The cry of a newborn baby fills the room in a rural African clinic. The baby is
cleaned and handed to its mother. Soon, she's given a bottle of infant formula by the nurse. The
mother is happy, knowing that she's getting medical attention and her baby is being fed in the most
modern way. This milk must be better for her baby than breast milk, right? Why else would the nurse
give it to her?
The mother gratefully accepts a free gift of the infant formula and goes back to her village with her
new child. Soon the baby is hungry, so mom takes the formula and mixes it with some water from the
well. The instructions are written in a language that she can't understand, even if
she knew how to read, so she only puts in a little bit. It will last longer that way, anyway.
Soon, the baby has diarrhea, and is becoming sicker and sicker. After a day or two, the formula runs
out, too. The mother knows that she can't afford more, or maybe she just has to wait until someone in
the family goes to town to buy it, so she figures a little breast milk can't hurt. But when she tries
to nurse her baby, there is no milk there! By the time she makes it back to the clinic, her
baby is very sick, or even dead.
What a horrible story! Unfortunately, similar stories have happened thousands, or perhaps millions of
times here in Africa. What happened?
The fact is that no infant formula on the market today can compete with breast milk, which is not only
more nutritious, but also aids in the development of the child's immune system. Water sources in much
of rural Africa, and the world, are contaminated with water borne illnesses. It doesn't bother the
mother, whose immune system is strong and accustomed to the water, but it makes the baby very sick.
When the mother tries to go back to breastfeeding, she finds that her milk has already dried up
because it wasn't being used.
WHO and UNESCO recommend that babies be exclusively breast fed for the first four months and up to 6
months if possible. There are occasional cases in which a mother can't breastfeed and infant formulas
are needed, but they are not common. UNICEF states that in areas with unsafe water, a
bottle-fed baby is 25 times more likely to die from diarrhea than a breastfed one, and it is
estimated that reversing the decline in breastfeeding could save the lives of 1.5 million infants
With all these problems with infant formulas, why on earth would the clinic give it to the mother?
Well, the clinic got lots of free samples by the nice people at Nestlé, who tell them of all
the benefits of infant formulas-they're easier than breastfeeding for the hospital staff AND they let
the mother go back to work sooner. Some health care workers and pharmacists were even given gifts and
money for promoting Nestlé baby foods and infant formulas.
In response to this unethical marketing, the World Health Organization (WHO) enacted
the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. It states that baby milk substitutes
should not be advertised or given away as samples in hospitals and clinics. It also states that in
non-English speaking countries, labels must be in the local language. In India, the government has
legislated that products must display a notice in English and Hindi to the effect that
"breast milk is best."
Unfortunately, companies, like Nestlé, know that breastfeeding means a loss in profit, even
though it means saving lives. Nestlé has been caught several times in
violation of the WHO's code, most recently this year in a four-country research commissioned by the
Interagency Group on Breastfeeding Monitoring (IGBM) called "Cracking the Code." At first
Nestlé denied the report, but in light of more findings, the company has only said, "We
take this report very seriously." In India, Nestlé faces criminal charges and it is
campaigning against legislation to regulate baby food in India, the Philippines, Ghana, Pakistan,
Uganda and Europe.
Looking at this information can make you feel pretty helpless, but there are things you can do. The
simplest thing is actually a conscious act of NOT doing-not buying Nestlé products. By joining
the international boycott against Nestlé and other products owned by them, you hit them where
it hurts most--in their pocketbooks. If they behave unethically in order to make more
money, maybe they'll behave more ethically if they are threatened financially. If they don't, maybe
they'll be forced out of business all together. That is the power that YOU have. Think about it, the
money they earn selling baby formula to poor women as compared to the money they make selling candy,
coffee, and other food items in wealthier countries. It's important, too, that you write to them and
let them know that you are boycotting them, and why.
The next step is spreading the word. Do your parents know about Nestlé? What about your school?
And while you're at it, why not pass out leaflets in front of the local supermarket or arrange a
teach-in for your community? Click here for a list of things you can do in your community: Baby Milk Action.
