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Saturday
Oct032009

Follow-up questions for Nestle

Last week a group of mom and dad bloggers were invited on an all-expenses paid trip to Nestle (see background info here if you are new to this issue). Some of the bloggers took some questions and concerns of their own, of mine, of our community and raised them with Nestle. While some of them may have genuinely felt that Nestle listening and while some of them may have been satisfied with the answers given, many of us maintain that the responses from Nestle are typical corporate doublespeak .

As one of the main instigators of the protest against this event, Nestle indicated willingness to speak to me on the phone. In the interest of transparency (on both sides) and to eliminate any risk of "he said, she said" confusion, I decided that I would prefer to send my questions to Nestle in writing. Nestle indicated that questions could be sent via email to nestlefamilyinfo@casupport.com.

Here are my questions, which I am also submitting via e-mail. I will post the responses on my blog when/if I receive them.

Questions for Nestle


1. When meeting with bloggers, you characterized your 1-800-4Gerber line as a breastfeeding support line. Is that number just for breastfeeding support? If not, what is the scope of that phone line? ANSWER HERE

2. What are the qualifications of the staff that work on your 1-800-4Gerber help line? What percentage of them are International Board Certified Lactation Consultants? ANSWER HERE

3. Do you have any statistics on your 1-800-4Gerber help line? (e.g. how many calls? nature of questions asked? recommendations given?) ANSWER HERE

4. You say that you comply with the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes in all countries that have adopted the code. Canada is a signatory to the Code and the Canadian government actively encourages companies to comply with it. However, despite Canada being a signatory to the Code, you do not comply with the code in Canada.  When you say "adopted" is it fair to assume then that you mean "legislated" and that you will not comply with a developed country's will unless it puts regulations in place to force you to? ANSWER HERE

5. You mention that "The WHO Code will only truly succeed if governments enforce it and monitor its compliance". When a country is considering changing its legislation to include provisions contained in the WHO Code does Nestle lobby against those changes through formal or informal consultation processes? ANSWER HERE

6. You say that you do not market formula in developing countries. and you also say that you have unilaterally applied the WHO Code in all developing countries and regions.  Please:

7. Does any Nestle formula packaging in any nation make claims that the formula offers protection or protects the baby against diarrhea or any other ailment? ANSWER HERE

8. You maintain that "Nestle does not provide mothers in the developing world with free samples of your infant formula products - in fact Nestle has no contact at all with mothers with regards to these". Are samples provided to doctors? Is information about the "benefits" of your formula provided to doctors or other health professionals? ANSWER HERE


9. You indicate that you have regular audits on a worldwide basis of your marketing practices relating to infant formula. Do you have any public audit reports and/or statistics that you can share? How do your internal reports compare, for example, with the reports of IBFAN? ANSWER HERE

10. Your Nestle Instructions for Implementation of the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes includes a Complaint Form in Annex 3. How many complaint forms are received annually? Do you have any statistics or reports on the nature and geographic location of the violations reported? ANSWER HERE

11. You indicate that "Nestle complementary foods are not marketed or presented as breast-milk substitutes" and that you support the May 2001 WHA Resolution that changed the recommended duration of exclusive breastfeeding from 4-6 months to 6 months. Given your support in this regard does this mean that you do not market any food/drink products at all for the use by infants under 6 months of age in any country and that none of your labels for cereal or baby food indicates that it can be used starting at 4 months? ANSWER HERE

12. In discussions with the bloggers, your CEO mentioned that children died in the 1970s as a result of the misuse (wrong quantity, mixed with dirty water) of formula samples. Do you believe that deaths from the misuse of formula samples ended in the 1970s? ANSWER HERE

13. Why did your CEO tell bloggers at the Nestle Family event that the boycott ended in 1986? The boycott in fact ended in 1984, but was reinstated in 1988 because Nestle did not live up to the promises it made. The boycott is is still active today. Please explain why you would attempt to mislead the bloggers about the status of the boycott. ANSWER HERE

14. What concrete steps (not pledges signed, groups joined, but action) is Nestle taking to ensure its cocoa is from sources that do not use underage, indentured, trafficked or coerced labor? ANSWER HERE

15. Could Nestle currently put a Fair Trade or even a 100% Slave-Free label on its chocolate? ANSWER HERE

16. You told the bloggers that Stouffer's meals contain no preservatives and they tweeted about it. I assume they misheard you, since most of the Stouffer's meals seem to have a sodium content of between 25% and 40% of the daily recommended allowance for an adult in one serving. If my 2.5 year old were to have one serving of your Family Vegetable Lasagna, she would be getting 100% of her recommended daily sodium intake from that one piece of lasagna. Salt/sodium is a well-known preservative. Please explain (a) why  you would characterize Stouffer's as preservative free and (b) why you feel it is appropriate to market foods with dangerously high sodium levels to families. ANSWER HERE.

17. Moving forward, what steps do you plan to take to use social media and engagement with bloggers to get input into corporate policies and practices? Or are you looking to social media simply as a cost effective marketing tool? ANSWER HERE

Please note that there are many other questions that I would ask, if they hadn't already been asked and answered. This doesn't mean I am satisfied with the answers that have been given. It just means that I don't feel the need to have the same lines quoted back to me that I have already seen. Instead, I am trying to get answers to some questions that I haven't seen the company address explicitly before (doesn't mean that it hasn't, just that I haven't seen the answers).

As I mentioned above, I will post the answers to these questions on this blog when I receive them.
1. What are the qualifications of the staff

that work on your breastfeeding help line?

What percentage of them are International

Board Certified Lactation Consultants?

2. Do you have any statistics on your

breastfeeding help line? (e.g. how many

calls? nature of questions asked?

recommendations given?)

