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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,


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)

I have to be honest, I didn't read the 50 or so comments before me, but I have a suggestion. GET IT OUT THE HOSPITALS! The free samples are not what upset me the most in the hospital. It was the fact that the nurses fed my child formula so that I could sleep - without my permission.

My kids are 6 & 8 now and I don't breast feed any longer (thank goodness, I think they might be in therapy for the rest of eternity if I did) but I quit breast feeding my youngest at 9 months, but I had enough frozen breast milk that he never drank formula. My youngest wouldn't take a bottle. Period. Between the two kids I donated over 1000 oz. of breast milk to the Mother's Milk Bank for premies.

I don't for one minute disparage any mother who chooses not to breast feed, it is a choice. I get it, but its like cigarettes. DON'T MARKET TO MY KIDS.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDijea

Sarcastica, my sister is formula-feeding, and she found an organic brand that is not nestle. Look for one of those. I bet your baby will like it better!

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHaley-O (Cheaty)

DUDE. Population control totally occurred to me, too.
*cue eerie music*

Way sad.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAl_Pal

This is an amazing post. As a vegan and animal advocate, as well as children's advocate, I have major beef with Nestle (pun intended). And I'm as passionate as you are about speaking out against these big companies that put the corporate bottom line above human life. I'm not as brave as you are in my fight, however. I haven't spoken out against any specific company -- maybe because I was threatened with a law suit when I joked about how bad my daughter's camp was (a small company) on my blog. Instead, I've chosen the route of advocating eating less meat and dairy, etc.. And, so, to you, I say BRAVA! BRAVA! BRAVA! WE NEED to be speaking OUT. We can't simply speak FOR.

You're an inspiration. And, thank you for educating me even more on this rather disgusting subject.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHaley-O (Cheaty)

[...] – I’m sitting here reading this post at PhDinParenting and I’ve [...]

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterI am an ostrich – Nestlé

I honestly cannot understand how any parent nowadays would be unaware of the issues with Nestle.

I mean..I am not a big researcher, nor a passionate breastfeeder. In fact I use formula. Just not Nestle.

There are COUNTLESS articles on the web about Nestle. There have been tv shows about them.

It saddens me that people would not know or try to know about this sort of thing...or worse yet..be okay with it for a free trip and a stay in a pretty hotel.

Parents should not be bought this easily.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCrunchy

Yipes. I had no idea they had so many bad practices. Will definitely read more labels & make sure I don't buy their stuff!!! (I already buy Ghirardelli chips...)

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAl_Pal

Thank you for writing this. I never would have known about Nestle and the boycott/unethical practices if I had not stumbled across some blog posts a few years ago. Yours will surely help inform other families.

I'm not sure which attendees of the event are breastfeeding advocates. There is only one blogger on the list I follow regularly and I've never seen her talk about breastfeeding - her kids are older and I've only been reading her blog for 1-2 years. That said, I chose to send her a personal note, very politely and respectfully letting her know that I was sad that she was attending. And a little bit about why. I hope that personal note will be meaningful, compared to what looks like a lot of twitter chaos.

Thanks again for writing such a great post.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMissy @ Marketing Mama

A Nestle representative took me (and 2 other pediatric dietitians) out to lunch a few years ago, when I was working in clinical pediatrics. My impression originally was that it was to be an informative session, but I gradually caught on that we were being marketed to, and our loyalty bought by not only the pricey meal, but bags of gifts bearing the Nestle logo. He went through the biochemistry of the composition and digestion of GoodStart, showing its superiority over other formulas. It made me sick, and more so now that I am aware of their worldwide marketing practices. Yet when I later had to (temporarily) supplement my own breastfed infant, which formula did I choose?I am embarrassed to admit it.

