attempts to entice health workers to hotels (in the case of the cancelled event, the Blackwell Grange Hotel) with guest speakers and the offer of refreshments and a buffet. WHA Resolution 58.32 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’.
Although Nestlé billed the event as a ‘paediatric study evening’, there was also to be an SMA product stand. As Baby Milk Action revealed in June, top of the list of the major responsibilities of Nestlé Nutrition representatives is to: ‘Stimulate retail sales through the promotion of infant formulas and cereals to gain Healthcare Professionals recommendations’.
This event was cancelled after a guest speaker withdrew. An event will be organised for health workers on a similar topic by the Trust without company sponsorship.
Baby Milk Action has produced a range of ‘Say NO to formula company sponsorship‘ resources to encourage a debate about conflicts of interest. These include fridge magnets, key rings and stickers.
Nestlé has further events scheduled. Baby Milk Action is organising protests outside the next Nestlé events, taking place on 23 September 2014 in Cardiff and 29 September in Worthing.
Just a few people outside the event can draw the attention of participants to the conflicts of interest in accepting formula-company sponsorship and offer them leaflets (left, outside the prestigious Grand Connaught Rooms, London, on 15 July 2014). For reports on some recent protests see:
In 2012, we ran a successful campaign to stop the SMA Baby Know How road show touring shopping centres in the UK to launch new ready-to-feed formula packaging.
The road show had already been launched in Ireland, with a bus that tours the country.
This weekend, Nestlé is taking things to another level by holding the SMA Baby Know How Pregnancy and Baby Fair, promoting its formula brand through direct contact with pregnant women and mothers of infants and young children. This is specifically prohibited by Article 5.5 of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.
Baby Milk Action can provide resources to anyone interested in organising a protest outside the event. Just contact us.
These events not only break marketing rules, they cost money which is put on to the price of formula. If Nestlé followed the marketing rules, formula could be cheaper and breastfeeding would not be undermined.
Nestlé, the world’s largest baby food company, is locked in competition with Danone, the second largest baby food company. With Nestlé entering the UK market with its takeover of the SMA brand in 2012 we are seeing the aggressive practices used around the world being used in the UK.
Note: A feature film exploring the work of an infant formula company salesman will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on 8 September 2014. It is also in competition at the San Sebastian International Film Festival, Spain. For further details, see our special page on the drama Tigers.