3. When you say that you comply with the

International Code of Marketing of

Breast-Milk Substitutes in all countries

that have adopted the code, how do you

defined adopted? For example, Canada is a

signatory to the Code, but has not made it

law. Instead, they encourage companies to

comply with it. However, despite Canada

being a signatory, you do not comply with

the code in Canada.

4. You say that you do not market formula in

developing countries. Please:

(a) Provide a list of developing countries

where you do sell (but do not market) infant

formula
(b) Provide a definition of "marketing".

Does your definition of "marketing" align

with the definition in the International

Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk

Substitutes. If not, why not?
(c) Do you market any other food/drink

products in developing countries for use by

infants under 6 months of age?
« Nada como mamá, nada como mamar (Nothing like mom, nothing like breastfeeding) | Main | BlogHer Listens and Acts - Check out my WHO International Code Compliant Ads »

Reader Comments (68)

THE biggest food corporation in the world left comments on blogs in regards to the aftermath of Nestle Family. They also asked you to call them.

I think that they did kind-of listen. For that, I am really proud. Of them and of us who were there. No one can deny us that.

You started the questions. We asked. I think we all made a little difference, no?

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterOHmommy

I am just hearing about this story and have been trying to follow it from a non biased point of view...which is hard most of the time.

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFrenchell

@OHmommy:

I do appreciate that you asked questions. But unfortunately, unless information was miscommunicated, there are at least a few instances of them having fed you lies or half truths.

I think if nothing else this did raise awareness about Nestle's unethical business practices. There were a lot of people attending the event and in the general public that were not aware before and are aware now. I think that is a good thing.

If this whole scenario also results in Nestle changing some of its practices, then fabulous. I'm waiting.

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

They're good questions. I asked a similar question to 4 on Twitter (something like "Do you have reasons for not adopting the Code in countries in which it is not law, and what are they?") because I saw a doubletalk answer to a more casually phrased question that allowed the VP to get away with saying "Why don't you think we comply with WHO?" That's the kind of "gotcha" question that needs to be asked, in a very precise way, of Nestle and it's in order to ask those questions that I think staying in communication with Nestle is valuable. It's why I think just refusing to speak to them or attend their event was the wrong call if you are passionate about the issue. And I think you agree to some degree, since you have accepted their offer to communicate with you. (My Twitter question was never answered. It's too direct to evade or answer. Your #4 is too, so I hope they answer you. And I kind of hope they don't, because that's an answer too.)

Your intro, though, in which you say "While they may have genuinely felt that Nestle listening and while they may have been satisfied with the answers given, many of us maintain that the responses from Nestle are typical corporate doublespeak." is decidely unfair to someone like Greg from Telling Dad. He never claimed to be satisfied with the answers (at least not on your previous Nestle post), just that he was relating what they were. You paint the bloggers with a pretty broad brush with this statement, and I hope that the meaning conveyed by the choice of phrasing is not deliberate, that instead you do actually mean to be agnostic ("while they MAY be satisfied with the answers, though I have no idea whether they are or not", or "while these particular bloggers (x, y, and z) may be satisfied with the answers...") instead of the way it naturally reads, which is as an indictment of the bloggers (all of them) for accepting at face value the answers they were given, though in at least one case I know that the answers were NOT accepted at face value at all. I can't speak for the others.

This is not just nit-picking. I think Greg did a wonderful, open-minded, genuine thing and I respect the hell out of the fact that he kept coming back to this blog, updating people as to the progress of the event, taking questions to pass along, being open to having information about Nestle's actions provided to him in order to educate him because he was open to being educated, and even taking more than his share of condescension directly or indirectly from people on the previous thread about things as irrelevant as his sense of humour. He was a better ally than he was made to feel, and I think your intro does further harm to his image. I would definitely consider rephrasing it so it reflects precisely what you are justified in saying, about whom you are justified in saying it.

(/lecture)

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBackpacking Dad

@Backpacking Dad:

I edited the post (in red) to (hopefully) better reflect what I meant. Some of the bloggers did specifically state that they were satisfied with the answers. Doesn't mean that all of them did.

With regards to your question, they http://www.babymilk.nestle.com/Site/FAQ/HomeFaqTemplateFile.aspx?NRMODE=Published&NRNODEGUID={26BC25AE-195B-4CD4-A995-E5A3E3F64314}&NRORIGINALURL=%2fFAQ%2f&NRCACHEHINT=Guest#question9" rel="nofollow">partially answer it here and also added http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/09/29/an-open-letter-to-the-attendees-of-the-nestle-family-blogger-event/#comment-18217" rel="nofollow">via Greg's comment that "In those countries where the WHO code was not adopted, they follow it broadly, but do not limit their desire to trade (thus the reason you do see samples and ads here in the US)."

Mine is more specific with regards to the word "adopted". In my world, if a country is a signatory, they have adopted the code. However, in Nestle's world I guess "adopted" only means legislated. I'm trying to confirm that with Question 4 though.

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Israel is a signatory and Ted Greiner just pointed out on a post of mine that that doesn't mean they are obligated to do anything. It's like a suggestion. The Health Ministry issues guidelines but they are widely ignored. For a while there seemed to be progress but the code violations here have been getting more blatant lately.
http://www.greenprophet.com/2008/12/22/5368/baby-formula-hospital/

October 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHannah

And I just want to add that it's pathetically naive to justify attending by claiming you will be better able to influence this conglomerate. Look how much attention Annie and her views have received and she did not even get invited (I think).

October 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHannah

Bravo. For those of you who want to catch up on all the blog posts related to the #nestlefamily twitter firestorm, see http://bit.ly/LAh38. Will be updated with additional posts, especially if they represent a new angle or approach to the dialogue.

