Recently we met with the team at Nestle UK, and they offered to answer some of your questions about how they work. After gathering your suggestions on Facebook, we passed the five most liked questions onto Nestle. These are the answers to the first two questions from Nestle's Corporate Affairs team. The answers to questions 3, 4 and 5 are posted here. Our thanks to Alison and Sam at Nestle for being open to such dialogue.
1/ John Scale: I would like to ask why they continue to aggressively market baby milk formulas in developing countries, even going as far as promoting them as providing protection against illnesses such as diarrhoea despite the mass of evidence showing how this is causing huge harm to children in these countries and continuing breast-feeding could save 1.5 million children a year.
John, you raise a number of important points. Nestlé supports exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life with continued breastfeeding and the introduction of adequate complementary foods thereafter because as the World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated “… some 1.5 million children die each year because they are not adequately breastfed”. However, the WHO never suggested that ‘not adequately breastfed’ meant ‘fed on infant formula’. The vast majority of women in developing countries breastfeed but exclusive breastfeeding is rare. In those countries, most children who are not exclusively breastfed do not receive infant formula, but are given water, solid foods like sticky rice, or whole cow’s milk which are not considered appropriate substitutes (for more information, see: www.unicef.org/publications/index_51656.html).
We take our responsibility to market infant formula in a responsible manner very seriously and have, since 1982, applied the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes universally and voluntarily in developing countries. Today this means that we do not advertise or promote infant formula to the public; do not donate free samples to mothers or to hospitals; ensure that all our infant formula products state that ‘breastfeeding is best’ with instructions for the safe preparation in the primary languages as well as diagrams to overcome the challenge of low literacy. Also, all our labels comply with local legislation and all health claims we make are scientifically substantiated. If you know of a Code breach, tell us and we will investigate. For more information please follow the link to our website www.babymilk.nestle.com.
2/ Graeme Hodge: Nestle: when are you going to expand your Fairtrade accreditation to all of your products and stop hiding behind the cocoa initiative- an initiative that has made little or no change to the daily reality for over 12,000 trafficked children who produce your cocoa products for you?
Nestlé has been working to address key issues facing cocoa farmers for many years and in 2009 we launched our £65million Cocoa Plan to accelerate programmes that aim to improve the economic, social and environmental issues facing cocoa farming communities. See www.thecocoaplan.com
Focusing predominantly on Cote d’Ivoire the world’s largest cocoa producing country the plan is based around working closely with farming cooperatives, paying a premium for better-quality cocoa, investing in farmer training and providing 12 million high potential cocoa plantlets to improve yields and therefore farmer productivity and income.
Kit Kat is our leading confectionery brand and Fairtrade certification of our most iconic brand is a demonstration of our commitment to bringing The Cocoa Plan to life and improving the lives of cocoa farming communities. We have started with Kit Kat four finger because one of the challenges of certifying a brand as large as Kit Kat is that there is currently insufficient supply of quality Fairtrade certified Ivorian cocoa to certify the whole brand. We will continue to work with Fairtrade to build relationships with additional co-ops to increase the supply of high quality Fairtrade cocoa from the Ivory Coast.
With regard to child labour Nestlé is against all forms of exploitation of children. The company is firmly committed to actions to eradicate unacceptable practices, in line with our commitments in the Nestlé Corporate Business Principles and the Nestlé Supplier Code and you can find out more about these on our website at (http://bit.ly/ieh2aB and http://bit.ly/dKZ4TH). We are also a founding member of the International Cocoa Initiative set up specifically to address child labour issues in cocoa farming. I would also urge you to consult the Fairtrade position on child labour. The Fairtrade Labelling Organisation recognises “child labour is a very complex and intractable issue...” Unfortunately, “no person or organisation can simply guarantee that child labour does not occur in a supply chain, but Fairtrade can provide assurance that its standards, certification, and producer support services all contribute to a solution” http://bit.ly/fx20E2.