This topic is easy to brush aside as we don't witness firsthand the impact of their marketing practices in the developing world. Several years ago, I spent a month living and working in a center for malnourished infants and children in rural Guatemala. It was so sad. I saw the ads, the over-dilution of infant formula, the center's staff desperate for formula donations despite the presence of staff with abundant milk supplies (they nursed each others children) and the malnourished babies had mothers who visited them... why, oh why were they not breastfed? I knew so little about breastfeeding at the time, so it didn't occur to me to ask these questions and get involved.

Thank you for writing this post, and for your passion on the topic.

You have inspired me. I think I'm going to expand on these thoughts on my blog.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

[...] I’ll admit to not really knowing that much about the issue, but there are some who are passionately boycotting the [...]

Thank you. Thank you for writing this. I've been so out of the loop I only just learned about this this evening. I have to admit how saddened I am. Not only at the list of bloggers who went, but at some of the defensive remarks I have read this evening.

Thank you for writing this, even if the ones who need to read it won't even care.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSummer

[...] found PHD in Parenting through twitter.  I find her posts to very inspiring and thoughtful.   This one has sort of sent me over the edge [...]

@phdinparenting...I meant for this to be a solo post...not a reply above. Please delete the duplicate in my reply to Lady Mama. So sorry, but I couldn't find where to remove it.

@Lady Mama – Thank you for the reply! Appreciate what you wrote. And I will report back what I’m told. Will it quell the call for justice? No. But it will demonstrate that I’m sensitive to the position here. As well, I believe in the message, and I appreciate those who communicate it professionally.

@phdinparenting – Your idea of researching is heard and I think it’s a wonderful idea. I tried your ‘boycott’ search and have a hard time finding a company that isn’t boycotted by someone somewhere for something. But I see the point…read, inquire, and base your decision on your interpretation. Noted, appreciated, and intended for the future.

Understand that I’m new to blogging and REALLY new to the drama that’s unfolded. My “Ode to BlogHer ‘09″ was a parody on the negativity that transpired and I never thought in a million years that I’d be challenged on ethics. Read my sites, you’ll see that a lot of good comes from them.

Some have commented to say, “how could you NOT know”, but it’s really not that inconceivable. The issue has never been brought up on my pregnancy/baby site and I also don’t research this line of discussion. So, my not knowing about it isn’t ignorance.

I could say the same kind of sweeping “how could you NOT know” statement about some of the domestic violence statistics out there. Are you FOR domestic violence if you aren’t aware of some of the scary stats out there? No! As in this situation, it’s a lack of knowledge, not a lack of compassion.

Articles such as this, and objective, helpful points of view are what will carry your message. Some on Twitter are taking it too far. When attending bloggers are challenged as human beings, it’s over the top. Until you can sit with me, have an intelligent discussion, and see where my heart lies, you can’t make snap judgments and formulate inane opinions on who I am as a person.

Perhaps I’m naive to a lot of the happenings in the blogosphere as my blog is only a few months old. When I was invited, I was excited. I figured it would be a fun event and a great way to connect…instead I find myself shaking my head at some of the venomous tweets going out. It’s going to get out of hand soon and I’m afraid it will hurt or skew your message more than it will help it. That’s why I so appreciate your professionalism in communicating your stance.

My intention is to make people laugh and to raise money for my Sweet Dreams Fund. Anyone who thinks I’m here for the pretty hotel and chocolates is kidding themselves. My blog is lighthearted. My baby/pregnancy website is informative. And my domestic violence fund is helpful. THAT is who I am as a blogger.

The issue you raise is a serious one and I would absolutely prefer to see babies breastfed than formula fed. And I understand that this is an issue about marketing…and how dissuading moms from breastfeeding can cause long-term negative effects. However, if I close myself off to dialog then how can anything change?

@Crunchy struck a nerve with his/her comments:

“There are COUNTLESS articles on the web about Nestle. There have been tv shows about them.”

…Perhaps, but not everyone has seen them. There are countless articles on photosynthesis but that doesn’t mean I’ve read ‘em. :)

“It saddens me that people would not know or try to know about this sort of thing…or worse yet..be okay with it for a free trip and a stay in a pretty hotel.”

