Nestlé, the maker of Nescafé, is the target of a boycott because it aggressively markets baby foods around the world in breach of international marketing standards, contributing to the unnecessary death and suffering of infants. Baby Milk Action and its partners in the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) monitor what companies are actually doing on the ground.
Nestlé promotes its baby milk around the world with the claim such as it is the ‘natural start’, ‘gentle start’ and ‘protects’ babies. In truth, babies fed on formula are more likely to become sick than breastfed babies and, in conditions of poverty, more likely to die. Nestlé dropped the ‘natural start’ claim in 2015 following pressure from the campaign, but still not the others.
The World Health Organisation says: “Globally, breastfeeding has the potential to prevent about 800,000 deaths among children under five each year if all children 0–23 months were optimally breastfed.” That is 11.6% of all deaths amongst children under five years old could be prevented by breastfeeding.
Expensive baby foods can also increase family poverty. Poverty is a major cause of malnutrition.
Nestlé targets pregnant women, mothers of babies and young children and health workers to promote its products and boost its sales.
Nestlé also puts babies who need to be fed on formula at risk. It refuses to warn on labels that powdered formula is not sterile and may contain harmful bacteria and does not give correct instructions on how to reduce the risks – unless forced to by law (as in the UK, where it markets the SMA brand).
The boycott holds Nestlé to account and forces it to make changes, while also keeping the issue in the public eye (see Nestlé boycott successes). However, Nestlé continues systematic violations in those countries which have not yet brought in independently monitored and enforced legislation implementing the marketing requirements, which is another part of our strategy for protecting infant health and mothers’ rights.
The boycott will continue until Nestlé accepts and complies with Baby Milk Action’s four-point plan for saving infant lives and ultimately ending the boycott.
As the largest company, Nestlé sets trends others follow. It also takes the lead in undermining regulations implementing the marketing standards. It is now rivalled by Danone, the second biggest company, as a source of violations. Danone is targeted with the DanoNO campaign.