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Tell Nestlé that formula doesn't PROTECT babies

Baby Milk Action is heading up a campaign to e-mail Nestlé about its formula labels that claim that its formula protects babies. It is encouraging people to e-mail Nestlé to demand that it put a stop to this practice.  Here is a brief excerpt from Baby Milk Action's facebook page:
Nestle's latest global marketing strategy is to promote its baby milk with the claim it 'protects' babies. Nestle knows that babies fed on its formula are more likely to become sick than breastfed babies and, in conditions of poverty, more likely to die. But Nestle puts its own profits before the lives of babies with strategies like this.

Baby Milk Action and our partners have stopped similar practices in the past through pressure from the boycott and will stop this - but only with your help.

Some people who wrote to Nestlé have received responses like this one received by Greta Blau:
Dear Mrs Blau

There is no question about breast-milk being the best start a baby can have in life. To emphasise this, the following statement, "Important notice: Breast-milk is best for babies. Before you decide to use an infant formula consult your doctor or clinic for advice", appears on all our infant formula products. However, for infants who, for whatever reason, cannot be breastfed, it is critically important that a safe, high-quality alternative be made available.

Nestlé makes significant investments in R&D and technology to continuously deliver innovative products with scientifically proven nutritional benefits. We continue to make scientific and technical advances in the area of nutrition and we make sure that our infant formula products are “best in class” to meet as far as possible the nutritional requirements of non-breastfed babies.

The functional benefits that are encapsulated in the “Protect” logo are scientifically substantiated – the result of many years of intensive research on how best to improve the formula composition to stimulate the infant’s immune system. The logo helps distinguish this particular formula from other less advanced products but does not claim in any manner that infant formula is superior or equal to breast-milk.

Infant formula products are heavily regulated by governments to ensure that consumers have technically precise and accurate information. In countries where the “Protect” logo is used, it is consistent with the local legislative and regulatory framework. For instance, in Malawi, the infant formula was registered with the national health authorities prior to its launch and they communicated no concern about it to us.

We hope to have answered your concerns. Do not hesitate to contact us would you have further questions.

Best regards,
Dr Gayle Crozier Willi
Issues Manager
Public Affairs
Nestlé SA
Avenue Nestlé 55
CH-1800 Vevey

I wrote about this issue previously when I asked Nestlé about the wording on its labels. Here is a brief excerpt of my key point from that post:
Nestle is right that this label contains a clause saying that “breastmilk provides the best food for your baby and reduces the risk of diarrhea and illnesses” (see the small print at the bottom of the can), but it is significantly less prominent than the big PROTECT stamp telling you all the wonderful ways that Nestle formula will protect your baby. The thing is, all of those protections and more exist in breastmilk. (If those protections do exist, which many independent scientists argue they may not at all - See Comments 1 and 2 below).

Where I live, we have language laws designed to protect the French language. On signs, labels, etc. the French has to be more prominent than the English. Perhaps we need a similar law for breastfeeding protection. A law that says that the information on breastmilk being best must be bigger than any claim about the formula and it must be clear that the claim about the formula is compared with other formulas, not compared with breastmilk.

Please take a moment to e-mail Nestlé and tell Dr. Gayle Crozier that claiming that Nestlé's formula protects is inappropriate and that small print at the bottom of the can about breast being best doesn't make up for that.

Click here to send an e-mail (sample text provided that you can edit).

Thank you for helping send a message to Nestlé that it has to do better.
« Oh those technology obsessed neglectful parents... | Main | What do you do with new knowledge? »

Reader Comments (14)

Thanks Annie. The more people who send messages, the better. We have stopped similar strategies in the past, but Nestlé keeps coming back with new ways to undermine breastfeeding.

Nestlé claims do not stand up to scrutiny. While Dr. Crozier-Willi says that the claims are 'scientifically proven', independent experts disagree. For example, the authoritative Cochrane Library has said of Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (the DHA and ARA in the logo, which Nestlé claims aid brain and eye development): "This review found that feeding term infants with milk formula enriched with LCPUFA had no proven benefit regarding vision, cognition or physical growth." (links on our campaign page).

