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Tuesday
Sep292009

An open letter to the attendees of the Nestle Family blogger event

Dear bloggers,

I learned about the Nestle Family blogger event with dismay when a friend e-mailed me about it. I was happy to hear that she had declined their invitation and hoped that many of the other mommy bloggers that I hold in high regard would follow suit. When I later saw the list of people who were attending, I was distressed to see women who I respect and women who are breastfeeding advocates had accepted the invitation. I wanted to believe that they must just not be aware of Nestle's unethical business practices and that once they found out that they would, of course, decline the invitation and boycott the event. That was not the case. Some of you heard the concerns and said that you didn't care. Some of you heard the concerns and said you would go anyways because you felt a dialogue with Nestle would be more productive. You are all skilled communicators. But having followed the Nestle fiasco for a long time, I know how ineffective dialogue has been in the past and I know that their public relations people will tell you a good story and try to take you for a ride.

That said, you are going. I can't change that now. Many of you were tweeting this morning about packing your bags and heading off to the airport. So, in a last ditch effort to help you make a difference, I am writing you a letter outlining the things I would like you to know.

How formula marketing kills

Let me be clear. This is not about what you chose to feed your babies. If you formula fed, whether by choice or by necessity, that is none of my business. That said, the marketing and advertising of formula has been linked to the deaths of millions of babies every year. According to the World Health Organization:

The protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding rank among the most effective interventions to improve child survival. It is estimated that high coverage of optimal breastfeeding practices could avert 13% of the 10.6 million deaths of children under five years occurring globally every year. Exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life is particularly beneficial, and infants who are not breastfed in the first month of life may be as much as 25 times more likely to die than infants who are exclusively breastfed.


In developing countries, the difference between being breastfed and being bottle fed truly is life or death. When women choose to formula feed in developing countries, their babies are at significant risk. They do not have the financial means to keep buying formula, so they water it down and give their babies less than they really need. There is often a lack of clean water, so formula gets mixed with dirty water, which can lead to infections, disease and death. In the developed world, formula feeding isn’t as likely to kill a child, but not breastfeeding does come with a whole host of health risks for both the baby and the mother. It can lead to deaths as well as increased health problems and increased health costs (whether you have a public system or a private insurance system, you do pay for other people’s health care to some extent). Around 1.4 million lives could be saved every year with improved breastfeeding.

Advertising formula and providing free samples to women in developing countries could be likened to advertising free c-sections with a dirty knife and untrained medical staff. Infant formula and c-sections can both be life saving under specific circumstances. But marketing them to the general public as an equal, better, or even close to as good alternative is dangerous, especially in countries where they do not have the means to use it safely.

The International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes

In order to reduce the negative effect of formula marketing and save lives, the World Health Organization developed the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (World Health Organization), which restricts marketing and related practices of the following products:


  • breast-milk substitutes, including infant formula, other milk products, foods and beverages, including bottle-fed complementary foods

  • feeding bottles

  • teats, like bottle nipples and pacifiers


Governments in more than 60 countries have adopted the Code and made it law. Some countries have gone a step further by making formula available only by prescription or requiring warnings on labels. In the absence of legislation, the Code encourages manufacturers and distributors to comply with its provisions. Some do so voluntarily. Some pretend that they do, but instead blatantly lie (Nestle), do not fully disclose ownership (Lanisoh), or make other choices that compromise their compliance. Others just don’t care at all about compliance and care only about profits.

How Nestle lies, cheats and deceives

What is Nestle's role in this problem? According to INFACT Canada, Nestle controls 40% of the worldwide market for baby food and is active in 80 countries. It is the biggest player in this market. Other companies are unethical too, but the size and reach of Nestle makes its violations of the Code especially problematic and especially risky for moms and babies. Nestle has been characterized by experts in the field as the worst of the baby food companies in terms of its breaches of international standards.

Some illustrations of Nestle's unethical practices include:


  • Nestle has an Infant Formula Marketing Policy that it says complies with the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes, but its scope is much narrower, covering only infant formula (instead of all breast milk substitutes) and covering only developing countries (instead of all countries). Read more here and check out a detailed chart comparing the two here.

  • Nestle invests in public relations initiatives to divert criticism, instead of making changes to bring its practices in line. Read more.

