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Good Nutrition: Nestlé is part of the problem, not part of the solution

A little bird provided me with a copy of a Nestlé news release that was being circulated via e-mail today. It seems Nestlé has teamed up with the American Academy of Pediatrics on a Healthy Active Living Initiative.  According to the news release:
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), with support from the Nestlé Nutrition Institute, has established the Healthy Active Living for Families (HALF) Project to help identify and develop patient and family educational tools and materials. The materials will be specific to obesity prevention and care targeted to the following developmental stages: infancy, toddlerhood, and early childhood/preschoolers. These unique materials will be scientifically validated and crafted using a developmental approach to children’s care, with special attention on creating culturally appropriate materials and incorporating plain language to make it easy for all families to understand best health practices.

The press release also provides data from a Nestlé study on feeding of infants and toddlers that was conducted in 2002 and 2008:
Last year, the 2008 FITS data revealed that toddlers and preschoolers in particular had diets high in saturated fat and sodium, and lacking in fruits, vegetables, and fiber. The researchers noted that caregivers have made significant improvement in infant feeding compared to the first FITS study in 2002, but may need more guidance and diligence to improve the diets of toddlers and preschoolers who are mirroring the often unhealthy eating patterns of American adults.

The press release is full of language underscoring the unhealthy food and lifestyle habits of American families, but interestingly no criticism of the processed food industry. Instead, the press release talks about how the Nestlé Start Healthy, Stay Healthy™ Nutrition System will help parents raise healthier children and how the "partnership with AAP is truly a natural and cohesive collaboration, as Nestlé research and GERBER® product development focus specifically on the healthy growth and development of children from birth up to age four."

Sounds great, right?


The problem with this scenario is that Nestlé is one of the companies pushing unhealthy food. It is hilarious that Nestlé underscores the problem of french fries, when its Gerber Graduates meals contain more than twice as much sodium as a medium order of French Fries at McDonald's.

According to an article on the food industry and obesity in Business Week, too much of the blame for obesity and poor nutrition is put on individuals and too little on the companies that aggressively market crap:
The evidence is mounting that the obesity crisis is not the result of a lack of personal responsibility—the processed food industry’s practices may be just as much, if not more, to blame. Pish tosh, say many of us; we just need to watch what we eat and exercise more. It seems it’s not that simple. Two new studies conclude that the food industry is following the tobacco industry’s play book to ensure that we keep loading up on calories, and as a result virtually all of the weight gain in the U.S. over the last 30 years can be attributed to eating more, not moving less.

A lot of people would say that is ridiculous and that people need to take personal responsibility for what they are feeding their families. That is true, to some extent. But these processed food manufacturers also take advantage of the fact that parents have little time and that they (for some odd reason) trust what corporations have to say. For example, those sodium-laden Gerber Graduates I mentioned above? Here is how Nestlé describes them:
GRADUATES LIL’ ENTRÉES* are nutritious mealtime combinations in one convenient ready-to-serve tray for your toddler. They are as delicious as they are nutritious, carefully cooked for just the right taste and texture. Each LIL' ENTRÉE contains a full serving of veggies. Plus, there are no added preservatives or artificial flavours. Each entrée provides protein, vitamins and minerals.

They make it sound like it is something you should actually be feeding your child when you read that description. Yikes. As obesity doctor Yoni Freedhoff says about Nestlé's Gerber Graduates: "Guess they're trying to graduate them to full blown heart disease."

There are always ulterior motives when large multinational corporations get involved in initiatives like this. They see working with the AAP as an opportunity both to push their agenda to the AAP and to gain credibility in the eyes of consumers who would like to believe that their health professionals wouldn't partner up with a junk food company to provide advice on nutrition. If Nestlé truly wants to help with obesity prevention and healthy living, it should start by making its products a lot healthier and stop pretending its toddler-sized TV dinners are healthy food.
« Guest Post: Inside the American Academy of Pediatrics Conference | Main | If you won't listen to me, listen to him »

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    PhD in Parenting - PhD in Parenting - Good Nutrition: Nestlé is part of the problem, not part of the solution

Reader Comments (52)

The AAP has sold its soul to the devil. Unbelievable and very upsetting!

