Sunday, April 18, 2010
Nestle challenged over health claims
By James Achanyi-Fontem,
Coordinator, IBFAN Cameroon Group
Nestle has been challenged over health claims which tell mothers that its baby milk will 'protect' their babies. Nestle Annual Shareholder Meeting took place on 15th April 2010 at the Palais de Beaulieu, Lausanne, Switzerland.
According to Patti Rundall of Baby Milk Action UK, who attended the meeting, it was probably one of the most dramatic Shareholder meetings that she could remember - though the time that the Tom Butler, the Bishop of Leicester in 1993 challenged them comes a close second.
The brilliant Greenpeace stunt certainly lifted their spirits and caused a major headache to Nestle. It started with a horrendous drilling sound that almost blocked out Peter Brabeck's speech during the session. Pat Venditti of Greenpeace was sitting in front of Patti Rundall who tapped him and asked: "Is this Greenpeace?" and Pat answered, "Maybe". Then sawdust started to trickle down from the ceiling, thousands of leaflets followed by two absailers with huge banner. Fantastic!
As Greenpeace activists cut through the ceiling and absailed into Shareholder Meeting with huge banners and leaflets, Nestlé was held to account for its exploitation of rainforests, for its spying activities and for its failure to abide by baby food marketing standards adopted by the World Health Assembly.
Patti Rundall OBE, Policy Director at Baby Milk Action, picked up on the Chairman, Peter Brabeck's remarks that Nestle considers regulations to be much less important than principles and core values and appealed for shareholders to help in holding management to account for the harm it continues to cause to breastfeeding and infant health, contributing as it does to the needless death and suffering of babies around the world.
She highlighted the deception of the strategy that had been on display at the shareholder meeting the previous year: logos on formula labels claiming the product will 'protect' babies. It is undisputed that babies fed on formula are more likely to become sick than breastfed babies and, in conditions of poverty, more likely to die.
She also challenged Nestle's policy on sponsorship which targets mothers, health workers and children - for example, TV shows in Egypt, baby clubs in the Philippines, school education schemes in India, Health Conference Street banners in Cameroon, websites, medical seminars etc - schemes which are in many instances in violation of World Health Assembly Resolutions and national legislation.
Nestlé Chair, Mr. Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, said that because Ms. Rundall did not trust him, Paul Bulcke, CEO and Richard Laube, Head of Nestle Nutrition should respond in detail. Richard Laube defended the 'protect' logo and admitted the practice was being used in 120 countries on cereals and formula, showing it to be a global strategy. He indicated the marketing practice had been going on for some years and will continue, dismissing the suggestion that it was harmful or a violation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. For more information, click on the following links - www.babymilkaction.org www.ibfan.org www.babyfeedinglawgroup.org.uk