…How can we try to know about this sort of thing if we don’t know the issue exists? As well, do you think our presence here means we advocate harm to babies? That is absurd…especially considering that most of our lives revolve around them. I am not trading ethics for one night in a hotel. This isn’t a vacation for me. I miss my wife, I miss my kids, but I also know that it can help me network with others and hopefully further carry my message.

“Parents should not be bought this easily.”

…I need this explained better. Perhaps it’s just an off-the-cuff barb but they aren’t buying my opinion. Do you honestly think that throwing a few boxes of candy at me would change my opinion on matters as serious as this? No way! I can’t be bought, but I can be communicated with, and this is a platform for that.

We are learning, it’s not some Big Brother brainwashing event. I’m smart and I’m capable of forming my own opinions. No amount of freebies would ever change that.

Man…I wrote too much, lol! Sorry about that. I just wanted to make my position clear. Yes, I am here for one day. No, I do not support the practices discussed above. Yes, I will inquire about them. No, I don’t expect answers that will sway opinion.

I don’t disagree with the article or with the call to action…I think it’s reasonable and obtainable. To be honest, I support you in that! 100%. But I’m also open-minded and feel that dialog can achieve more than silence.

What I disagree with is people jumping on the hate train just because it’s the thing to do. All this seriousness is giving me a headache. I’m not used to it. I need to resume goofiness immediately. :)

Thank you for the platform and I hope I’ve made some sense in my ramblings. I will return to post what I’ve learned and what my impressions are.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGreg - Telling Dad

Nestle's transgressions don't end at with formula; their North American water bottling division has come under fire for its rather predatory approach to small rural communities and their water.

I'm hardly the firebrand type, but after seeing Nestle's divisive tactics up close in my own community, I felt compelled to fire up the StopNestleWaters.org blog to hold them accountable for their actions.

That Nestle's focus on profit has caused it to do some contemptible things over the last few decades is pretty much a given; that they seemingly choose to continue those practices is astonishing.

Finally, it's easy to research a company on the Internet these days, and wholesale ignorance of Nestle's issues - especially on the eve of a PR event - fails to impress.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStopNestleWaters.org

[...] An open letter to the attendees of the Nestle Family blogger event [...]

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWired For Noise » Blog A

I will way I appreciate how you have handled this post. Unlike the others who have went on the attack you have handled it professionally and for that I am grateful. Like Greg just because I choose to work with a company that has many products that I use I don't think my ethics are right to be questions. They have a ton of products that will continue to be in my house, but the infant formula never has been and never will be well plainly put I think breast is best.

I think those attacking and defaming are not doing the cause any favors at all. I also agree you will find it hard to fine one company that does not have someone boycotting. I fully intend on bringing up concerns posted in this post if given the chance (or if someone doesn't get to it first LOL) I had already formed questions about formula when I accepted the event (BEFORE knowing about all of this).

I just think those attacking are doing more harm than good, I sat and simply said i wanted to research on my own about the claims not that I didn't believe them and for that my ethics were questions . If someone were to tell us BF moms that there was a study that showed BF killed babies would we be expected to just believe it without researching for ourselves...i think not and that is the problem I have with 99% of the people voicing their opionion, they went on the attack and we were actually saying we would bring their concerns to the table and that wasn't enough for some (not you , you have been very kind).

I am glad that you have posted this in such a manner as to not attack but rather voice concerns in a way that makes the attendees want to ask questions.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterToni

Agreed that it's easy to research a company, what I've said is that it never even entered my mind to do it, as I mentioned above. We live, we learn, right? You started your site AFTER you learned, am I wrong? Prior to hearing about the issues surrounding Nestle you probably used Nestle products, am I wrong? Did this make you a bad person? Ignorant? NO. You simply weren't informed. This is my point.