Nestlé flags up the 'breastmilk is best' warning as defense - even though we refer to that in our suggested message. The warning is only there because the boycott campaign led to marketing requirements being introduced by the World Health Assembly - Nestlé is seeking to undermine it. In addition, Nestlé refused to translate it on the label shown into the national language of the country (Malawi), citing 'cost restraints', until Baby Milk Action gained national media coverage for this in the UK. You can watch the television programme produced by Mark Thomas as he pursued Nestlé over this via the campaign page - it is revealing and very funny.

Nestlé's 'protect' strategy is not limited to the labels, of course. It is promoting its false claims to health workers, in breach of Article 7.2 of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, which states information should be limited to scientific and factual information.

Nestlé is also refusing to warn parents who do use baby milk that powdered formula is not sterile and the simple steps to reduce risks. This is despite the fact that there have been cases of babies fed under the best conditions becoming ill from bacteria in the powder and even died. The World Health Organisation has produced guidelines for parents on how to reduce this small risk to near zero - but Nestlé continues to refuse to update its labels. See:

Our campaign is to protect breastfeeding and to protect babies fed on formula and we need as much support as we can get to hold Nestle to account. It would be great if as many people as possible linked to our campaign page:

June 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMike Brady


Nestlé claims do not stand up to scrutiny. While Dr. Crozier-Willi says that the claims are ’scientifically proven’, independent experts disagree. For example, the authoritative Cochrane Library has said of Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (the DHA and ARA in the logo, which Nestlé claims aid brain and eye development): “This review found that feeding term infants with milk formula enriched with LCPUFA had no proven benefit regarding vision, cognition or physical growth.” (links on our campaign page).

I just wanted to bold this, because you are absolutely correct and it is an important point.

June 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I find it horribe how predatory Nestle' is. I did an experiment my last pregnancy to see how long it took to get some 'free' formula in the mail. I never signed up for anything that was directly formula related like at a formula site. I never marked that I was formula feeding or combination feeding my new baby. The people who had my address were two online stores that I ordered non-bottle or formula items. Then, when my baby was 6 weeks old I got a box of formula in the mail. I think it was the 'Enfamil triple guard' with all the false health claims and that irritating woman playing a doctor on the box and ads. She holds a marker high as if she is about to check off develpmental things like 'brain and eye development'. It also had some flyers inside the box for the nighttime filling-up your baby formula! Ugg. I want the code here is the US so bad!!!

June 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNaomi

I've been reading your blog for awhile, and am wondering...
Why Nestle? Are their practices less ethical than other infant formula companies?

Pardon my ignorance. Note I am not denying your claims, and I am a dedicated breastfeeder and supporter of breastfeeding myself... I'm just curious that you focus so much on one company.

June 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKari

"Baby Milk Action and our partners have stopped similar practices in the past through pressure from the boycott and will stop this – but only with your help."

One question: Who exactly are you getting to boycott? Breastfeeding Moms don't use formula so I don't think their "boycott" would do much.

June 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterangryworkingmom


We are asking people to Boycott Nestle. You can get a http://crunchydomesticgoddess.com/2009/10/07/the-updated-nestle-product-boycott-list/" rel="nofollow">list of its products here.

But specifically, at the moment, we are asking people to e-mail Nestle at the moment.

June 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Baby Milk Action campaigns to encourage all baby food companies to abide by the marketing standards adopted by the World Health Assembly and our work for legislation impacts on all of them.

Nestlé is singled out for boycott action because monitoring by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) finds it to be the worst of the companies in terms of volume of violations and provisions of the International Code that are violated. Nestlé is the global market leader. Nestlé has rejected our four-point plan for saving lives and ultimately ending the boycott.

