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Nestle Answers: The International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes and the Developing World

This is one of a series of posts that features Nestle’s answers to my questions that came out of the Nestle Family event. To access the other questions and answers, go to follow-up questions for Nestle and click on the questions you are interested in. Answers will be posted as they are received and analyzed.

My Questions and Nestle's Answers

Since this post addresses several related questions and answers  I have grouped my questions and Nestle's answers under one heading. My questions are found in bold and Nestle's answers are in italics under each question.

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.

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.”

My Response

This answer is going to be short, since I've addressed most of the issues related to this answer in my other answers.

  • Nestle has chosen to restrict its marketing of infant formula only in countries of its choosing, despite the fact that the Code applies to all countries. As Mike Brady from Baby Milk Action says:

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.

  • This means that in absence of national legislation, Nestle does not restrict its marketing of breast milk substitutes in places like the United States, Canada, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong (last time I checked, Hong Kong was part of China, which is a developing country), Australia, New Zealand, and Europe.

So when people ask Nestle why it doesn't comply with the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and Nestle answers "What makes you think we don't comply?" you'll know that they are just hoping you haven't really looked into it.
« Nestle Answers: How Nestle uses social media | Main | Nestle answers: Lobbying for weak laws? Nestle says no, evidence says yes »

Reader Comments (5)

[...] 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. ANSWER HERE. [...]

[...] reader of my blog or if you were following the Nestle Family controversy, you will know that Nestle claims that it doesn’t market formula in the developing world. Nestle claims to voluntarily abide by the code in all developing countries around the world.  [...]

[...] in developed countries (like Canada, United States, United Kingdom, Australia and others) and it falls short in developing countries. Other companies like Enfamil, Similac, and Heinz continue to violate the code regularly, as do [...]

[...] probably NOT be interested in helping you sell ’sexy’ lingerie, or formula made by a notorious WHO code violator, or what I believe to be [added so as to protect myself from libel] a ridiculous, unnecessary, [...]

I could only shake my head when I read "Nestlé conforms to the spirit and the letter of the WHO Code on marketing breast milk substitutes [in the Developing World]" on their website. The _spirit_ of the Code is to apply internationally...
Anyway, thanks to your informative posts on this, we've also decided to boycott Nestlé.

February 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLevikha

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