October 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBettina

Excellent questions.

Yeah the Nestle execs are rich. So what. That doesn't make them Nobel Peace Prize winners that we should treat presidentially. Actually at the end of the day they are salespeople. If they want our money, then they OWE us adequate answers. I think some people are so star-struck and blinded by giddiness that someone (kinda-sorta) quasi-famous paid attention to them (sorta) that they just cannot see the bigger picture. Or maybe just really, really, really don't want to.

October 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commenter@Artemnesia

I think many folks feel the whole "formula kills" message is overwrought, emotional and blown out of proportion.

A friend of mine, born in India in the late 70s, had a sister who died from formula use. It happens folks. Yes, it does. Inappropriate education and marketing in developing countries is a serious issue. Furthermore, my friend's parents are highly educated professionals, both with advanced degrees.

Sadly, all of this Nestle chatter is just one example of how big corporations take advantage of of their positions in developing countries. Don't even get me started on the likes of Dove.

October 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercagey

Exactly.

It also seems disturbingly like people would rather ignore dying babies than "feel guilty" about their formula use. (Especially since no one is bashing women's choice to use formula, instead decrying the coersion of women in 3rd world countries.)

October 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLeah

I assume the "pathetically naive" comment was directed at my insistence that it's valuable to stay in communication with Nestle and that being reason enough to attend the event in order to ask the right kinds of questions.

However, I don't say anything about influencing the conglomerate. The point isn't to influence them. This set of questions, I assume (since Annie is fairly cynical about Nestle's tactics at this point) isn't delivered in order to influence them.

October 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBackpacking Dad

BPDad--Not only you--there were similar remarks from others who attended. But I regret my strong language.

October 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHannah

Excellent questions, Annie, and thank you for not being intimidate by the Twitter backlash. Seeing all of the tweets from this even made my sad, considering the naivete demonstrated. For instance, seeing tweets that whined, "But Nestle SAYS they are compliant, so they must be compliant. Please quit picking on Nestle." Snort. They don't need our defense and protection, they are doing just fine, thank you very much. The ONLY way to fight companies like this is at the level of the consumer, and that's what you're doing, and I admire you very much for it.

October 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSandy

Excellent questions, Annie--and thank you for compiling the questions from many of us, as well.

One suggestion, however. I think a taped phone interview might be the way to go. No matter how well you write the questions, there will be room for evasive answers. The value of having you ask them lies in part in your ability to notice the double-speak and ask follow-ups.

Another possibility would be a text chat, like Google Chat, that would record the answers but still give you and the Nestle Representative time to check facts, consider their next words, drop in links, etc.

I completely understand if this is not feasible for you, but in terms of really focusing in on the issues and either getting real answers or pointing out the evasiveness of the answers, I think you need the ability to do immediate follow up.

October 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCandace

I just wanted to say thank you. I've been following along here and on twitter, and I've learned so much. I'm currently 17 weeks pregnant with my first child, and planning to nurse. My mom practiced extended nursing with all of us, and it just seems normal to me. Thanks to you and other bloggers, I've learned even more about formula companies, and while I think that it's important to have formula as an option for women who cannot or do not want to nurse, Nestle's policies are really disappointing. I've decided to join the Nestle boycott, so thank you again.

October 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAbbie

Candace: Yes, thank you for the ideas. Some were already on my list and others were not! :)

October 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

@BackpackingDad - Thank you for the kind words in your comment and for seeing what my intentions were in my comments on the other thread. That was the most frustrating aspect and the reason I bowed out of further communication there. Everything I said had backlash and the hits keep coming.

@phdinparenting - I've been called ignorant, I've been told I don't care about racism, and I've received a wide mix of other insinuations via email, twitter, and comments...all stemming from the other post. :( I felt the verbal attacks were unnecessary and unwarranted but the more I tried to defend myself, the worse it got.

Annie, I have been reading your information, reading other links, and staying abreast of the progress. My lack of comments isn't from a standpoint of not caring anymore, it's simply because I don't feel like being badgered any more. It's not my scene and I sincerely thought I was helping. Instead, because I was among the very few (if not the only) who actually came here to interact with you, I was the one with the target on his back.

Anyhow, I really like your questions above but I need to clarify a few things as some of the questions probably stemmed from my replies. First, she may very well have said 1984 and not 1986. I was scribbling and scrambling to write things down as questions were answered. As well, I'm not sure I said it was the CEO who said the boycott had ended at that time. I think that was the nutrition head who said that. Perhaps he did as well, but again, it was a flurry.

Regardless, I think the questions are excellent and I'll be interested in the replies. Until then, I'll be watching from the sidelines, so to speak, but I'm no longer motivated to engage in conversation on the issue. I felt I was unfairly targeted by a lot of people and I'm stunned that I still take shots today.

Perhaps I should have just stayed out of it and ignored it from the beginning but I felt more good could come from dialog than from silence. Unfortunately, I misread that. I do hope you get answers and I'll peek in every now and then to see if you received them. I can also send your questions to the person I was in contact with if that is okay with you.