The second placed company, Danone, owner of Nutricia, Milupa and Cow & Gate brands, is starting to rival Nestlé, particularly as it tries to compete in Asia. However, Danone only bought these brands recently and promised Baby Milk Action when we put a plan to it similar to that put to Nestlé that it would conduct a 'root and branch' review of marketing strategies. This has seen it withdraw from market one of the controversial formula (so-called Goodnight Milks, which had been marketed as helping babies sleep through the night). But the next global monitoring report, due out this year, will show whether it is improving or not.

We produce a Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet which targets specific examples of violations by all companies with letter-writing campaigns and have also organised demonstrations at events with inappropriate sponsorship by baby food companies.

Nestlé, however, drives down standards for the industry as a whole. For example, it launched its 'protect' logos in South Africa with point-of-sale promotion in retail outlets. The industry association tried unsuccessfully to stop this, claiming it violated the International Code and advertising codes (the Advertising Standards Authority - a voluntary regulatory system, part-funded by Nestlé through a levy on its advertising spend - cleared the promotion, though the Department of Health said it was not consulted as it would usually be in such cases). The danger is that other companies now may feel they have to try the same strategy.

In the case of South Africa, we supported the Department of Health with messages of support as it is working for stronger legislation. Legislation can be effective. In Brazil, for example, Nestlé does not use its 'protect' logos because the law is strong and is monitored and enforced. Elsewhere it has no qualms at doing so - unless the public protest is loud enough, which is why we need help with people sending messages.

June 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMike Brady

Breastfeeding mothers can choose who they give their money to for coffee, candy, bottled water and other processed foods, if they buy such things.

Nestlé cares about its profits more than anything else - even than the lives of babies and the rights of mothers. If it were not so, it would abide by the World Health Assembly marketing requirements for baby foods and would not promote its formula with the claim it 'protects' babies.

By showing executives they cause more harm to the company image and sales of other products through such baby food marketing strategies, we have forced it to change. It really is that simple a calculation for Nestlé executives, balancing what they gain through breaking the rules by the trouble it will cause them. Make no mistake, strategies such as claiming formula 'protects' and other health claims increase sales - an industry report concluded last year that restrictions on such claims in the European Union was holding back growth in sales.

Something that should be made clear is that the one product Baby Milk Action does not include on the boycott list is formula. Why? Because there may be times when Nestlé formula is the only food available to a baby that is not being breastfed and it would be irresponsible to send a message that the baby should not be fed on it. The rest of us can decide not to eat Nestlé products, and that is the way to give Nestlé a financial reason for changing its marketing practices.

June 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMike Brady

You know, Nestle isn't the first company to care about making a profit. Is Snapple really made from "the best stuff on Earth"? Hardly.

I would argue that Nestle's formula does indeed protect babies because it does one important thing: help them NOT DIE from starvation when breastmilk is unavailable.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commentershasta


No one is saying that infant formula isn't an important product. It is a good alternative when breast milk is unavailable. That said, infant formula also helps infants TO DIE when their mothers are convinced to give formula a try and then their breast milk dries up. That leaves a lot of women mixing formula with contaminated water or not being able to afford enough formula to feed their babies. If Snapple were being sold as a breast milk substitute, I would have the same issues with it that I do with Nestle.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