  • Monitoring of the baby food industry by NGOs has found many areas where Nestle's advertising and promotion practices violate the Code. Look here for 13 pages of illustrated and annotated examples of violations.

  • Nestle systematically violates its own policies as brought to light by a senior Nestle employee in Pakistan who resigned and then wrote a scathing, detailed and well-documented whistleblower report on all of the violations that were both allowed, encouraged and ordered by his superiors. He is pursuing legal action against the company. His family has been threatened.

It is important to note that Nestle will try to tell you that all of this is in the past. That has been their approach all along. According to Baby Milk Action's report on Nestle's PR machine, "Nestle's strategy is to admit to malpractice only years in the past, even though it denied it at the time".

Beyond the marketing issue, there are other business practices related to its infant formula that have come into question. For example, apparently Nestle is purchasing 1 million litres of milk per year from Grace Mugabe, the wife of the President Robert Mugabe, despite sanctions due to human rights violations by his government and despite the fact that these farms were seized from farmers by Grace Mugabe. As per its usual practice, Nestle came up with some weak excuses for why this was not a problem.

There is so much to say. I feel like there is no way I can do it justice in a few short paragraphs.

What I would like Nestle to do

I think there is an opportunity for Nestle, as a leader in the food industry, to take a leadership role on this issue. At a minimum it should start abiding by the law in all countries where it operates and not just the letter of the law, but the spirit of the law. But ideally, in order to rectify some of the damage that its past practices have caused, it should go above and beyond what the law requires. Nestle should:


  • Commit to abiding by the  International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes in all countries worldwide for all products covered by the Code

  • Ensure that all of its packaging includes information on:

    • The risks of formula

    • Where people can go for breastfeeding help from trained lactation professionals (not Nestle staff)

  • Provide funding for lactation programs in developing countries and in low income neighbourhoods in the United States as part of its corporate social responsibility program

I think a complete about face is required here. Nestle should shift from trying to circumvent the law and the Code to proactively trying to encourage the safest nutrition for infants.

What I would like you to do


At a minimum, while you are there, I hope you'll listen with a critical ear and not take everything at face value. Nestle's public relations machine is well oiled and they will find a way to "address" your concerns without really doing so. I would like you to tell Nestle in no uncertain terms that you do not support its unethical business practices. I would like you to tell them that you will not be using your blog, your twitter presence, or any other platform you are on to help market their products. I would like you to tell Nestle that you are going to boycott its products and ask your friends and family to do so too. Above all, I would like you to ask yourself how you feel about supporting a company that puts profits ahead of the lives and health of babies.

I'll be watching your blogs with interest and a critical eye following this event.

Safe travels,

Annie

Important Note

Following the event, I posed a number of follow-up questions to Nestle via e-mail. As they respond to them, I am posting their responses and posting a reply to their responses in separate blog posts. You can access an index of the questions, and the blog posts with the responses here:

Follow-up questions for Nestle

« BlogHer Listens and Acts - Check out my WHO International Code Compliant Ads | Main | Sharing the Babwearing Love »

Reader Comments (279)

Thank you so, so much for writing this post.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Mother Tongue

I do hope that there is an opportunity for at least one of the bloggers to engage in such dialogue while they are there. As you know, I declined having a relationship with Nestle due to these concerns. I was tempted to go to the event to maybe bridge a gap or do some investigation on my own, but I just don't have the emotional energy, plus I have Ivy (whom I am still breastfeeding), and I honestly just wasn't ready to be associated with Nestle at this time. But, I do believe there is always still time for change...

Steph

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAdventures In Babywearing

This is so very sad.

If I were a conspiracy theorist, I'd probably come up with some population control theory.