I considered it a harmless event where we come to learn and connect. I hadn't a clue it was going to rile so many people up to the extreme some are taking it. I have no reservations about who I am as a person, what I do, and what my motivations are. It's sad that some can't just decide to get their point across without insults...some of the Tweets out there are extreme.

I think some come here predisposed to pounce on whatever is written but I think I've exhausted myself trying to explain. I could say I love puppy dogs and someone would have a problem with me. :) I've said my peace, I'm here, and I'm going to ask these questions.

Thank you for the link to your site, I'll absolutely read it. I'll be back to share what I see and experience today. Please try and have a wonderful day...smile...life does extend some happy moments! Perhaps not THIS one, lol, but they are out there.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGreg - Telling Dad

I do hope common sense would tell people that the attendees would never support the practices mentioned above. If people question my ethics because I buy a companies products or attend a event then obviously those people don't know me :)

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterToni

Toni, I hope you do not see this as an attack on you--but I don't think that this is simply about not buying Nestle formula.

As I've stated before (and will state again because I certainly don't expect each new person to read every comment), I'm not attacking the bloggers, or their ethics. However, I do think you are missing a point here.

I do think that knowing about these practices (as now you do), it is fair to say that any further use or promotion of this brand is a statement. You may have done research and decided the accusations are unfounded, you may not believe they rise to the level of heinousness that others see, or you may choose to engage with the company anyway to question the practices...but I don't think it is as easy as saying you can separate attendance or use of other products from these particularly egregious corporate practices.

All I would ask is that the bloggers who are now aware of concerns read up, decide for themselves, and then not ignore the issue when they discuss the event or brand in the future.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCandace

You obviously use humor as a way of dealing with situations. What I would just point out is that some people may see this as trivializing a very important issue.

I was part of a sketch comedy group. Making fun of controversial issues was our bread and butter. But there are some things that just don't call for humor (not saying I think this is it, but just explaining why you may feel people are jumping on your responses)--or if you do go there, it better be really, REALLY funny.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCandace

I agree with Candace. I don't think you can separate their unethical practices regarding formula from the rest of their products/brand. I think if you buy or promote any of their products, you are helping to enable these types of practices. They will not listen until people vote with their wallets and do so in significant numbers.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Thank you for your comment StopNestleWaters.org. I agree that their practices with regards to the marketing of infant formula is only one example of the many unethical business practices of this company. It is sad, very sad, that so many consumers think so little about what they buy.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

You have to understand though..I am coming from pretty much the same 'area' of thinking etc as you. I am not an advocate on anything. I don't push any life styles with a passion. I don't boycott companies. I use formula!

I found out about their unethical practices surrounding water by flicking around on tv one night...I found out more by reading various blogs and then checking things out myself.

It has crept into my consciousness.

I also wonder at how anyone things a business has truly altruistic reasons for setting something like this up.

I wonder at the motives behind it.

I therefore wonder at why other people wouldn't do the same.

Big business is big business..they ain't doing this so you can network.

Nestle is doing this as part of their ongoing marketing campaign...if you are okay with being aligned with them..great.

I am not screaming baby killer at you....it is the marketing that needs to be taken note of ...and their ethics....

I wouldn't want my blog connected to them...

It would make me very uncomfortable....

Awareness about any big business is the key...

That is the biggest issue I think with review blogs and things like this..you have to be aware of who you are dealing with and what their motives are. It isn't to help you network. It isn't to make friends. It isn't to give you free stuff.

It is business. It is marketing. They are getting something out of it. And it is bigger than you and your blog.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCrunchy

Well I for one had no idea. I am not ignorant or a researcher or a formula feeder. If you have no idea that Nestle is doing something wrong then why would you look? I also do not know how many or what other companies Nestle own(ed)s. So to say that any parent not aware is shameful is a tad harsh and it turns people away from any cause because the implication is that they are doing it willfully.