When has elongation and desaturation of precursor fatty acids found in diet beome “inefficient” at supplying natural DHA and ARA to a developing infant? When the manufacturers found a marketing gimmick and scare tactic aimed at vulnerable women whom choose or need to formula feed. These women should not feel guilty about formula feeding or force fed junk scientific claims. The reason that the body makes these fatty acids in a tightly regulated manner is because they are very powerful. All of a sudden natural synthesis is an unefficient process that needs to be corrected by supplementation of structurally altered sources of these powerful bioactive fatty acids.We don’t understand how these structural differences may affect development.What we do know is that these structural changes have been made to palmitic acid used in infants formulas since the 1980’s. This has caused insoluble soap formation and malabsorption which in turn caused constipation and other digestive issues. Palmitic acid is critical for S-acylation of proteins. In short, palmitic acid binds to proteins and activates and deactivates signaling. This process is critical for virtually every process involved with brain development.Knowing this, infant formula manufacturers use synthetic fatty acid triacylglycerols because they are cost effective. When you alter natural sources of fatty acids you will alter metabolism as well.Junk in,junk out.Since these fatty acids are critical for proper neuronal and digestive development, you may alter this as well.Since these changes in sources of fat have been incorporated into infant formulas there has been a steady increase in infant related health issues-allergies,food intolerances,digestive issues and cognive impairments. Infant formulas today are utilizing synthetic and very powerful long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. Their false benefits cannot be confirmed and long term effects are unknown. There is no shortage of “experts” that will try to convince you that DHA/ARA infant formulas are safe and beneficial. Not one of these experts fully understands long term effects or cellular changes made to lipid metabolism-Not One!-Infants today are part of the largest experiment ever conducted with serious reports of adverse events being ignored. Don’t worry,if your infant doesn’t tolerate these synthetic fatty acids there are a plethora of specialty formulas now available or a prescription for an acid reducer that may help. If your infant suffers from serious digestive issues try using a NON-DHA/ARA formula first.It has seemed to work for hundreds of other infants.

June 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMike Pescatore

I wrote to Nestle and finally received a response. It was almost the same letter posted here. But they have added a new section:
Infant formula products are reviewed, registered and/or regulated by governments to ensure that consumers have technically precise and accurate information. In all countries where the “Protect” logo is used, it is consistent with the local legislative and regulatory framework.
For your information, the World Health Assembly does not formulate marketing standards – rather it makes health policy recommendations to Member States. It is up to each Member State to determine how it implements these policy recommendations in their own country, according to their development goals and their social and legislative framework.
We hope to have answered your concerns. Do not hesitate to contact us if you have further questions.

Sorry Nestle, just because a Member State is ok with your tactics doesn't make it ethical or ok by me. Now if only I could find a way to convince my husband to switch cat food. I hate that Nestle owns so many products under many different names. I didn't know they owned Purina or Gerber, and I was saddened to learn that they have at least some ownership of The Body Shop.

July 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKerri

Many thanks for emailing Nestlé. We need many more people to do so. Nestlé's statement cannot be trusted, unfortunately. It asserts its labels are consistent with regulatory frameworks, but that is its own biased opinion.

The South African Department of Health said of Nestlé's new 'protect' labels in 2008 when they were launched there: "The Department of Health are extremely concerned about all the health claims that Nestle make on the new NAN 1, 2 and 3 tins. The health claims are a contravention of the current South African Regulations. A meeting was held with representatives of Nestle and Department of Health and it seems they were not aware that they are transgressing the Regulations. However, they are reluctant to change the labels."

As for Nestlé's claim that the World Health Assembly hasn't adopted marketing standards, the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes was adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981. Article 11.3 states: "Independently of any other measures taken for implementation of this Code, manufacturers and distributors of products within the scope of this Code should regard themselves as responsible for monitoring their marketing practices according to the principles and aim of this Code, and for taking steps to ensure that their conduct at every level conforms to them."

Dr. Gayle Crozier-Willi, who is responding to the email campaign, was leading Nestlé's delegation lobbying Health Ministers at the World Health Assembly in May 2010 and so she knows they adopted a further Resolution on 22 May 2010 that specifically: “CALLS UPON infant food manufacturers and distributors to comply fully with their responsibilities under the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant World Health Assembly resolutions.”

Full analysis of Nestlé's current response can be found here, with a suggested response:

Please do keep Baby Milk Action informed about Nestlé responses - we need to keep up the pressure so it will agree to drop this marketing strategy (and accept the four-point plan for ending the boycott).

For tools to encourage more people to email Nestlé, see:

July 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMike Brady

[...] or missing information in their responses. Since then, I have continued to write a variety of posts on issues related to Nestlé and on my decision and the decision of others with regards to the [...]

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