HOW does it benefit Nestle to have babies dying from using their products??? I don't get it.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterVDog

I still don't understand how a breastfeeding advocate accepted the invitation, but hey, money talks. I'm disappointed in the bloggers who are attending, but also baffled by their responses. I can understand some of them didn't know about the Nestle Boycott, but once the information was presented, how could they still participate in good conscience? Is a two-day trip to California and a couple of Omaha Steaks for your husband and kids to eat while you're out of town worth it?
I'll be keeping a close eye on their tweets as well, but I won't hold my breath that they'll learn anything or that any minds will be changed.
I'd also like to remind people that is not about breastfeeding! Nestle's business practices are notoriously bad and they are as corrupt as can be. Do your research and find out about their shady water business, their use of child slave labor to make chocolate, the way they're in bed with dictators in Africa, how they sabotage small businesses in developing nations. The list goes on and on. Their products are varied and they scoop up more and more companies, so they are difficult to boycott. However it's important to take a stand against unethical corporations. I wish these bloggers had taken a stand.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterElita @ Blacktating

Thanks for writing this. I hope the list of attendees knows that their credibility, as far as I'm concerned, is now utterly shot. Accepting a gift such as a trip is not a prerequisite for "opening up a dialogue" so don't kid yourselves. Totally unnecessary. Totally gross. I'm truly sad and disappointed.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commenter@Artemnesia

just to clear things up, i am not attending this event.

yes, i am on the list, but i chose not to attend.

thanks.

m.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermatt

Thank you for taking the time to write this detailed post. You are a hero in your own way. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFireMom

@matt: I'm glad you decided not to go. I wish more of the others had made the same decision.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

It's a good post. Not everything on the "nestle lies" link passes muster, but there's enough to be concerned about.

When I was invited to attend the PR rep asked if I'd heard anything about Nestle, or knew about their products. My reply was that I'd read about unethical business practices with respect to formula in developing countries, and that I didn't really use any other Nestle products (based on the list of brands on the website). This did not deter the rep, who, despite knowing I had an unhelpful opinion about Nestle still wanted me to attend. I declined in full because it seemed to me that the bigger the company, the more visible a blogger's involvement with them is, even if all that's ever done is a single post saying "So, I went to this thing at Nestle." And I don't want to be in bed with any company that far.

I don't know who is going to the Nestle event. I hope they ask a lot of questions. I don't think the right solution is to NOT go, to NOT talk to them, if you are very strongly opposed to them. Being able to ask questions directly, instead of relying only on third-party accounts of Nestle's actions or press releases, is invaluable. And there is no better way to deliver "gotchas" than by getting someone to confirm or deny an explicitly designed question that leaves no room for doubt. To win, really, you need to defeat the strongest version of your opponent, and that means not allowing them to be drawn for you by someone else. The potential for straw-men is too great.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBackpacking Dad

I didn't know about this, but I am very surprised to learn that breastfeeding advocates are attending. I feel the same way about this as I would about Nestle sponsoring a medical conference. It's a conflict of interest. It's sort of implied that when somebody gives you something, you ought to be grateful, and that gratitude trumps criticism. If you want to engage with a company, surely you can find a way that doesn't involve accepting gifts from them and simultaneously providing them with publicity.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

First things first...I was invited to attend this event but declined for reasons other than stated her. I'm a stay at home mom and my children come first, that means not leaving them in a stranger's care for 4 days.

Second, after reading some of the statements made here I feel better about my decision not to go. I would never want to be associated with a company that practices business in this way.

Thank you for shedding light on this topic!

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCat @ 3 Kids and Us

They could be going to show their disapproval with the company. This is the same thing that any number of people do to get their side of the argument heard. It probably will not produce many results but if you do not go you cannot speak or be heard. I think that parents with Autistc kids would go to a Vaccine event even if it was sponsored by GSK just so they could stand up there and show what happened to their children. Maybe, hopefully, it is the same thing.

And not to be too much of a downer - but most people do not understand the scope of these problems or how pervasive they are. IF you were to boycott all the comapnies that do shitty things you would 1. not be able to go to work, 2. not be able to wear anything and 3. not be able to buy any food - just to name a few. They may also be of the opinion that the problem is too big for a few person boycott.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSharon

I had read quite awhile ago about Nestle and their shady business practices - but then I forgot all about it in the hustle and bustle of regular life. Thank you for posting this and for reminding me of this issue.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMarilyn (A Lot of Loves)

Wow...my first foray into controversy. To be completely honest, this is the first I've heard of the issues regarding Nestle's practices. While I don't think everyone should be broadly painted as unethical for attending, I can definitely understand the concern over it all.