October 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGreg - Telling Dad

Great questions. Two comments :
Question 6 : the quote is "formula USE", not "formula"... I think Nestlé chooses words and wording carefully, if disingenuinely, so that what is heard may be "formula product" but what the corporate reply focuses on gets them off the legal hook. I suggest you probe further into the quotation to ask a "ok, not use, but the formula itself?" kind of question.
LIkewise, in requesting a list of countries selling formula, how about breaking it down into two lists :
- the general list of countries sold to
- the list of countries where no formula marketing is supposedly undertaken by Nestlé
- Nestlé's list of which countries adhere to the Code, which don't

Question 17 :
I'd forget the second half of the question, too likely (in my opinion, obviously!) to provoke a condescending predictable response and maybe use a question about how their marketing department is planning on measuring the effectiveness of the operation in ROI terms...and comparative publicity costs etc.
Or simply ask them what their objectives are in launching a presence via social media and in what ways does the experience so far with Twitter fulfil/disappoint their objectives

In general, I think the "email us @..." is one way of taking the heat off the Twitter zone - and preventing potential new followers from discovering the stories behind their bad reputation. Could you capture the essence of each question in a Tweet ? distributed one per day/half-day? You'd certainly get loads of RT. What does anyone else think? I'm sure they will have been spending more than half an eye over the weekend looking at new tweets and will have been planning the week to come. You've done so much work so far. Let's not let them have the last word... although i've just read some of your dialogue and it looks like you could do with a break!

Well done :-)

October 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commenter@japraker

Greg - I don't know if you will read this, but I thought it was incredibly cool of you to keep in contact and keep us updated on what was going on and what answers you were receiving. I am currently trying to educate myself on the issue as well and have only really hit the tip of the iceberg, so that kind of dialog really helped me get a better grasp on the issue - in as far as what's being said by Nestle, not necessarily believing it all.
So, thank you for that. I can't speak for everyone, but I certainly appreciate it.

October 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErin W.

Thank you Erin and I do read the comments as I still visit the site to get resources. This thread is far more productive and encouraging. The first one painted me as a target and I felt more like prey. :)

This isn't an issue that can be solved over a 2-day conference on candy, snacks, and mini-meals. But, I just feel that some of the more overzealous commenters scared away people who may have otherwise engaged Annie for a conversation. They see me getting bombarded when I wasn't even forming opinions and I'm sure they feared backlash if they did the same.

Anyhow, I appreciate the words, and like you, there is a TON to read. Those who have been involved in this for years need to understand that some of us don't have that benefit. It's still only days old for me and I've been out of town all week, only to return tomorrow. Finally!

October 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGreg - Telling Dad

Thank you for asking these questions. I'm far too cynical about it. I'm pretty sure they won't answer, or if they do it will be nothing more than lies and double speak. They're probably too mad that they can't pay you off with a few steaks and a pat on the head.

October 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSummer

[...] do anything.  You talk, you make statements, you spin.  But you don’t debate.  You don’t answer questions.  You don’t change your unethical marketing practices.  You don’t buy fair trade [...]

October 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterApparently I’m not just

October 6, 2009

Dear Annie,

Thank you for questions. We’ve shared them with various experts throughout the company. So if there is a perceived delay, it is only because we are trying to ensure that the right people provide the best possible information. Thank you for your patience. In order to share information with you and your readers as quickly as possible, we thought we’d provide the responses as we receive them. The responses below are in regards to your questions about cocoa farming and about Stouffer's. The response to the Stouffer’s question is provided by Roz O’Hearn who works with that brand.

Sincerely,
Edie Burge

What concrete steps (not pledges signed, groups joined, but action) is Nestle taking to ensure its cocoa is from sources that do not use underage, indentured, trafficked or coerced labor? Could Nestle currently put a Fair Trade or even a 100% Slave-Free label on its chocolate?

Nestle, in partnership with the chocolate industry as a whole, has been working to address labor issues on cocoa farms for several years and is committed to finding lasting solutions. While Nestle does not own cocoa farms anywhere in the world, we believe cocoa should be grown responsibly. That is why Nestle has actively participated in the chocolate industry's efforts to address the issue through steps outlined in the Harkin-Engel Protocol, and is a founding participant of the International Cocoa Initiative and a member of the World Cocoa Foundation. To your point about action, these efforts are action-based, and go well beyond the signing of a pledge. These partnerships are supporting sustainable cocoa farming efforts – and achieving results that have made an increasing, positive impact on farm families in the world's cocoa regions. For example, check out http://www.cocoainitiative.org to learn about the results of the pilot projects in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. You also can find detailed information at http://www.worldcocoafoundation.org.

Regarding your labeling question, we do not intend to make any changes to our labels at this time.

You told the bloggers that Stouffer’s meals contain no preservatives and they tweeted about it. I assume they misheard you, since most of the Stouffer’s meals seem to have a sodium content of between 25% and 40% of the daily recommended allowance for an adult in one serving. If my 2.5 year old were to have one serving of your Family Vegetable Lasagna, she would be getting 100% of her recommended daily sodium intake from that one piece of lasagna. Salt/sodium is a well-known preservative. Please explain (a) why you would characterize Stouffer’s as preservative free and (b) why you feel it is appropriate to market foods with dangerously high sodium levels to families.
It's evident that you are a concerned mother and you're seeking more information to aid you in making good choices for your family. We appreciate your concern so referred your specific questions about our Stouffer's brand to our team in Solon, Ohio which includes microbiologists, RDs and nutritionists. The technical team reviewed your questions and provided the answers below. Hope this is helpful information to you, Roz O'Hearn

Yes, we told our Nestle Family blogger guests that our Stouffer's meals contain NO preservatives--because this is true. Freezing is a natural method of preservation so we don't need to include preservative ingredients. Regarding sodium, only when it is present in concentrations high enough to lower available water-to-bacteria-to-water activities to below 0.85 is it considered a preservative. If sodium were used as preservative in our Stouffer's recipes, it would need to present at much higher levels--which is not necessary. Our product development teams, who are trained in both food science and the culinary arts, use sodium for flavor and seasoning --which is an important feature of our Stouffer's recipes.