Below is a sample letter to Nestlé and a list of products that are owned by
the Nestlé Corporation in America. Did you know that Nestlé, which is actually based in
Switzerland, claims to be The World's Largest Food Company? Everyone knows things like Nescafe and
Nestlé crunch bars, but you'll notice on the list below things like Baby Ruth and Butterfinger,
L'Oreal beauty products, and Calistoga Spring water! So don't get mad, get busy!
Peter Brabeck-Letmathe is the CEO of Nestlé. Write and let him know what you think of his
The address is:
You can use the following sample letter as a guide...
Dear Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe,
I am writing to inform you that I will boycott Nescafé until independent evidence shows that
Nestlé complies fully with the letter and the spirit of the WHO/UNICEF International Code of
Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.
I know that promoting baby milk to mothers undermines breastfeeding by hindering the establishment of
the mother's own milk. This puts babies in poor conditions at a greater risk of diarrhea, malnutrition
and death. Even in wealthy countries it denies mothers and babies the best start in life.
I know that you are aware of these risks and have the capacity to inform and refuse misguided health
workers who request free or subsidized supplies of your milk. In 1984, Nestlé promised to abide
by the International Code and to comply with future WHO/UNICEF clarifications on the distribution of
free and subsidized supplies of baby milk. However, when the World Health Assembly provided such
clarification in 1986, stating that such supplies should not go to hospitals and maternity wards, you
chose to renege on your promise.
I also know that your other promotional tactics and misleading information to mothers and health
workers undermine breastfeeding and present your milk as an acceptable alternative, persuading many to
favor bottle feeding.
I will continue to support the Campaign Against Nestlé and to inform others until you end your
You may want to write a shorter version of this and send it to the Nestlé web site, which has a
section calling for comments which you can
Things owned by Nestlé in US/Canada
Confectionery: Laura Secord, Chunky Goobers, Coffee Crisp, Aero, Baci, Quality
Street, Nestlé Beich fundraising chocolate, Kit Kat, Smarties, After Eight, Baby Ruth, Bit O
Honey, Butterfinger, Alpine White Chocolate, Crunch, Raisinats, Black Magic, Turtles, Mirage,
Smarties; Rolo, Life Savers, Milky Bar; Milo Bar, Scorched Almonds, Oddfellows, Mackintosh's Toffees,
Kool mints, Raspberry Twists, Soothers and Vita C, Barley Sugars, Black Knight, Granny's licorice,
Pixie Caramel, Chokito, Chocolate Raisins/Peanuts, Nut Roll, Crunch, Marshmellows, Party Mix,
Pineapple Chunks, Strawberry Hearts and Choc Orange Slices, Nutoata bars, Canterbury Oaty bars.
Dairy products: Ice cream -- Laura Secord, Crunch, Drumstick, Mr Big, Haagen Dazs
ice-cream bars; Yoplait yogurt. Mineral Water: Perrier, Vittel, Poland Spring, Koala.
Processed food: Stouffers, Buitoni, Contadina, Cresse & Blackwell, Maggi, MJBLean
Cuisine, Buitoni pasta and sauces, Nanda pasta, Crosse & Blackwell relishes/pickles.
Cooking products: Nestlé baking cocoa, Nestlé cooking chocolate,
Chocolate Melts, Choc Bits, Milk Melts, Highlander condensed milk, Reduced Cream, Quick Custard Mix.
Cosmetics/Eye Care: L'Oreal, Lancome, Warner, Alcon Wines: Beringer, Chateau
Souverain, Los Hermanos, Napa Ridge.
Pet food: Friskies, Go Cat, Cat Meow, Fancy Feast, Tux, Trusty.
Nestlé has marketing agreements in North America with Nabisco, Walt Disney, Movenpick, Ault
Foods (Sealtest Dairies) and Coca Cola (Nestea).
For more information on infant formulas and more ways you can help support the Nestlé boycott
and educate others, check out these websites:
Baby Milk Action
Nestlé boycott page
Information page on the Nestlé
Infact Campaign for Corporate Accontability
products to boycott
Nestlé Boycott Update
For more information, please contact:
Third World Network
228, Macalister Road
10400 Penang, MALAYSIA
Tel: (+604)2293511,2293612 & 2293713
Fax: (+604)2298106 & 2264505
p.s. - Please e-mail me at ...email@example.com