Being a devoted father and husband, and seeing how my other website centralizes on babies and pregnancy, you can absolutely be assured that I'll read everything here, read the related links, and ask questions. Perhaps I won't get the answers you seek, or even answers at all, but I can't be faulted if that is the case.

I am here, not to support or chastise their formula practices, but to learn more about the company and connect with other bloggers. I was never aware of ANY issues and figured the trip to be as harmless as could be. Then, 2 hours after arrival, this link is shared.

Do the allegations concern me? Yes. Do I feel I've somehow "shot" my integrity by attending? No. I think that's a little harsh. Especially since I've been thrust into it for all of about 10 minutes. :)

Obviously, if all of this is true AND an attendee knew it, that's one thing. But for those of us who saw it as a great opportunity to learn and connect, I'm not sure we should be lumped into the scurge category.

My blog is about family, humor, and nonsense. I make it a point to avoid controversy and while I'm only here for 24 hours, I'll pose the questions. Not because I feel forced or bullied, but because my own concerns need to now be addressed.

Thank you for speaking out, I love this kind of forum, and you've at least opened my eyes to what's going on because I've been completely insulated from it. That in consideration, I do hope people scale back on the venom a bit. I'm a good dude, and if anything, perhaps some learning can come from this...good or bad.

Again, I'm only here for 1 day as I leave Wednesday afternoon for IZEA, but I'll see what I can do and who I can speak with.

Greg

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGreg - Telling Dad

Thank you for writing this post so articulately and clearly. I admit to being irritated by some of your tweets (as a mom for whom bf'ing did not work) but now that I understand the scope of this problem understand why you feel so passionately. Thank you for enlightening me and I hope that those bloggers that are attending this event have done their due diligence by researching the company they are being asked to represent and are prepared to call them on the carpet. Good for you!

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa Multitasking Mama

@Sharon:

You are right. The problem is too big for a few people. That is why we need lots of people to take a stand. Nestle is not going to listen to a few concerned consumers, to a few bloggers, to a few politicians, to a few lawyers, to a few NGOs. We need more people to understand the scope and the gravity of this issue and to take action. They will not listen until enough people boycott for it to make a difference in their profit margin.

I do agree that lots of companies do shitty things. However, very few companies do shitty things on the scale that Nestle does for as long as Nestle has been. It has been over 30 years now that this problem has been ongoing. Over 30 years that they have been denying any wrongdoing. The reason I don't think it will make any difference for any of these bloggers to try to "talk" to Nestle at their event is that people have been trying to talk to Nestle about this for three decades and they have been spinning their message the whole time, rather than addressing the problems. If I had concerns with a company and otherwise respected its product and business practices, then I might take a chance at attending an event in order to engage in dialogue (e.g. if Medela or Lanisoh was having an event). But Nestle has been closing its ears for too long. I think anyone who thinks they will suddenly start listening this week is naive.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

@Greg: Thank you for listening and I appreciate your willingness to bring the concerns forward. I look forward to hearing what they/you have to say.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Thank you for writing this. I had of course heard about this, but had totally forgotten. I did do back to school campaign with Nestle, and now feel bad about forgetting such an important issue, and not doing my research.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKatja of Skimbaco

Is it not your responsibility as a blogger who is marketing yourself and creating a brand with your blog to do your due diligence on a company BEFORE accepting a free trip? Like it or not, you, your blog name, your brand, are now tied to Nestle. That is not a position I would want to be in. Everyone has been on this "blog with integrity" kick since the BlogHer fiasco. Where's the integrity here?

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterElita

To those that are saying they didn't know or they had forgotten, I'll share what I do when I'm approached by a brand. I type in the company's name and boycott and then the company's name and ethics into Google and see what I find. It doesn't guarantee that you'll find everything or that everything you find will be true, but it is a good starting point for doing some research.

Try it. Google:

Nestle boycott

Nestle ethics

I hope you find that tip useful.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Katja: I appreciate your honesty and your regret.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I appreciate the comments about doing "due diligence" but Nestle is a gigantic company representing dozens of brands and hundreds of products. How much due diligence would satisfy? How deep does one go?

Do we conduct due diligence before accepting advertising? Sponsorships? Products to review? How many regulations are we going to pass upon ourselves to blog?