I do not watch TV much because I cannot stand corporate media, I do not research Nestle because the only thing I buy from them is hot chocolate... Now that someone shouted loud enough that I heard them through the white noise, blow horns, advertising, and smiling fat babies which are drinking the closest thing to moms milk... i know what they have done. Do not judge someone because they do not know what you do. Educate them and show them what they need to know and where to look. If you start vilifying people for not knowing something they will not listen to you no matter what you have to say.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSharon

I think another thing that people are forgetting here is that advertising is very powerful. I think Christina's post illustrates this perfectly. She is an intelligent educated woman who still purchased Nestle items most likely because of the advertising and the marketing she was exposed to. These companies spend BILLIONS of dollars on direct marketing campaigns because they WORK. Can you envision a company spending a BILLION dollars on something that did not make them twice that much? It would be insane, share holders would run screaming from the first company that suggested such a thing.

This may also be specific to Christina's experience but there is an article from ABC news on the tactics used by pharma companies to push products, http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2008/04/05/former-drug-sales-rep-tells-all.aspx, this is also used in a number of other area. These people are educated on how to use psychological manipulation to get you to buy something. This is not science fiction or conspiracy theory... it is business as usual and affects people who are from all walks, people who pride themselves on being informed and not easy to manipulate. I am not saying that this exonerates someone from learning what companies like Nestle are doing and continuing to buy from them. It does helps explain why some messages do not get through to people and how people behave when given several products to choose from. This is a science that makes companies billions. You need to re-evaluate everything you think you know if you are going to challenge advertising and companies who use these tactics.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSharon

@Sharon: Yes, it does help to explain why so many people fall victim to Nestle's marketing. It helps to explain why women in developing countries are not simply exercising "choice" when they take out the formula. They are being manipulated. When companies are manipulating people into making a less healthy choice, and in particular a potentially deadly choice, I think that needs to be controlled and regulated.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Absolutely. I also did not know that the W.H.O. had recommendations and that in most other countries you need a prescription to purchase formula. I think that something like that needs to be done here too... but we cannot even put up effective breastfeeding ads in the U.S. without the Ad Counsel revamping them and making them 'less offensive' to the formula companies, who after all are providing a vital service... my sarcasm is showing, sorry. In America it is open season on your wallet no matter what product it is.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSharon

I am a huge breastfeeding supporter and never used formula with either of my children. I also agree that it is harmful to push it on new, sleep-deprived, confused mothers in hospital. However, hospitals face huge fiscal implications by not accepting the formula.

The hospital where I had my second (an emergency c-section after having my first at home, but that's another story) is a designated Breast-feeding Friendly hospital. This is a WHO designation, one that our hospital had to set rigorous standards to achieve. Those standads include not accepting or distributing formula samples. Great, right? Yes, except that the major companies that produce formula (like Nestle) also produce other, much needed nutiritional and diet replacements (like Ensure), for non-maternity patients. Guess what happens when a hospital says no thanks to the formula? Now imagine the cost to the hospital to buy all of the other much-needed products? It is no wonder so many hospitals fail to achieve (or even try to achieve) a BF Friendly designation.

To me, this is just one more example of a systematic failure to protect people's health that Nestle contributes to, and one more reason to boycott. But I also now understand better why, unfortunately, these products are so prevalent in hospital.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkgirl

[...] Nestle Family blogger event in Los Angeles, initiated (I believe) by a thoughtful post by Annie of PhD in Parenting, and followed by the comments and tweets of many, many others (see in particular, @that_danielle [...]

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPop Discourse » Blog Arc

Crazy to think about how little has changed. I remember my parents boycotting Nestle in the 1970's (it's one of my first memories, I wanted Nestle Quik, but no) for the very same reason. Maybe now the power of hte internet will help enact change -- but it HAS been 30-odd years already.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

I don't think prescriptions are required in "most" countries, but they are required in some.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Hello everyone. As promised I sat with a pediatrician who is heading the nutrition division here at Nestle. I am going to share what she's conveyed to me. It's not an endorsement of anything, it's the sharing of information. Take it as you wish but don't slay the messenger. :)

She has agreed to sit with me for a longer spell later today and I'll ask more probing questions if you'll post them to me here. I am happy to do it.