As you know, nutrition and ingredient information is readily available on the back of every Stouffer's package. One additional point: You may also read that we worked to remove TFAs from our products. Today, there remain only a few Stouffer's varieties that still declare TFAs on the label; we think it's important to note that those TFAs are naturally occurring from either the beef or dairy ingredients in those recipes.

Regarding your specific query about your 2.5 year old and Stouffer's Vegetable Lasagna, our nutritionists reviewed and offer this information: Toddlers 1 - 3 years of age should consume about 1000 - 1500 calories per day; the recommended sodium level is 1500mg per day. The guideline for appropriate serving size is 1/4 of an adult portion per year of age. So a two year old should consume 1/2 of an adult portion. Our family size meals range in sodium from 25 - 40% of DV for adults. A toddler eating a toddler-size portion would consume less sodium. The serving size for our Party size vegetable lasagna is 8 ounces which provides 40% of DV for sodium for an adult. Therefore, a 2 year old would consume, at most, a 4 oz serving which would provide 32% of their DV for sodium.

This information comes from the USDA Food Guide and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005, which are the most current guidelines.

We appreciate your interest in our products and hope you will visit our website often for the latest information on our products and promotions.

October 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNestle Family

Thank you for the initial responses. I plan to respond to each of the answers on an issue by issue basis in separate blog posts. I just put up my first response:
http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/10/07/nestle-answers-preservatives-sodium-and-stouffers/" rel="nofollow">Nestle Answers: Preservatives, Sodium and Stouffers

October 7, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Wow. The nestle cocoa response was classic side stepping on the label question. You asked "COULD" you, as in, is it posssible to honestly make these claims. Hiding something much?

October 7, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterslee

Salt is the worst. I know when I make food, it does not contain as much salt as a prepared/boxed/processed/packaged meal. I cant even eat processed (packaged) food because it doesn't sit right with me anymore. Plus there is nothing like fresh foods.

When I buy boxed foods, I always check the sodium content, and it is always hight. Back in the old days they used salt as a preservative. Now they have big explanations that make using salt these days different from the salt in the old days. Salt is Salt. Anyone who cures meats know salt is a natural preservative. Luckily we are also educated and its not just the Nestle team, with all the info.

Also I lived in Lagos, Nigeria, Africa for a year. It is next to Ghana. Let me say (along with some good research) that western Africa has and I am sure still exploited for its natural resources. Hopefully they are not burning down the jungles to make room for the cocoa pods, then paying the locals a quarter a day to harvest it for them. I know first had the corruption of Africa. I have some good readings that I have read in my college days that have opened my eyes even more.

October 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDel The Dad

i'm shocked at the "oh look! a shiny thing to distract you!" answers from Nestle. the corporate spin doctoring will never stop. thank you so much for opening my eyes. i knew about the formula issue, but it goes much deeper than that. i had no idea. "we do not intend to make any changes to our labels at this time."-so to answer your question, "NO."

October 7, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlaura

Just letting you know this has hit our local papers here in Australia... was very pleased to see it getting wider coverage than the net community (event though it featured in the technology section):

http://www.theage.com.au/technology/technology-news/mummy-bloggers-spit-the-dummy-over-nestles-spoilt-milk-20091007-gmcd.html

October 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermadeinmelbourne

Mr. Remy, I am confused by the response to the cocoa question. You specify that Nestle is a signatory to the Harkin-Engel Protocol. A critical part of the protocol is the certification of products - the original deadline for this passed in July 2005 and the three-year extension subsequently passed in July 2008. While public certification does not necessarily require product labelling, it's difficult to imagine that a company would not chose to make consumers aware of this important feature. Yet, you suggest that there are no plans to change labelling - does this mean there are no plans to follow the international agreements to which you are a signatory?

October 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle @ doudoubebe.com

@madeinmelbourne: I saw that! Great that the word is spreading into mainstream media.

October 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

“That is why Nestle has actively participated in the chocolate industry’s efforts to address the issue through steps outlined in the Harkin-Engel Protocol, and is a founding participant of the International Cocoa Initiative and a member of the World Cocoa Foundation.”

Errr…. Nestlé has not lived up to its undertakings and has been taken to court over this. Nestlé was invited to a public meeting about the progress of the initiative on 18 September 2006 and refused to attend. But a few days later it was sponsoring an event on slavery in the UK!

Its not Baby Milk Action’s issue (I work for Baby Milk Action) so I interviewed the Director of the International Labor Rights Fund to find out more. Listen at:
http://www.babymilkaction.org/press/press28sept06.html

Nestlé wrote the book on ‘Engineering of Consent’. There is a very good briefing paper on this, with the subtitle “Uncovering PR Strategies” from the Cornerhouse at:
http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/item.shtml?x=51961

October 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMike Brady

These sort of corporate media (or blogger) events aren't intended to be for critical engagement with customers. They are marketing techniques like press releases and commercials. Bottom line.

October 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterradmama

Taking gifts, funds, a trip, or any enrichment from Nestle creates a conflict of interest. There is no question that can't be asked without accepting something of financial value in return. I understand that those who attended the event disagree with me but accepting the trip adversely affected any credibility the invitees might have had.

October 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJake Aryeh Marcus

Also for Food First's analysis of the ways in which the World Cocoa Foundation actually *increases* the use of child slaves, see: http://www.foodfirst.org/en/node/2371 .