I don't consider my attendance immoral or unethical. Visit my site (www.wombtobloom.com) and visit my blog. You'll see that I am focused on helping others...not myself. So I take offense at those who say my presence shows that I have lost all integrity.

Sadly, I see so much negativity out there and it stinks! Everything draws criticism and I have to look at my reasons for being here...to connect with bloggers and learn more about everything. That's it. I'm not "supporting" Nestle, nor am I "representing" them. I didn't post one icon, image, link, etc. on my site until I had facts to go on.

I respect this article, it's purpose, and the call to action. What I don't respect are challenges to my integrity because I chose to learn and connect. Please temper those insinuations for it's undeserved.

I am going to pose questions, from my own standpoint of concern, not because I feel bullied into doing so. With that, I need to stop being serious, lol, because my blog and my purpose are around humor and family.

Short of me taking a shrimp fork to the CEO, I'm not sure there's anything I can say or do that will make anyone throw some sunshine my way.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGreg - Telling Dad

Thanks for the post. I will be curious to see what comes of the event.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCapital Mom

@Greg - Telling Dad: I do conduct due diligence before accepting advertising, sponsorships and products to review. I will also terminate or suspend a relationship if I find a problem once I'm already involved. That is why I http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/09/14/are-we-asking-the-wrong-people-to-comply-with-the-international-code-of-marketing-of-breast-milk-substitutes/" rel="nofollow">took the BlogHer ad code off my site at the moment while I try to work some issues out with them. As for that shrimp fork idea, that might be the best idea I've heard all day! ;)

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

It's for this very reason I don't buy Nestlé products period. I'm always surprised by how many people don't know (or perhaps choose to turn a blind eye) about the issue. And what's ironic is that Nestlé Goodstart infant formula seems to be an extremely popular (maybe the most popular?) choice for formula-feeding mums.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLady Mama

@phdinparenting - You bring up EXCELLENT points about the due diligence and in doing that search. Lessons to be learned. But understand I'm 3 months into blogging. It is one big learning process. And people need to see the good in what I pursue as well.

@Lady Mama - Most definitely NOT a blind eye. Those in the know wonder how others can't possibly be aware but it's a big world, with a bigger internet, and a lot of white noise. Thus the reason I respect and appreciate the post. I had just hoped for less venomous comments that lumped in as being without integrity. My blog, site, and purpose prove otherwise, but it's occasions like these that build us, right?

I'll be asking but I'm not sure what I'll get in return.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGreg - Telling Dad

I went onto TweetDeck having no idea what was going on with all the #nestlefamily convos. After doing a little reading, I was utterly shocked by many of the responses parents had to the issues at hand. I'm saddened by the lack of social consciousness and the defensive words that have been thrown out there. These issues that have been brought up against Nestle shouldn't be dismissed so easily.

Thank you for this post.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTwig

This is a disturbing and informative summary of the main issues.

I do not hold bloggers accountable for researching every single detail about every company with which they work, after all, for many of us, this is a labor of love--and we all have different backgrounds and experiences and interests.

However, know what they now know, I do hope that these bloggers ask the tough questions and keep this in mind when they post or tweet about the event.

I also hope that everyone who cares about this issue will give these bloggers a little time to process the information.

Like others, I want to reiterate that this is not about "lactivism"--it is about unethical, and in some cases immoral and downright illegal, corporate practices. It is about slavery, it is about lying, it is about placing profit above the lives of babies.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCandace

@Lady Mama: Yes, it is very popular. Perhaps that is why a lot of formula feeders are on the defensive regarding this issue. They are going into http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/09/26/dont-judge-me/" rel="nofollow">"don't judge me" mode because they purchased a product from a company that is linked to so many deaths. As I said in my post, this is not about anyone's choice to feed their baby formula. It is about the marketing practices of an unethical company. I've purchased Nestle products in the past, but I try my best not to now. There is no need for people to dwell on their own past mistakes, especially if they weren't aware of the issue. Let's move forward and boycott Nestle together.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

People are glossing right over the very real concerns with Nestle because they see it just as one more breastfeeding vs formula feeding debate, and that's unfortunate. I hope they read this post carefully and don't dismiss it simply because you're a breastfeeding advocate, Annie.