October 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLexi Rodrigo

This is not the first time, unfortunately.

October 5, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I wish I could find this unbelievable, but I've seen too much lately that corporations have wormed their way into places they don't belong.

Where are the actual pediatricians in all of this? The AAP has members, many of whom are parents themselves. WHERE ARE THEY?? Why is an entire profession, who takes an oath to FIRST DO NO HARM, standing by and allowing this to happen? This is sickening to me, especially when so many mothers are slammed when they have the audacity to question their recommendations. Who now are we supposed to trust?

October 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSuchada @ Mama Eve

And once again, there goes the sound of my head exploding.

October 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBoston Mamas

I feel like I should just cut and paste my comment from Liz's post about the HFCS blog carnival.

Telling the consumer that your product does not cause X, but that it is the consumer over-consuming the product that causes X, is intellectually dishonest and it is obviously so if anyone cares to look. For instance, an analogous blame-the-consumer argument from Big Tobacco might run thusly:

1) Lung cancer happens when you inhale too many things that aren't oxygen. Cigarette smoke is just one of many possible things you might choose to inhale.
2) Lung cancer occurs, therefore, because you choose to inhale whatever it is you're inhaling.
3) So to say that cigarettes cause lung cancer is to wrongly attribute causation to the product inhaled rather than the person making the choice.
4) Therefore the tobacco industry would not be misleading the public in any way if it claimed that cigarettes don't cause lung cancer.

And that kind of bullshit is why I hate everybody today.

October 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBackpacking Dad

This is infuriating.

The AAP shouldn't take direction from any multinational company affliated with foodstuffs.

This ranks up there with advertisements for big pharma without even noting what the drug is treating...

October 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMomnivore's Dilemma

Count me in as person #3(0000000) who is absolutely baffled that the AAP would partner over *anything* with Nestle, especially considering that Nestle is a corporation whose practices and policies so clearly undermine many of the AAP's goals and positions regarding nutrition, breastfeeding, and overall children's health.

I suppose it's always nice to have a reminder to promote media and marketing literacy alongside my other advocacy interests. (But this reminder makes me pretty angry too.)

October 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKristen

I'm so sick of this crap. What can we do to make a difference? I feel like I'm always pissed off but don't have any way of fighting back.

October 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristy @ pureMotherhood

Once again the public will be hoodwinked and bamboozled. SMH. Thanks for sharing!!

You have got to be kidding.

October 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThe Globetrotter Parent

I'm all for helping to organize a letter-writing campaign (and/or write an open letter or petition) to the AAP. One the one hand, the glimmer of hope that I have left in them makes me think that they would at least humor "us" with a thoughtful response. On the other hand, although bad press might slide right off of Nestle, I'm not so sure that it would do the same for the AAP. (And sadly, this is in part because Nestle has far more powerful PR people than the AAP does.)

October 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKristen

Wow - I am both shocked and saddened by this. By partnering with Nestle, the AAP indirectly shows approval towards their products. This will unfortunately influence a lot of parents. No toddlers should be eating those Gerber Graduates Lil Entrees. They set the stage for other processed, packaged foods later on in life. Kids should have a chance to experience the complex flavours of fresh, unpackaged foods!!

October 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSheryl

Trust is such a hard thing to come by these days. I don't think you can really trust ANYONE who is trying to sell you something. And now, those people trying to sell things are hiding behind professionals who we already trust, and thereby undermining anyone who is also just giving you advice. It's so infuriating, how hard we have to work to find truth and honesty these days.

October 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie

:-O Gross. Is our only hope that people will ignore begin to ignore the AAP?

October 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLara @mamapeardesigns

Right after you said Sounds great, right? My mind immediately jumped to Gerber's "tv dinners" ... and then, there you were, talking about them.

So disgusting. I wouldn't eat them... I honestly don't understand - who buys them? If you're feeding your child food that isn't mashed, why not just feed him the food YOU are eating? Why prepackaged, over processed, over salted foods? I've never bought one... the sight of them makes me a little woozy.