October 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJake Aryeh Marcus

October 9, 2009

Dear Annie,

Thank you for your patience. Attached are our responses to more of your questions. We will continue to forward responses as we receive them.
Sincerely,
Edie Burge

4. You say that you comply with the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes in all countries that have adopted the code. Canada is a signatory to the Code and the Canadian government actively encourages companies to comply with it. However, despite Canada being a signatory to the Code, you do not comply with the code in Canada. When you say “adopted” is it fair to assume then that you mean “legislated” and that you will not comply with a developed country’s will unless it puts regulations in place to force you to?
The WHO Code was adopted by the WHO Member States as a recommendation to governments, which are required to implement the Code as appropriate to their social end legislative framework. Nestlé universally follows all countries' implementation of the WHO Code.
In addition, Nestlé decided over two decades ago to voluntarily and unilaterally apply the WHO Code in all developing countries, whether or not they have implemented it in their own legislative framework. If the local legislation is stricter than the Code, we apply local legislation.

5. You mention that “The WHO Code will only truly succeed if governments enforce it and monitor its compliance“. When a country is considering changing its legislation to include provisions contained in the WHO Code does Nestle lobby against those changes through formal or informal consultation processes?
No, it is not in Nestlé's interest to have weak national codes in place; we apply the WHO Code and the Nestlé instructions if the national code is less strict than the WHO Code itself.
A strong national legislation, that includes monitoring procedures, provides clarity and an even playing field for all infant formula manufacturers. Therefore, Nestlé encourages governments to implement monitoring mechanisms. The Code itself also recommends this.

6. You say that you do not market formula in developing countries. and you also say that you have unilaterally applied the WHO Code in all developing countries and regions. Please:
• Provide a list of developing countries where you sell infant formula (i.e. the countries where you do sell, but do not market your formula)
This is the list of countries that we define as developing countries when it relates to the implementation of the WHO Code. All countries in Central Asia, and all countries or territories of Africa, Middle East, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean nations and the Pacific nations except Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

The categorisation of a country as developing or developed is subject to objective criteria, such as infant mortality rate, adult literacy rate, Gross National Income per capita, percentage of infants with low birth weight, percentage of population using improved water sources and percentage of population urbanised.

• Provide a definition of “marketing”. Does your definition of “marketing” align with the definition in the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes. Or is this description of the variances between the WHO Code and your implementation of it accurate? If this description is inaccurate, please explain how it is inaccurate.
Our definition of “marketing” is the same as the one given in the WHO Code (art. 3). By “marketing we mean: product promotion, distribution, selling, advertising, product public relations, and information services.”
7. Does any Nestle formula packaging in any nation make claims that the formula offers protection or protects the baby against diarrhea or any other ailment?
There is no question about breast milk being the best start a baby can have in life. But when mothers are not able to breastfeed, it is critically important that a safe, effective, high-quality alternative be made available.

Nestlé makes significant investments in R&D and technology to deliver innovative products with scientifically proven nutritional benefits. While our infant nutrition products meet the needs of non-breastfed babies during the first critical months of life, the functional benefits that are referred to on our products are scientifically substantiated - the result of many years of intensive research on how best to improve the formula composition. However, we never claim in any manner that infant formula is superior to breast milk. All our infant formula labels contain the following text: “Important notice: Breast milk is best for babies. Before you decide to use an infant formula, consult your doctor or clinic for advice.”

8. You maintain that “Nestle does not provide mothers in the developing world with free samples of your infant formula products – in fact Nestle has no contact at all with mothers with regards to these“. Are samples provided to doctors? Is information about the “benefits” of your formula provided to doctors or other health professionals?
Nestlé does not provide mothers in the developing world with free samples of products. Samples of formula may be provided to individual health workers for the exclusive purpose of professional evaluation and in very specific instances (e.g. introduction of a new formula product). In such cases, the health worker may only be given one or two cans of the product and one time only. When in contact with health workers, Nestlé staff emphasises the superiority of breast-feeding and gives objective information on scientific and factual matters pertaining to formula and its correct use.

9. You indicate that you have regular audits on a worldwide basis of your marketing practices relating to infant formula. Do you have any public audit reports and/or statistics that you can share?
Nestlé has implemented a thorough monitoring system to ensure compliance with the WHO Code. This includes an internal WHO Code Ombudsman System that allows Nestlé employees to alert the Company on potential non-compliance with the WHO Code, regular internal audits of the Company’s subsidiaries’ formula marketing practices as well as independent external audits in case of multiple, broad scale allegations about non-compliance with the WHO Code by Nestlé. The latest Independent Assurance Statements of Nestlé’s subsidiaries’ compliance with the Code can be found at: http://www.babymilk.nestle.com/News/Past+News/

11. You indicate that “Nestle complementary foods are not marketed or presented as breast-milk substitutes” and that you support the May 2001 WHA Resolution that changed the recommended duration of exclusive breastfeeding from 4-6 months to 6 months. Given your support in this regard does this mean that you do not market any food/drink products at all for the use by infants under 6 months of age in any country and that none of your labels for cereal or baby food indicates that it can be used starting at 4 months?
Nestlé fully supports the May 2001 WHA Resolution 54.2 which changed the recommended duration of exclusive breastfeeding from 4 – 6 month to 6 months, thereafter introducing complementary foods while recommending continued breast feeding for as long as possible. Thus we implement this resolution in the same way as we implement the WHO Code and we have completed label changes on complementary foods to follow the 6-months recommendation. In addition, in developing countries Nestlé applies the WHO Code not only to starter formula (0-6 months of age) but also to follow-on formula (6-12 months). It is the only major manufacturer to do so.

12. In discussions with the bloggers, your CEO mentioned that children died in the 1970s as a result of the misuse (wrong quantity, mixed with dirty water) of formula samples. Do you believe that deaths from the misuse of formula samples ended in the 1970s?
The WHO Code was adopted in 1981 to contribute to the provision of safe and adequate nutrition for infants, by protecting and promoting breast-feeding, and by ensuring the proper use of breast-milk substitutes, when these are necessary.