To me this is not at ALL about breastfeeding vs formula feeding...at least, not the way the issue plays out here in the United States. This is about a long history of ethical breaches on the part of one of the most powerful companies in the world.

Anyone who wants to dismiss the piles of evidence simply because it's most often brought to the forefront by breastfeeding advocates is, I fear, not being intellectually honest.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMeagan Francis

I certainly don't expect every blogger to be as proactive as Annie because we are not all as focused on activist issues.

However, the size of the brand not withstanding, in this case, I don't think you need to go far to find out about Nestle's practices.

I don't think you should have known...but now you do. And I absolutely refuse advertising and other offers when I am not happy with the company's corporate practices.

In this case, it isn't that Nestle is a sponsor of a blogger conference, it is a NestleFamily event.

Again, no pitchforks here. You did not know. Now you do. Now you have an opportunity. My hope is that the bloggers who know will now take this into account with any future posts, tweets, etc., and not just ignore it.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCandace

Absolutely - some people genuinely have no idea this stuff is going on in other parts of the world. I respect your response and I certainly don't think you're without integrity for going.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLady Mama

Very well laid out. I'm very well aware of their unscrupulous practices - I saw first-hand how aggressive their anti-breastfeeding marketing tactics were when I lived in Jordan. They have helped to make breastfeeding 'dirty' and now only "less than half of the mothers in the region exclusively breastfeed their infants for as long as three months," according to the UN.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEsther

Annie, thanks for sharing this post. I was invited to the Nestle event and declined because the editorial fit did not make sense for me (I'm an avid proponent of green living, so for food and beauty/bath I only cover organics). I did have a moment of considering attending, partially because I felt that it could be a useful opportunity for me to advocate for change in this domain. Ultimately, though, it just felt as if I was trying to knock a square peg into a round hole. Something did not feel right.

Interestingly, as you recommended in comments above, at some point in my thought process I did a quick Google search to see if there were existing controversies I should know about and came up with some hits but didn't dig too deeply into them since I had already pretty much decided not to go. The above information is disturbing. In a way, I wish I could be in attendance to carry the message.

-Christine

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBoston Mamas

I formula fed both my children in part and took no offense to the article.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLady Mama

@Greg, I always google a company who approaches me about advertising or doing a giveaway. I recently had a company contact me to review their nipple cream. Pretty innocuous right? Except last year this same company's product had been recalled by the FDA. You have to be careful who you align yourself with because even if in your mind you are not representing Nestle or advocating on their behalf, it will appear that way to many people. You've taken money from them (essentially...free vacation) and will be giving them your opinions which they'll use to make more money. That symbiotic relationship wouldn't make me think you don't approve of their business practices.
I am glad you started a blog in order to help people and that this is an eye-opening learning experience for you (and hopefully some others).

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterElita

There's a bit of rhetoric getting tossed around here that isn't useful: "placing profit above the lives of babies."

Every company that isn't in the sole business of saving the lives of babies, and a non-profit to boot, is placing profit above the lives of babies. Some choices are more or less remote from the event of infant death, but given the fact of infant deaths every company is choosing profit over the lives of babies. I know it sounds powerful, but it's very, very empty. Don't (anyone) rest your case on that.

The stronger charge is that Nestle is failing to do something they've agreed to do (or breaking a law that they are subject to). This is a stronger charge because only Nestle is the target, only their actions are open for evaluation against the charge, and indictments based on one's own stated practices are much more damning than indictments based on standards someone else comes up with. Call them liars, call them criminals.

The other phrase is very nearly empty rhetoric, and empty rhetoric, even more than rhetoric on its own, is spin, marketing, manipulation, and tricks. It has no place.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBackpacking Dad

This was such an illuminating post; thank you for taking the time to write it. I was especially enlightened by the differences between breast/bottle feeding in practice in developing countries and the resulting health impact.

Ghiradelli chocolate chips in my cookies from now on...

