Companies are very keen to be seen to be addressing inequalities – and what better way to do this than to support food banks, breakfast clubs and other philanthropic ventures – using them to promote their brands of junk foods and formulas. Below is correspondence between Betty Sterken, Director of our IBFAN partner in Canada and Foodbanks Canada.
INFACT’s Reply to Tania Little
Dear Ms. Little,
INFACT Canada is disappointed that you do not acknowledge the potential harm that is inherent in the partnership with Nestlé Canada. We do not doubt that you may be well-intentioned in accepting Nestlé’s funding, but such “gifts” set up a reciprocal relationship and Nestlé has much to gain by linking with Food Banks Canada. Unfortunately Nestlé’s gain is a serious loss for mothers and their children. The partnership with Nestlé and the links to providing free formula feeding products contravenes the very fundamentals that have been adopted by the global community through the World Health Assembly to reestablish breastfeeding practices and reduce the illness and mortality associated with insufficient breastfeeding. These risks associated with not breastfeeding are more acute in low income populations. Firstly, the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent World Health Assembly (WHA) resolutions, designed to protect breastfeeding and parents from being targeted with promotions that push formula feeding, clearly recommend that those working with mothers and children should not create conflicts of interest: Specifically, WHA Resolution 49.15 (2) states,
“The interests of manufacturers may conflict with those of breastfeeding mothers and their children. Sponsorship or other financial assistance from the infant feeding industry may interfere with professionals’ unequivocal support for BFHI (Breastfeeding Friendly Hospital Initiative)and breastfeeding.”
This resolution was subsequently re-affirmed in WHA resolution EB115/7 (4), which requires that,
“…financial support for professionals working in infant and young child health does not create conflicts of interest;”
Nestlé, like any other profit-oriented entity, never gives money away without expecting a return. A donation to Food Banks Canada sets up a reciprocal relationship and in return Nestlé can whitewash its dirty marketing behaviours while having access to mothers and parents with its free formula, bottles and “cereal”. Not only is formula feeding a serious risk to health, normal growth, development and the establishment of a robust immune system, but the price of formula is inflated to cover the costs of all of these ”donations” and free samples. Parents end up paying the cost for infant formula companies to advertise to other parents! Secondly, by partnering with Nestlé as noted above, you have facilitated this formula industry opportunity to directly access new mothers and parents. This too is in violation of the WHO International Code as noted in Article 5.2:
“Manufacturers and distributors should not provide, directly or indirectly, to pregnant women, mothers or members of their families, samples of products within the scope of this Code.”
Thirdly, the Nestlé promotion for selfies with the Food Banks Canada partnership banner and the claim that they help feed 62,500 children has a link to $130.00 mommy perks for free formula, a NUK bottle and the rice “cereal”. All this flies in the face of Health Canada policy and global policy that babies be breastfed, and blatantly violates this fundamental articles of the WHO Code of marketing to protect breastfeeding. It is really shocking that Food Banks Canada is partnering so directly with an industry that markets to sabotage breastfeeding for mothers and babies. The exploitation of such a vulnerable population is especially shocking. INFACT Canada urges you to discontinue this dangerous partnership with Nestlé, a company that flagrantly violates all recommendations to protect breastfeeding here in Canada and globally. I look forward to your response.
Elisabeth Sterken Director INFACT Canada
Tania Little’s Letter to INFACT
Thank you for your email.
Food Banks Canada, as the national organization addressing hunger in Canada has a two-fold mandate: to relieve hunger today and prevent hunger tomorrow. We work towards this goal through activities such as our National Food Sharing Service that acquires and shares essential food throughout the country. Additionally Food Banks Canada works with governments to advocate for effective policy change that will alleviate poverty in Canada.
Nestlé Canada is one of a number of corporate partners who support Food Banks Canada and our work across the country. Our partnership with Nestlé on this program consists of financial support that is invested in national programs supporting food banks to enable them to serve their clients and communities. As per Nestlé’s policy, Food Banks Canada, and its network of food banks in Canada, have never received infant formula products from Nestlé.
Funds raised through donor campaigns give Food Banks Canada the resources needed to implement a variety of programs in local communities including services focused on families and new mothers, providing education and development opportunities. Nestlé has been a long-time supporter of Food Banks Canada through their financial donations and providing Food Banks Canada the opportunity to direct the funds where they are needed most.
We encourage you to contact Nestlé Canada for further information on their product donation policies.
If you should have any further questions please contact:
Marzena Gersho Director of Communications & National Programs Tel: 905-602-5234 x 228 firstname.lastname@example.org
Best regards, Tania
Tania Little, CFRE Director, Development and Partnerships | Food Banks Canada T: 905-602-5234 ext. 250