She did say that Nestle has not and cannot advertise, promote, or share samples of formula in any country that has adopted the WHO code. After the tragedy that transpired in the 1970's, and the subsequent boycott that ended in 1986, Nestle has created a set of standards that they follow based on a country by country basis.

They are forbidden from giving out formula...to people and to hospitals. In most areas, it must go through the government or be given by prescription. Again, please understand that I'm only sharing what I'm told. I am not condoning, endorsing, or rallying behind it. I am sharing. Making that clear.

She also said that Nestle does support breastfeeding but I ran out of time to find out "how" this is done. I have reserved that for our chat during lunch. So, feel free to reply to message here and post the questions you'd like her to answer. I will then share back after I've had time to sit with her.

I'm here and I plan on conveying your message and stance. As well, I will elicit answers as best I can. Just as I promised I would. More later!

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGreg - Telling Dad

@Candace - You are right, I use humor to deal with situations. Life is too short to be caustic and I think humor can bridge many gaps. This doesn't mean I don't issues seriously, okay? Read about my domestic violence fund, and the post behind it, and you'll see that. I am not trivializing...I have agreed to pose the questions you send. I feel I've been more than open and the fact that humor envelopes me shouldn't be regarded as flippancy.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGreg - Telling Dad

Sitting with the CEO of Nestle and he's being pressed on the issue.

I am typing as fast as he talks, so forgive any typos. :)

We do market infant formula...it was the start of our company. Have for 150 years. Issue was in some third world countries, we gave free samples to moms who left the hospital. WHO felt it was not the way to market. Problem, people used it with the wrong quantity or liquid or bad water. Children died in the 70's as a result of this misuse and the backlash wasn't financial, it was personal.

They cooperated with WHO to overhaul the practices in the late 70's and come up with a code. He says Nestle has lived by the code since that day. Some believe we don't. We sit with WHO annually and investigate claims. They feel they are in compliance.

Boycott started in 75 and ended in 86. Working with WHO to market appropriately. Anyone caught advertising or giving away product in those areas is immediately fired. They do not advertise, give away, or promote formula in any country which has adopted the WHO code.

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).

The communications manager says few people contact Nestle direct to open a line of communication. They are open to channels of communication and are willing to speak personally with anyone about the issue.

They agree that they need to communicate better and they are going to provide links to additional information about Nestle's stance and how they address it.

I hope this helps a little bit, but again, I am only conveying the information shared. I'm not saying this is the end all, be all facts. I am simply your conduit, so feel free to send questions you'd like me to ask at lunch. The lines of communication are open.

More later!

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGreg - Telling Dad

Greg--I am trying to help you see why some are responding to you as they are. Humor is wonderful when done at appropriate times in appropriate ways. And I completely understand that you are thinking on your feet here. However, please understand that you may be coming off as flippant here to some. I am not one of the more serious activists, and even I found your tone to trivialize in some cases.

There is a difference between finding the humor and life in even the darkest hour ("Life is Beautiful") and adopting a joking tone when you are caught off-guard on a serious topic. While I can certainly understand why you are using humor, I just want to help you understand why some may not respond well to this in this case.

And also know that posing my questions and reporting back is not what I, personally, am asking you to do. Do you think the Nestle reps there are going to give you any different answers than they have already given a million times in the past? Do you think you'll get anything approaching honesty?

What I am asking is that you think about the issue, ask your own questions, listen to their informational sessions and responses with a critical eye, think about why exactly Nestle is having this event and whether or not it aligns with your goals, and strongly consider Nestle's corporate practices when you tweet, write, or otherwise discuss this event and this brand and its subsidiaries.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCandace

Well, if people think I'm trivializing then they are just plain wrong. I wouldn't have offered to open dialogue if I didn't feel the issue was serious. I would have dismissed the concerns, poked fun, and ignored it. Everyone can see that I'm open and eager to pose questions.