Unfortunately, lack of clean water is still a reality in many developing countries. In these countries, mothers are advised not to use infant formula unless it is AFASS – acceptable, feasible, affordable, sustainable and safe.

However, if a baby is not breastfed for whatever reason, he or she needs a breast-milk substitute, whether or not clean water is available. Until all people have a safe water supply, the only solution is to teach mothers the importance of boiling water and how to prepare infant formula correctly.

All of Nestlé's Infant Formula Labels contain the following text in the local language: "Warning: Unboiled water, unboiled bottles or incorrect dilution can make your baby ill. Only prepare one bottle at a time. Feed immediately. Do not keep unfinished bottle. Follow instructions exactly."

In addition, the WHO Code states that it is the responsibility of health workers to advise mothers on infant feeding – first and foremost by encouraging and protecting breastfeeding, secondly to inform the mother about appropriate alternatives (advantages and disadvantages) which include instructions on how to prepare infant formula in a correct way.

It must also be underlined that the vast majority of women in developing countries breastfeed, and at the same time give their baby additional traditional foods, or just plain water. However, many poor mothers who need to use a breast-milk substitute cannot afford infant formula and therefore have to feed their babies with a potentially harmful substitute plain (including cornstarch water or other traditional food mixtures). The challenge is to educate mothers about appropriate breast-milk substitutes and complementary food that can be given to babies as well as to find a way to make appropriate substitutes available to those babies who really need it.

13. Why did your CEO tell bloggers at the Nestle Family event that the boycott ended in 1986? The boycott in fact ended in 1984, but was reinstated in 1988 because Nestle did not live up to the promises it made. The boycott is is still active today. Please explain why you would attempt to mislead the bloggers about the status of the boycott.
In 1977, the first Nestlé boycott was lead by US-based INFACT and ended in 1984. At the end of 1988, an attempt was made to relaunch the Nestlé boycott but received little attention in the U.S.

October 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNestle Family

So, answer to Question 9 (link to audit) is

"numerous Infant Formula (IF) manufacturers appear to be operating in contravention of the WHO Code and CoE 1995 within Malaysia through the giving of free samples"..."the giving of free Breast Milk Substitute (BMS) samples was normal practice to Doctors who would then pass these samples on free to all mothers."

Yes, there is common non-compliance of WHO Code and Yes, the audit found that Nestlé provided free Infant Formula to a hospital in a study carried out in a very brief period of 5 days (17-22 August), by Bureau Veritas.

..."neither the limited assurance conducted by Bureau Veritas nor this statement constitutes a guarantee or assurance by Bureau Veritas that infringements against the WHO Code or the CoE 1995 have not taken place." Who are they trying to kid?

So, are Nestlé going to take the next step, step up to "the challenge" of educating mothers, since they are FULLY AWARE of doctors distributing free samples of infant formula to "ALL MOTHERS". What chance have the children got otherwise?

October 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commenter@japraker

[...] I’m happy to see these questions posed and I’m hopeful for some answers. Thanks to Annie for her research, as I wouldn’t even have known what questions to ask. Stay connected with Make and Takes! [...]

The monitoring report Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules 2007 (the latest round-up of examples) has a section in the Nestlé profile on free samples and supplies, which includes: ""Nestlé pays to be allowed to supply free Nan infant formula to newborns in a hospital in Saudi Arabia."

See the 'Codewatch' section of:
http://www.ibfan.org/

October 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMike Brady

Same old dishonest and discredited arguments from Nestlé on baby milk marketing. Remember when Nestlé claimed in an anti-boycott advertisement that it markets infant formula ‘ethically and responsibly’ we complained to the UK Advertising Standards Authority and it upheld all of our complaints after a 2 year investigation. Unfortunately the ASA’s warning to Nestlé not to repeat its untrue claims does not extend to this forum.

I have examined similar claims recently on a post with links to supporting documentary evidence. See:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2009/09/nestle-rcslt.html

I won’t post all the links here as it seems to get my comments caught in the spam trap!

Some quick points on each of these, following the same numbering used by Nestlé:

4. Read Article 11.3 of the Code: “Independently of any other measures taken for implementation of this Code, manufacturers and distributors of products within the scope of this Code should regard themselves as responsible for monitoring their marketing practices according to the principles and aim of this Code, and for taking steps to ensure that their conduct at every level conforms to them.”

5. When the Philippines was defending stronger legislation in 2007, Nestle USA was part of a campaign against the UNICEF and WHO country heads for speaking up in favour of the regulations. In Zimbabwe, it tried to ‘economically blackmail’ the government by threatening to pull out if regulations went ahead. And so on.

6. The Code was adopted under World Health Assembly Resolution 34.22. The second line states: "Recalling that breastfeeding is the only natural method of infant feeding and that it must be actively protected and promoted in all countries" and "All member states" are called on " to translate the International Codeinto national legislation, regulations or other suitable measures". In other words, it is not restricted to countries of Nestlé's choosing. Nestlé does not follow the Code even where it claims to. A survey published in 1997 by the Interagency Group on Breastfeeding Monitoring (IGBM) called Cracking the Code, produced independently of Baby Milk Action and the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) found systematic violations. UNICEF said IBFAN’s monitoring was ‘vindicated’. IGBM continues to monitor. Member Save the Children said recently the results since its first report give no reason to change that opinion.

7. In April 2009 Nestlé unveiled its new marketing strategy for infant formula and other breastmilk substitutes – logos on labels claiming it ‘protects’. View an example from Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries with under-5 mortality of 140 per 1,000 live births. Not the place to be telling mothers that infant formula protects. YOU CAN SUPPORT OUR CAMPAIGN TO STOP THIS – WE HAVE A GOOD RECORD OF SUCCESS WHEN THESE ISSUES ARE TAKEN UP BY THE PUBLIC.

