Baby Milk Action press release 12 January 2015

Nestle-Free ZoneFiona Kendrick, Chair and CEO of Nestlé (UK and Ireland), has been awarded a damehood in the New Year Honours for ‘services to obesity’, in the words of Private Eye magazine, which highlights its marketing of junk foods and lobbying against policies to reduce obesity.

The real citation is for ‘services to the food and drinks industry’, which is just as telling, as Nestlé puts its own interests before health. When Baby Milk Action’s Policy Director, Patti Rundall, received an OBE in the New Years Honours for 2000, it was for ‘services to infant nutrition’. 

Mike Brady, Campaigns Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, commented:

‘The work of Patti Rundall at Baby Milk Action was recognised for “services to infant nutrition”, while the Chair and CEO of Nestlé is recognised for “services to industry”. That says it all.’

Nestlé is the target of a boycott because its puts its own profits before health as it aggressively markets baby milk around the world. Babies fed on formula are more likely to become sick than breastfed babies and, in conditions of poverty, more likely to die. Nestlé’s aggressive marketing practices reached the UK in 2012 when it completed its takeover of the SMA brand. Standards have fallen since Nestlé’s entry into the market. It has recruited a network of nutrition representatives who attempt to entice health workers to events at hotels and other venues to promote formula to them – sales staff are prohibited from targeting staff my many hospitals. Some events have been cancelled following protests.

Nestlé is facing another Public Relations disaster as Tesco is currently withdrawing a point-of-sale promotion for its SMA infant formula from stores across the UK. The promotion breaks the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations (2007) and members of the public immediately began contacting Baby Milk Action with photos of the prominent shelf-talkers. Tesco told Baby Milk Action in a statement on 11 January 2015:

‘We completely understand your concerns. This came to our attention on Thursday afternoon and we took immediate steps to remove the material from stores. This removal process will be completed as soon as possible.’

Tesco has pointedly failed to respond to questions about who was responsible for the promotion and the involvement of Nestlé.

Last year the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld Baby Milk Action’s complaints about a promotional email for Nestlé’s SMA Toddler Milk sent to members of the ASDA Baby and Toddler Club (ASA ruling A14-263404). Nestlé was unable to substantiate claims that implied babies are at risk if not fed on these expensive and unnecessary products. A petition campaign is calling on ASDA and Nestlé to own up to the customers they misled with a follow-up email, but this has so far met with refusal. Nestlé was subsequently investigated by the ASA for continuing to use the misleading claims on its product website and had to remove them.

Baby Milk Action calls on Nestlé’s new Dame to stop flouting national and international marketing requirements for baby foods. The mass media advertising, baby clubs, sponsorship of health workers and other activities undermine breastfeeding, mislead parents and are paid for by those who buy formula. Formula could be much cheaper for parents who use it if companies stopped breaking the rules.

Private Eye cites other concerns, ‘While Nestlé’s Aeros, Lion Bars and Golden Nugget cereal help us get fat, Kendrick is president of the Food and Drink Federation which successfully lobbies the government to do next to nothing about it.’


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