Candace, I'm not asking for everyone's blessing here. Understand that I have been immersed in this issue for less than 24 hours. That is why I'm asking for you all to pose the questions you'd like me to ask.

Why? Because I don't KNOW all the questions to ask. And YOUR questions will lead to THEIR answers which will lead to MY knowledge. Only then can I do what you hope.

And no, I'm not naive enough to think that Nestle would change its stance but short of seeing the allegations first-hand, I have little to go on. They are serious issues, and I'm eager to explore, but please respect the fact that this is 20 hours old to me.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGreg - Telling Dad

I do understand that--which I've stated several times.

You seem to feel under attack and I'm just trying to communicate to you why some might respond to the tone in your comments in a negative way.

For what it is worth.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCandace

Cool, I see your point now, lol! Thank you so much for reaching out. I am learning a lot, which was the point, and it will be tempered. Know that. I have read as much as I could in the limited time I've had which is why I want to know the questions to ask. By leaning on those who are passionate about the issue for questions, I can better educate myself.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGreg - Telling Dad

I posted this but it didn't appear...I apologize if it doubles up.

What I had said is that they're pro-breastfeeding and have a 24-hour breastfeeding helpline at 1-800-4GERBER. They have lactation rooms in all facilities, they have consumer outreach programs, and they would prefer breastfeeding over formula.

However, not everyone CAN breastfeed. Yes, they are a for-profit company and their motivations surround profit. While they would always advocate breast milk over formula, they want those who do formula feed to choose their brand. Thus the marketing and advertising.

They are open to dialog but most jump on the 'boycott' bandwagon and spread negativity without doing their own research. They take opinion as fact and don't take time to read about what Nestle does by way of responsibility. They are going to share what they have in place and are hoping that the communication isn't one way.

They don't just want to hear how bad they are, they want to hear WHY so that they can take the steps necessary to consider change.

Again, I am just sharing what I'm told, this is not an endorsement. I simply want to extend the information I'm given that is relevant to this issue. Yes, I'm sure it's sugarcoated to some extent, but at least it's an open line of communication.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGreg - Telling Dad

Thanks for writing this. I learned a lot from your post.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKelly Tirman

@Greg - Telling Dad: I find it problematic that they have a 24-hour breastfeeding helpline. I think they should take the money that they put into that and donate it to La Leche League or use it to set up INDEPENDENT lactation support programs. Perhaps I'll set up some mystery shopper calls to that 1-800 line and see what type of advice struggling moms get. Anyone game?

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I think it's fantastic, Greg, that you're asking questions and reporting the answers back here. For the record.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlice

@Greg: I had a few suggestions on HOW they should change in this post. Would appreciate getting a reaction to those from Nestle.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I love watching this unfold and knowing there's a conversation happening. Yay Greg! Way to go.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterandrea from the fishbowl

I'm game! I'm interested to see how long it takes before they try to get me to just try "supplementing." HMM.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErin W.

I don't know why people are twisting this into a "nestle hates babies" thing when you've clearly made such a CLEAR CUT RATIONAL ARGUMENT here. It isn't about an American's woman's choice to breastfeed or not. This is about saving the lives of babies in extremely poor areas where women do not have access to the INTERNET or EDUCATION.

I'm furious today. Just furious. So sick of people saying "well I formula fed and my baby is healthy!" NO SHIT. You had access to MONEY and CLEAN WATER.


September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMaria

If this website is up to date, only 16 countries are in full compliance with the Code.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterElita @ Blacktating

@Elita: Unfortunately, it is not. It is from 15 years ago (see reference at the bottom) and I know there are about 65 countries that have legislated it now. I just can't find a list.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

YES! Ghiradelli ftw! Superior quality anyway, right? :)

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErin W.

Ooops! I should try doing one thing at a time, not 90. :)

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterElita @ Blacktating

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