8. As The Guardian’s own investigation found in 2007 in an investigation in Bangladesh, Nestlé distributes pads for doctors to tear off and give to mothers promoting infant formula. This and other practices, including free samples etc. are given in the Breaking the Rules reports.

9. Nestlé’s ‘independent audits’ are conducted by Bureau Veritas, paid by Nestlé to audit against Nestle’s own instructions, not the Code. It has embarrassed itself with some of the things it has missed. See the details by following the links on my blog.

11. The World Health Assembly first addressed this 6 months issue in a Resolution in 1994. It took 9 years of campaigning to force Nestlé to change – which it announced during a week of demonstrations in the UK that gained international media coverage. A great victory for the boycott, though Nestlé foods labelled from 4 months have been reported since.

12. See Nestlé’s labels telling mother that formula ‘protects’.

13. Nestlé is one of the four most boycotted companies on the planet according to an independent survey.

For substantiation, follow the links from:
http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2009/09/nestle-rcslt.html

October 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMike Brady

[...] its PR disaster on Twitter, Nestlé has responded to questions posed on the PhD in Parenting blog. I have posted an analysis of Nestlé’s response there. I’ve grouped everything [...]

October 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNestle’s comments on bab

Another answer here (forgot to link up a few days ago when I wrote it): http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/10/13/nestle-answers-using-health-care-professionals-as-intermediaries/

October 16, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

October 23, 2009

Dear Annie,
Thank you once again for your patience. Following are the remaining responses to your original set of questions.
Sincerely,
Edie Burge

Is your 800 number just for breastfeeding support? What is the scope of that phone line?
Our trained experts are able to discuss a wide variety of topics with both new and experienced moms that include a wide array of questions ranging from breastfeeding to infant, toddler and preschooler feeding and nutrition questions. We help provide parents and caregivers with answers to the nutritional needs of children aged up to age 4. Parents are able to reach us 24 hours a day 7 days a week and help is always available.

What are the qualifications of the staff? What percentage of them are International Board Certified lactation consultants?
The contact center for Nestle Infant Nutrition has a staff of feeding experts including registered dietitians and breastfeeding educators. All registered Nestlé Infant Nutrition call center dietitians are members of the American Dietetic Association (ADA) and have an average of ten years of experience in Pediatric Nutrition. Our Breastfeeding Educators have completed their certification requirements through UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles UCLA Extension) and The Lactation Institute. The program provides both comprehensive “hands-on” and theoretical training. The length of the time it takes to complete the program varies, as is the case with many educational endeavors, however certification is granted only when all requirements for certification have been met. Our breastfeeding educators are not board certified by IBCLC.

Do you have statistics on your help line (how many calls, nature of questions asked)?
Our trained experts are able to discuss a wide variety of topics with both new and experienced moms that include a wide array of questions ranging from breastfeeding to infant, toddler and preschooler feeding and nutrition questions. We help provide parents and caregivers with answers to the nutritional needs of children aged up to age 4. Parents are able to reach us 24 hours a day 7 days a week. We never close. We are the only infant nutrition company who is always there for mom and her baby 24/7/365. Regarding the specific questions about the exact number of contacts, we treat this and any other sensitive information as confidential.

Your Nestle Instructions for Implementation of the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes includes a Complaint Form in Annex 3. How many complaint forms are received annually? Do you have any statistics or reports on the nature and geographic location of the violations reported?
Formal complaints sent through the Complaint Form in Annex 3 of Nestlé Instructions are extremely rare. However, we do receive complaints through other means, such as emails, letters or calls to our consumer services. Nestlé takes allegations of non-compliance with the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes very seriously and investigates each one of them. Nestlé wishes to learn of all concerns regarding our marketing practices for it is only then that we will be able to correct mistakes or better inform our partners, such as distributors of our products.

Nestlé has put in place an elaborate monitoring system to ensure compliance with the WHO Code. This includes regular corporate audits, an ombudsman system for employees to report suspicions of WHO Code violations, and external audits of Code compliance. However, we recognize that there are no perfect monitoring system in such complex arena as Code application and/or national legislations in so many countries. This is why if allegations are recorded, they should be sent to the company immediately so that an investigation can take place and corrections made if necessary.

For more information, please read our response to the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN)'s report “Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules” (2007): http://www.babymilk.nestle.com/NR/rdonlyres/14F9B348-0329-4DB7-8A68-2BB0A1450F2A/97053/2009NestleInvestigationofReportedNonCompliancewith.pdf

Moving forward, what steps do you plan to take to use social media and engagement with bloggers to get input into corporate policies and practices? Or are you looking to social media simply as a cost effective marketing tool?
We are always looking for ways to engage in meaningful dialogue with consumers and others interested in Nestlé. Certainly, engaging in social media will continue to be one of many ways we try to do that. We welcome ideas from you and your readers. We hope you'll visit us at http://creatingsharedvalue.org to share your comments, opinions and questions.

October 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNestle Family

[...] in hearing what the company had to say at such a one-sided publicity event, but I have found Nestlé’s answers to some questions posed by Annie at PhD in Parenting to be fascinating and informative (well, Annie’s discussion is informative; Nestlé’s [...]

[...] I washed my hands of trying to engage in direct dialog with Nestlé. Don’t get me wrong – I believe that those dialogs can be instructive and eye-opening [...]

[...] at PhD in Parenting has been taking the time to ask Nestlé some seriously important questions and then (more importantly in my opinion) construct well-researched, thought provoking responses [...]

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