October 5, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkelly @kellynaturally

Furthermore, if a child is young enough to need convenience food instead of eating the farm-grown, home-butchered, wild-caught meal the family is eating he should just be breastfeeding.

Lazy parents.

October 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBackpacking Dad

So horrible, but I'm not surprised. Before I got up the guts to switch my daugter's pediatrician he told me I should buy some gerber for my not close to sitting up independently exclusively breastfeeding FOUR month old. I was stunned because I do lots of research and reading on my own. My friend (a busy working mom who was pumping and giving her son exclusively breastmilk) got the same advice from the same doctor and started feeding him at four months, because pediatrician said so. My kid will eat anything we eat (lots of whole foods) her kid lives on processed stuff. I know there is a connection there.

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

My brain hurts.

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercarina

I'm not baffled. The AAP probably got a lot money from the corporations that are participating. Or got them to make campaign donations on their behalf or charitable contributions. Basically AAP sold their name.

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMeghan

It's called politics.

@Backpacking Dad: And I thought I was lazy!

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

People buy them out of convenience. It seems easier to pop a package into the microwave then cook a meal and give your child a small portion. If you don't know any better, it would seem from the description on the package that this is much healthier than running through the drive-thru. Many parents are strapped for time to cook.

And also remember that WIC provides something like 90 jars of baby food a month to mothers enrolled in the program. I'm not sure which baby food companies they contract with, but if they contract with Goodstart formula, why not Gerber jarred foods as well?

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElita @ Blacktating

I completely agree and I pretty much take everything the AAP says with a grain of salt.

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNiki

The AAP should be ashamed of itself accepting such support from Nestle. As a healthcare professional it is currently customary that vendors for any companies are not allowed to bring lunch to hospital workers or give any presents to them. This is done in order to prevent a conflict of interest. It seems that this is just the tip of a huge iceberg when a large company like this sponsors an initiative such as this.
We need big business' financial support to be able to provide valuable initiatives. But as consumers, parents and grandparents we need to be educated as to how open and honest are these combined efforts. My motto is to follow the money trail. In this case you will more than likely find that this association is financially advantageous for both involved parties but not necessarily for the consumer.
Not only should Nestle be held accountable but so should any dues paying member of the AAP. I would venture to say that many of the AAP members do not know the details of what you describe and are displaying Nestle products in their offices without full disclosure. Pediatricians' should be made aware of this information so that they can stop promoting Nestle directly or indirectly if they feel so inclined.

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLorette Lavine

WHAT??? Just yesterday I published an op-ed commentary for Minnesota Public Radio News that used an AAP statement as part of my argument! (http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2010/10/05/drury/) Silly writer that I am, I considered their work to be in the best interests of children, uninfluenced by outside factors. Like, y'know, corporations.


October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShannon Drury


There are a number of things you can do.

- You can stop buying products from Nestle and tell others about their http://phdinparenting.com/nestle" rel="nofollow">unethical business practices.
- You can write to the AAP and let them know that you are concerned about this (this sometimes does work - http://www.infactcanada.ca/whatsnew/nestle-sponsors-conf-sept-2009.html" rel="nofollow">in Canada a letter writing campaign was successful if getting a Nestle sponsored pediatric nutrition conference cancelled)
- You can write to your own doctor and let him/her know that you are concerned about this.
- You can blog about it and help spread the word about how disgusting this type of partnership is.

Perhaps others will have additional ideas?

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Well the AAP is notorious for recommending or at least not condemning the agendas of money making schemes that fund them... think about it!
Vaccinations: pharmaceutical companies
Circumcision: Doctors who pay their BMW and house payments with that fee, cosmetics companies who put the foreskin in wrinkle creams and pharmaceutical companies who make money off the Viagra they will have to take later because of the EID they will get as a result.

If u really think there are medical benefits to those things do your research and quit being sheep!

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterVicki Ekwall

This is right along the lines of that horrible piece of misinformation masquerading as a cute public device announcement that geber is currently running about how they're going to make the next generation healthier. I would love to see a blog post on that commercial!

