Press release 22 September 2015
Update 25 February 2016: Research shows the messages people take from the Brazilian “your child is what you eat” campaign
An advertising campaign criticised by health experts around the world for undermining breastfeeding was launched in Brazil by the Nestlé-sponsored Paediatric Society of Rio Grande do Sul (SPRS) at a press conference on Monday 21 September. The “shocking ads” first came to light in a Daily Mail article last week. They relate to nutrition during the first 1000 days from conception and imply a mother will endanger her baby if she eats a hamburger or donut. Baby Milk Action drew attention to Nestlé sponsorship of SPRS and misleading infant formula advertising in its journal.
Although it has still not answered questions put by Baby Milk Action, SPRS has issued a statement saying there was no pharmaceutical or food industry involvement in its campaign. References to Nestlé sponsorship and advertising have been removed from the SPRS website, as it distances itself from Nestlé, which is widely criticised for undermining breastfeeding.
The archived file of the above page about an SPRS event shows that prior to the controversy over the advertising campaign, there was an extra sentence saying “The event was organised by the Paediatric Society of Rio Grande do Sul with the support of Nestlé – Nutrition” (“O evento foi promovido pela Sociedade de Pediatria do Rio Grande do Sul com apoio da Nestlé – Nutrition.”).
Nestlé’s infant formula advertisement has also gone from the pdf file of the latest SPRS journal (June 2015) after the misleading nature of the advertisement was highlighted by Baby Milk Action. The advertisement appeared on the back cover of the journal and claimed that Nestlé’s infant formula is “THE BEST FOUNDATION FOR A HEALTHIER FUTURE” (“A MELHOR BASE PARA UM FUTURO MAIS SAUDÁVEL”).
The pdf file now on the SPRS site has 11 pages instead of the original 12.
Nestlé sponsorship of the Rio Grande do Sul Paediatric Conference continues to be highlighted on the website for that event.
SPRS has issued a statement in Portuguese about its first 1000 days advertising campaign saying, “there was no involvement of the pharmaceutical or food industry in the campaign”.
Baby Milk Action said:
“We cannot know what influence Nestlé sponsorship gives it over an organisation. However, the approach in this criticised campaign fits well with Nestlé’s hijacking of the 1000 days initiative, making breastfeeding appear complicated and potentially dangerous. We asked the agency to conduct focus group testing and to take advice from health experts independent of Nestlé before launching this campaign, but we see the campaign has gone ahead regardless.
“It is welcome if the removal of Nestlé’s misleading formula advertising from the paediatric journal will be a permanent change. If it is now too embarrassing to mention that Nestlé sponsored an event, let’s hope it will not be allowed to sponsor events in future.”
Nestlé showed in a presentation to investors that its use of the 1000 days initiative is to promote “product solutions”. See:
The theme of the campaign is “Your child is what you eat” and implies that eating a hamburger, donut or surgery drink will be harmful if a mother is breastfeeding.
The creator of the SPRS campaign, who said it was pro bono work done before he left the PAIM advertising agency, defended it in posts on the Baby Milk Action website, but other posters directed him to expert information that showed the food a mother eats is not passed directly into her breastmilk. A mother produces optimum nourishment for her child, using her body’s stores of other nutrients if necessary, and experts fear that babies will have their health undermined if the campaign drives some mothers to use formula. See:
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Formula companies just don’t give up
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