Pressure groups lead Nestlé boycott

An international organization Baby Milk Action International has declared a boycott on Nestle products calling 28 October 2015 to 4 November 2016 an International Nestle Free Week.

“Nestlé-Free Week is a time for people who boycott Nestlé over the way it pushes baby milk to do more to promote the boycott – and for those who don’t boycott to give it a go.”

The lobby group implicates Nestle in infancy death and morbidity through its alleged aggressive marketing practices which are said to influence Third World mothers to boycott breastfeeding their infant babies and purchase Nestle product to bottle feed.

The lobby group with other international baby food industry watchdogs have publicly condemned Nestle of applying emotional and psychological doubts on beast feeding mother to upset the ‘let-down-reflex’ of baby milk on the mothers nipples, and also manipulating the industry to push their product at the expense of infant baby food nutrition.

Campaigns Coordinator Mike Brady told The Botswana Gazette that Nestlé is the target of the boycott because of its ongoing systematic violations of World Health Assembly marketing requirements for baby milks and baby foods.
Last year Ethical Consumer voted Nestlé “the least ethical company of the last 25 years”.
“The boycott has been instrumental in pressuring Nestlé to make changes to its marketing practices and policies, though it still rejects the four-point plan we have put to it for saving infant lives and ultimately ending the boycott,” he said.

Brady also revealed that they have campaigned in Botswana when Nestlé marketed its Lactogen formula in a leaflet featuring its founder Henri Nestlé, with the slogan, “Growing is thirsty work”, falsely implying infants need formula to meet their liquid requirements.

“Nestlé also promoted its Pelargon infant formula with the false claim that by using it “diarrhoea and its side-effects are counteracted”. As Nestlé well knows, babies fed on formula are more likely to become sick than breastfed babies and, in conditions of poverty, more likely to die. In response to our campaign, Nestlé said it would introduce leaflets “with increased focus on the factual and scientific matters.”

Infancy Death
During the 2006 rainy season there was a severe diarrhea outbreak, and in three months over 35 000 diarrhea cases and 532 deaths were reported among children aged 5 years and below in Botswana.
Following that, an investigation by a US based Centers for Disease Control (CDC) produced findings that were presented at the PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) panel in Durban, saying most of the cases were associated with bottle-feeding.

In Botswana, the HIV prevalence in pregnant women is 33.4% (2005), The national Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) programme started in 1999 and amongst other things free infant formula was a provision to the mother for 12 months.

“All HIV-positive women are advised to formula feed, and 63% of HIV-positive women used formula in 2005,” says the CDC report.
According to CDC widespread water contamination in four northern districts of the country was found. The public water supply, which has long been considered safe, was contaminated in 26 villages tested and a variety of pathogens causing the outbreak were identified, including cryptosporidium, enteropathogenic ecoli (classic ‘bottle diarrhoea’) and salmonella, among others.

Amongst HIV negative mothers or mothers of unknown HIV status, a CDC survey found that 20% of infants had been weaned from the breast before the age of 6 months. Amongst HIV positive mothers, 63% of infants were formula fed from birth. Overall 35% of infants under 6 months old were not breastfeeding, the CDC report says.

The report states that a closer evaluation of 154 children hospitalized for diarrhoea was conducted, and 96% of the children were under 2 years of age; median age 9 months findings were that the majority (93%) were not breastfeeding, and more than half (51%) of the infants were growing poorly before this illness.

With a population of 2.1 million in Botswana, and having a recorded an outbreak that resulted to 500 baby infants dying, all formula fed babies that were breastfed got sick but survived; monitoring needs to be stricter, Advocacy group La Leche League Magdalene Whoolery pointed out adamantly. This is a statistic often quoted by scientists and academics from across the world, she added.

Whoolery says that virtually every mother can breastfeed, if given appropriate support, advice and encouragement, as well as practical assistance to resolve any problems.

“Studies have shown that early skin to skin contact between mothers and babies, frequent and unrestricted breast feeding ensure continued production of milk and help with positioning and attaching the baby to increase the chances of breast feeding being successful.”






Jan- Marc 2006

*x3 increase in diarrhea cases and x25 increase in deaths

*Of infants admitted to 2nd largest hospital in Botswana

-97% less than 2yrs

-88% were not breastfed

-87% households used pipe water

-Of the 254 deaths only on breast fed infant died