Publications cited and further background information

Dr. Derrick Jelliffe – from his orbituary in The Journal of Tropical Paediatrics, 1992:

Dick was indefatigable in the cause of children. In addition to his clinical work and teaching load, he carried out together with his wife Pat more than 20 nutrition surveys in different communities in Africa, the Caribbean and elsewhere. He was the first to identify the promotional practices of the formula industry as a major cause in the decline of breastfeeding during the 1960s and 1970s, and aptly described the result as “commerciogenic malnutrition”.

The Baby Food Tragedy published by New Internationalist in 1973. Click here to view an archive version of the article.

The Baby Killer – by Mike Muller. Published by War on Want in 1974. Click here to download this historical document as a pdf.

The details below provide greater detail about the Baby Killer trial.

The Baby Killer Trial

Nestlé dropped its libel claim against the following statements in the booklet:

  • “that the activity of Nestlé and other companies was unethical and immoral;”
  • “that by its selling practices Nestlé was responsible for the death of or the permanent mental and physical injury to thousands of infants;”
  • “that the baby food sales personnel in developing countries were camouflaged as nurses.”

For a report from The Guardian newspaper from 28 June 1976 about the dropping of these libel claims – click here.

The report notes that Nestlé and other baby food companies formed the International Council of Infant Food Industries (ICIFI) as the trial began.

The Judge’s ruling stated (unofficial translation):

“The fact-finding procedure has shown that the incorrect use of powdered milk can lead to the death or to the serious illness of infants.

“It is considered proved by evidence that the Nestlé company uses health nurses who have an advertising task and who, by their activity, have an advertising effect.

“Hence, the need ensues for the Nestlé company fundamentally to rethink its advertising practices in developing countries as concerns bottle feeding, for its advertising practice up to now can transform a life-saving product into one that is dangerous and life-destroying. If the complainant in future want to be spared accusation of immoral and unethical conduct, he will have to change his advertising practice.”

Nestlé won its libel case against the title of the German translation (translated to mean “Nestlé kills babies”), on the grounds it was not committing malice-aforethought murder. The Judge’s ruling stated:

“What is decisive in this connection is the meaning that an unbiased hearer or reader in the circumstances was to give to the incriminatory utterance. He will give a narrow interpretation to the charge of the killing in the sense of a premeditated act. The charge is formulated categorically, must correspondingly be understood in a narrow sense and does not admit of any attenuation. The incriminatory utterance goes far beyond the moral charge of moral responsibility and unmistakably accuses the Nestlé company of punishable doings.”

Click here to download the unoffical translation of the ruling produced by the Berne Third World Action Group.

When you are ready to go to the next step – click here

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