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJulie @ The Mom Slant

We had heard about some problems with Nestle in the past but hadn't really taken the time to get more informed. Thanks for laying out the issues so clearly - we'll definitely be looking into this further.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEvilSlutClique

Thank you so much for taking an obvious amount of time to write this. I feel so naive that I'm a breastfeeding mother, and a consumer, and had no idea.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDesignHER Momma

@Backpacking Dad: I disagree. I run a management consulting business. My business, for the most part, has no bearing on the health and welfare of babies. I have, in the past, done work for organizations that do help to save the lives of babies. I would never accept any business from a company that had business practices that was very closely linked to adverse health effects for babies. That said, some companies just have nothing to do with babies at all. But those that do have a bearing on the health and welfare of babies have an ethical duty, IMO, to put the health and welfare of babies ahead of their profits.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Sorry, I disagree.

There's focusing on profit--and I am very much a capitalist--and there is saying, "Oh, every important health organization is telling us that our practices result in the death of babies but we just don't care because we want to grab every last cent."

There are sustainable business practices that are very profitable and there are shortsighted and immoral practices that are very profitable.

I don't use phrases like that lightly.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCandace

You disagree to no progress. Every company has something to do with babies. Whatever profit you took from your business, if it wasn't immediately turned around to help save infant lives, groups you together with the "putting profit ahead of infant lives" companies. This is what I mean when I say it is empty rhetoric. It applies to such an insanely broad grouping that it does no convincing work in an argument. The more narrow criticism, that Nestle is involved with infant health and is doing something to undermine its stated goal, is much more effective. Again, it is more effective because it selects Nestle (or whomever the specific target is) and based on their actions and stated goals, indicts them. "Putting profits ahead of infant lives" is akin to "Protects" on labels of formula. It's purpose is to manipulate, not to convince, because if you are convinced of its truth for Nestle you are convinced of its truth for every company.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBackpacking Dad

We can all prevent the deaths of babies if we stop being so profit driven. That is the very criticism being leveled against the bloggers visiting Nestle this week: You are in bed with a company who has made choices that are evil, and that tarnishes you. Why? Because remote causation is still causation. Drawing an arbitrary line around Nestle, or around Nestle and those bloggers, or around Nestle and everyone who has ever purchased a Nestle product, or around Nestle and everyone who has failed to promote the boycott to others....it is completely empty. Narrow the charge, hoist them on their own petard, but rhetoric does no good.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBackpacking Dad

I've been aware of Nestle for about 15 years, and they truly are an appalling corporation that consistently fails to follow very simple WHO protocols and the basest of labor standards. Boycotting Nestle is NOT anti-formula, in fact, standing up against Nestle's disregard for health and business standards is important to give good formula, water and food businesses a fair chance in a multi-national market. Of course many corporations are bad for our health and environment, but the decades-long problems with Nestle are tobacco-company level. Thank you for striving to use their unsavory entre into the blogosphere as an education opportunity.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDeb

Thank you for bringing this to light! I'm going to make sure my son isn't using Nestle formula now.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMZ

...
wow.
I didn't know all this about Nestle. I chose Nestle Good Start for Nolan when I had to start him on formula (due to me being in the hospital and unable to produce any more milk) because my doctor said it was the best for him, he gave me a pamphlet on why it was the best (aside from breastfeeding of course) so I chose it. He likes it...and I don't really want to change him (since he's gaining weight fine and is doing good on it) although I don't like to support their malpractices :(

I wish I could have continued breastfeeding :(

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarcastica

I am so proud of our community right now!

This could obviously have been another contentious and splitting issue for us, but instead this thoughtful discussion is taking place--and back on a blog!!

I've known about the Nestle issues since back in the 70's. I had hoped they had cleaned up their act.

And the idea of running a due diligence test before signing up with a company is a wonderful idea. I'm afraid when we're offered trips or opportunities, we may be a bit blinded by the bling. This is a good reminder.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmie aka MammaLoves

Again, I'm not attacking the bloggers here at all. I've said that.

However, I disagree that you cannot draw a moral line between what Nestle does and what other companies do.

You may not approve of moral arguments, preferring a statutory approach.

However, even if there was no law against slavery, I still believe that slavery, its practitioners, and it supporters would be immoral.

True, it might not matter much in a court of law--but that does not mean my charges are without logic.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCandace

@Sarcastica: There are lots of options out there. In fact @curiousdad (look him up on twitter) wrote a post about why the generic brands are even better than the name brands. You might want to look it up. You can always give something else a try to see.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

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