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSara

I think an open letter to the AAP on a highly visible blog, with other blogs posting their support in the comments (i.e. "signing the letter") would be very effective. The AAP has a long history of partnering with the formula companies, in the past it was Similac (Abbott) which I am assuming they ended because of the recent recall. The highly respected Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has called for ties to industry to be cut, http://meetingsnet.com/medicalmeetings/news/0415-jama-drug-industry-ties/ and Dr. Jay Gordon, wrote a hilarious April Fool's Day press release that was posted to several thousand doctors and lactation professionals, and got the AAP madder than a hornet; Dr Susan Burger then defended his spoof: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jay-gordon/goliath-and-the-gnats-the_b_188817.html

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBettina at Best for Babes

WIC also provides Gerber jarred foods, at least in my state. I also had the option to buy Beach Nut brand, and another brand or two that weren't available to me locally. I tried to buy Beach Nut, but I wasn't a fan of them either as their cereal was labeled 4+ months, and their website's daily menus I thought focused too much on solid foods and not enough on breastmilk.

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHannah

no pun intended!

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth Silva

Please try not to hate everybody today. We can't give in to the bitterness...it ruins your life and relationships. All we can do is make a difference where we can.

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth Silva

Personally, I find the Gerber graduates meals (and all those processed toddler meals) pretty gag-worthy. I think it's despicable that they are promoting these products as 'healthy'.


I've interviewed a fair number of AAP members and pediatricians for my research lately, and I have to say that they really DO care about kids. You have to remember that the AAP is a political organization, with different, competing factions, and a high budget that needs to be supported by corporate sponsors. I think its odd that they are partnering with Nestle in this, and I would definitely support a letter-writing campaign like Annie suggests to make them aware of how we, as parents/consumers, feel about the issue - but I think it's sad that people are immediately disparaging the entire organization due to their policy on corporate sponsorship.

One former president of the AAP explained to me that they DO realize they are making deals "with the devil" occasionally, but they take things on a case-by-case basis - the specific sub-group in question (obesity prevention, in this situation) has an agenda/platform they want to promote, and so they seek sponsorship to make it happen. If Nestle was willing to pay more than other sponsors, they would "win" the "account" (poor choice of words on my part, but its the only way I can think to explain it right now).

Does this make it morally right? Probably not. But money is an unfortunate necessity, and the big corporations which have money to spare and the desire to promote themselves as associated with the AAP tend to also have sketchy histories. It's the nature of the beast. I think we have to just take what the AAP says with a grain of salt, like another poster suggested - but I still feel they DO have the best interest of kids at heart, its just that sometimes they fall victim to being a large, political organization with a wide variety of competing interests and opinions. I'm not defending the actions here - I think the partnership is bizarre - but I guess I am defending the intent of the AAP; I tend to think a lot of their recommendations are misguided and sloppy, but I still believe they mean well.

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFearless Formula Feeder

Bettina, I hadn't heard about Dr. Gordon's spoof. That's really interesting! Good for him for doing something like that. It's really smart and funny. Thanks for sharing.

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie

I would bet money that there is the barest mention of breastfeeding in that literature that's coming out. Or I would if I weren't positive I'd lose that bet. What a joke. And to think, I didn't think I had any respect left to lose for the AAP. What a group of sellouts.

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJeanine

If Nestle was really concerned about obesity and nutrition, they would provide funding to get more education out to the public about breastfeeding. There's no money to be made for them that way, though.

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBonita Yagiela

Hannah, I wouldn't buy ANY baby food for your little one. It's not necessary. It isn't hard to make your own and then you know there are no bug parts, feces, metal shavings or whatever else they recall packaged baby food for. Also, you may not remember back in the 80's when Beechnut was putting colored water with sugar in it and called it apple juice. You can only trust what you make for your own little one. Just cook, mash and freeze vegetables. Simple, safe, cheap and nutritious.

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBonita Yagiela

[...] had pillars, roofs, and multiple display counters. Nestle appeared to be the main sponsor (which we now know to be true), as each physician’s name tag was on a Gerber Good Start lanyard, which was printed in a [...]


