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.
I asked about labels. I didn't ask about websites. While I don't have time tonight to run out to all of our local stores to check the labels on the products, a few clicks of the mouse demonstrated that if Nestle does "fully supports the May 2001 WHA Resolution 54.2 which changed the recommended duration of exclusive breastfeeding from 4 – 6 month to 6 months", it obviously forgot to tell its Web staff. I went to three Nestle baby websites and found suspicious content and recommendations on all three.
I figured I would start my journey in the United States. I went to Gerber's (owned by Nestle) website to get information on its baby food products and on introducing solids. While all of the labels in the product pictures are too small to be able to see what is marked on them, there was some interesting information on introducing solids.
In response to the question "When should I start my baby on solid foods", Nestle doesn't say to wait until at least six months. Instead, it says "around the middle of your baby's first year". Around the middle could mean a bit before six months or a bit after six months. Depending on how the individual person interprets "around" that could mean between 4 months and 8 months.
Nestle mentions the baby should reach the Supported Sitter developmental stage. There is no information provided on when that might be. Also other leading sources on when you should introduce solids indicate that the baby should be able to sit well without support (i.e. sits independently) .
Instead of clearly and unequivocally saying that the baby must be at least 6 months old and have met certain developmental milestones, Nestle has chosen to just eliminate the information on the age at which solids should be introduced.
This one was even more overt. Nestle Canada has age-based pages that indicate what the baby should be doing and eating at different stages. On the page for 4 to 5 months old, Nestle is heavily pushing solids using both visuals (the baby being spoon fed and the box of cereal) and text (the links on introducing cereal and introducing solids).
When you actually click on the links on introducing cereal and introducing solids, some of those pages tell you that you should wait until six months. But if that is the case, what on earth is this information doing on the 4 to 5 months page to begin with? And shouldn't they move them from the 4 to 5 month section (where it is linked from and as appears in the breadcrumb) to the 6 to 7 month section?
Also, on its product page for baby cereals Nestle Canada conveniently doesn't mention an age to start its Stage 1 cereals, but its Stage 2 cereals are listed as being for 6 months and up. Wouldn't Stage 1 logically come before Stage 2 and therefore be before six months?
There are 47 products listed in the Stage 1 (Stufe 1) category that is listed as 4 months and up. Those products, a few of which can be seen in the screen capture from the 4 months and up product page, include
- meals of mixed vegetables and meats (including spaghetti bolognese)
- juices and teas
These products include ingredients like berries, honey and tomatoes that are not supposed to be introduced until much later due to being allergens, botulism risk, etc. The labels on the products listed on the website clearly have the same 4 months and up label that is listed on the website itself.
The AAP recommendation
On page 54 of IBFAN's monitoring report, or the second page of the section on Nestle's Code violations, IBFAN provides the following interesting information [emphasis mine]:
In April 2003 the company [Nestle] announced that it had "completed label changes on complementary foods to follow the six-month recommendation". During their general monitoring, IBFAN observers have checked the age recommendations of all companies and provide evidence that the change promised by Nestlé finally occurred in many countries but not in all. See Section 2 for continuing violations.
It is hoped that Nestlé will abandon its double standard and apply the change in all countries, reflecting the universality of the Code and subsequent Resolutions. Other companies would have to follow suit if Nestlé continues a decisive leadership role.
However, at the end of 2003, Nestlé gave a large grant to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to pay for the cost of sending the AAP 2004 Pediatric Nutrition Handbook for free to over 50,000 doctors. The Handbook reverses AAP's 2000 endorsement of "six months exclusive breastfeeding" by going back to the old “4 to 6 months.” The Handbook mentions “4 to 6 months” several times but has only one footnote to say that the AAP Section on Breastfeeding favours the 6-month recommendation. Double standards once again?
I'll let you draw your own conclusions.
Supportive on the surface only?
Perhaps Nestle has now updated all of its product labels in store to say six months plus (but I can't be sure of that and highly doubt it). But even if they have, these other actions regarding Web content, handbooks, and other materials suggest that Nestle is using other ways of continuing to perpetuate the myth that solids should be introduced before six months of age. In fact, like the boycott that so few Americans are aware of, you will probably find that few Americans (Germans, Canadians, etc.) are aware of the updated recommendation and Nestle would like to keep it that way.