Thursday, March 01, 2007

Nestle response proves, yet again, that they violate Code

Although I have not been privy to the Harvard Crimson article on the Nestle boycott, I received a copy of an editorial responseby Nestle spokesperson, Gayle Crozier Willi. The response demonstrates that, indeed, Nestle violates the Code.
The following is in response to some of the comments made by Nestle:
Nestle statement: We does not promote formula in association with the AIDS pandemic.
Accurate statement: While today, Nestle ostensibly supports the WHO statement, in the early years, prior to the WHO statement, Nestle hosted and offered to host meetings on HIV. Today, despite the assertion of support for the statement (http://www.who.int/child-adolescent-health/New_Publications/NUTRITION/consensus_statement.pdf)
and for the Code(), the Nestle spokesperson/advocate misrepresents the statement and the Code. For example, the WHO statement says "Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for HIV-infected women for the first 6 months of life unless replacement feeding is acceptable, feasible, affordable, sustainable and safe for them and their infants before that time.When replacement feeding is acceptable, feasible, affordable, sustainable and safe, avoidance of all breastfeeding by HIV-infected women is recommended." This recommends the use of safe alternatives to breastfeeding only under specific circumstances, and commercial formula are not the only alternative. To be safe, many factors must be in place, and safe preparation is much more than labeling, especially where women's illiteracy rates are high. Exclusive breastfeeding is therefore recommended where the use of formula carries high risks, which would include a majority of women in the developing world.

Nestle Statement: "Nestle sells formula at low prices to governments, for use in official programs for the prevention of transmission of HIV from mothers to babies, only at the request of such governments."
Accurate statment: This, too, is a Code violation, as the Code calls for purchase of commercial formula by competitive bid and not to accept low cost of free supplies. Further, while noting "success" in South Africa, she fails to comment on the use of this same product - which was never tested in an immune compromised setting prior to its promulgation for Africans - the local stock-outages, and the associated deadly diarrhea outbreak in Botswana, right next door.

Nestle Statement: no incentives to health workers, good labelling, support code.
Accurate Statement: Nestle has been documented as supplying commodities to clinicians under the guise of "research" in conditions where research is not feasible. In addition, the Code specifically calls upon manufacturers to comply in all countries, whether or not the Code is legislated in that country.Further, Nestle has been involved in challenging the laws that support the Code in at least one country. Finally, the Code specifically calls for language on the label that offers the risks and benefits of choosing to use formula, not just a throw-away phrase that breastfeeding is best. In my personal experience, when alerted to a violation, the effort by Nestle was not to undo the violation, but rather to justify it, and to offer the country the opportunity to make their Code laws more lax.

Comment: Nestle and other formula companies together are a multi-billion dollar industry, and can afford to buy the best advertising and slickest language in their public relations. It is important for consumers to be aware of the misrepresentations that are made, and to closely monitor products that can have such a negative impact on the health and development of our children, our future.