We didn't even do that with our second child. We just fed her primarily small pieces of soft fruits and vegetables or put large pieces into an infant safe feeder. Now that it is recommended that parents wait until at least 6 months to introduce solid food to their infants, there is really little need for baby food at all (homemade or store bought). Some kids may prefer it, but it isn't a necessity at all.

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting


October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSuzy

You know that all doctors stopped taking this oath years ago, right? :( Sad.

October 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenter3Queens

Where are the APA members that are also members of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine in all this? Speak up, doctors! We all know that Nestle doesn't do anything that won't make them money in the end. Nestle's advice is bound to be as selfserving as the advertising for the sugary cereals, which are "part of your good breakfast."

October 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHelen

I love nestle,especially thier chocolate,mmmmm

October 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkerry willett

I just don't get why we think toddlers or any children need anything but plain, wholesome foods. If you don't get them use to the salts and sugars they will love healthy foods. But that is the side note. The issue of course is the AAP teaming up with Nestle but isn't that what it's all about? Teaming up with companies that can treat you like royalty? Nothing is new under the sun. There have always been, always will be those people more interested in their own appetites than in the well being of the common folk. They may label it as something that looks great, but the truth of the matter is how much money goes into the mouths of those being entertained through dinners, cruises, golf, etc. Go on these fabulous sponsored trips with your spouse several times a year and eat like queens and kings? Or stay home and eat healthy carrots? It's only a wrapper.

October 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie Page

[...] While I was trying to recover from the blog battle between Liz and Stacey, I saw a post by Annie of Ph.D. in Parenting pop up in my feed reader. In it, Annie describes a recently announced healthy living partnership [...]

this is not really a suprise, after all what large company doesn't try and hide evrything bad it is doing behind a well placed marketing campain showing the one or two good things they do.

Although they do make good chocolate ...... Is that one of thier good or bad things lol


October 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterian

[...] that this was an April Fool’s joke. PhD in Parenting broke the news earlier this week, linking to an announcement on the AAP web site about the Health Active Living for Families (HALF) [...]

The fact that Nestle' is in no way compliant with the WHO code for formula marketing should be enough by itself to prevent the AAP from partnering with them in any way. I agree it sends a bad message.
On another note, someone mentioned above that WIC provides baby foods in their food packages. As a WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor, I would like to comment on this. Yes, baby foods are provided and yes they are Gerber foods. However, only single ingredient jarred foods are allowed, no 'dinners' or 'desserts'. This is a recent change that is supposed to increase baby's intake of fruits and veggies. Juice is no longer provided until baby is a year old. While I agree that ideally, baby would be given, whole, fresh, organic foods, this is really not a feasible option for many of our mothers. Most are working and/or going to school. Many don't have reliable transportation or good family support. If you live in the middle of a city, growing or hunting your food is something from a story book. For this mother, opening a jar of carrots is often her healthiest option. Much better that the mac n cheese, chicken nuggets, or spaghetti-O's the baby might get otherwise. So please refrain from judging these parents as "lazy" until you've been in a situation like theirs.

October 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJeneeLyn

And how's this for irony? In April 2010 -- that is less than six months ago, now -- AAP signed the Council of Medical Speciality Societies' Code for Interactions with Companies. Meaning AAP said: health care practitioners, and their societies [professional associations] should NOT have cozy relationships with corporations. They shouldn't take corporate $$ for "education" ... they shouldn't take corporate $$ to "sponsor" programs ... they shouldn't be setting policy with heatlh care providers. To be sure, it is a voluntary Code for Interactions with Companies -- but why bother signing at all if you are going to so flagrantly violate it? "By adopting this Code [as AAP has ...] societies demonstrate their commitment to the highest level of ethical standards in their activities and to providing the best possible care for patients and populations." Yeah, right. Sheesh. To learn more about the Code and CMSS go to cmss.org

October 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLiz Brooks JD IBCLC

When I saw this on the news a while back, I immediately said, "Oooo! No they didn't! My girl on PhD in Parenting is going to be blogging about this one!" LOL!

I am going to share this with my FB friends. It is amazing to me how much we trust our food industry. If they say it is nutritious - it seems like we should be able to believe them. But ALAS!

October 10, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersmoaksmom

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