December 21, 2014

What’s the deal with Nestle? Part One: Formula Marketing

So, why do I boycott Nestle?

Globally, there has been a 30+ year boycott going on, regarding their unethical and dangerous marketing of baby formula, but there are multiple reasons to consider boycotting, and if this issue doesn’t make you mad, just wait, another might.

One of the key ones for me centers around baby formula.
I frequently say there are three key reasons why I have issues with Nestle, in regards to their baby formula, and the marketing of such in particular.  First, per the WHO code (see below), they are not allowed to be giving samples in hospitals or doctors offices, yet, they do, particularly in third world countries.  By giving samples, a mother’s milk dries up, forcing her to then have to buy formula.  In the US, we are commonly told to spend no more than 30% of our income on housing.  In some parts of the world (Laos, etc.), there have been documented cases of families spending 50% of their income on formula!  Further, if a mom is breastfeeding while drinking dirty water, our bodies are designed to filter out diseases before they pass to the milk.  However, if formula is made with dirty water, there is no such barrier.  And clean water is not available in many parts of the world.  Finally, parents have to have at least a minimal level of literacy to be able to buy the correct product.  Nestle has come under fire for having labels on formula containers in either the wrong language or dialect for a region, making it next to impossible for parents to buy the right thing, even if they can read. There have been documented cases of parents feeding their babies powdered milk because they thought it was formula, or because they simply couldn’t avoid formula. Further, in other countries Nestle commonly uses a blue bear logo on their baby products.  In at least one instance, doctors were baffled as to why babies were coming in severely malnourished.  They eventually traced it back to the packaging of COFFEE-MATE, which also had the blue bear!  Illiterate parents were unwittingly feeding their babies Coffee-Mate instead of formula!!

        • The World Health Organization (WHO) has a code for marketing breastmilk substitutes (aka formula).  Nestle and other companies blantantly break this code year after year, but the code has very little “teeth” to try to stop them.
        • Resources to read more:
          • Nestle boycott Wikipedia page
          • Great blogger PhD in Parenting sums it up well: http://www.phdinparenting.com/2010/08/02/nestle/
          • Baby Milk Action site, leading the charge in the UK, has great resources!
          • Blogger Crunchy Domestic Goddess (Amy Gates) has great stuff on her blog, including her take on the boycott, a great history, and a boycott list.  In that first post, Amy links to a GREAT documentary called Formula for Disaster, available in segments on YouTube. I highly recommend it!
          • I’ve since updated that boycott list (I’ll post this as a separate post soon) as Nestle bought more product lines, including all of Kraft’s frozen pizza lines!  There are only a few non-Nestle frozen pizzas now, two of which are Red Baron and Freshetta.
            • In all honesty, as we try to eat more locally and organic, we don’t find ourselves buying many name-brand foods at all, so cutting Nestle out has not been that hard.   (Ok, except for my husband’s beloved Nestle Quik, that he refuses to give up, and refuses to let me try to make a substitute. :-P )
          • A couple of easy ways to get involved are with an annual No Nestle week (typically the last week of October), as that’s a good way to get started, by doing it for one week, and by committing to saying “Boo Nestle” when buying Halloween candy.  The Boo Nestle site even has labels to print out to put on your candy explaining why it isn’t Nestle.

Looking for a visual way to learn more about global issues surrounding formula, in a format that is easy to share with others? Check out the documentary referenced above, Formula for Disaster.  Here’s part one:

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