News / Sustain

Nestlé violates ethical marketing on baby formula

A new report finds that Nestlé misleads and manipulates customers over the nutritional claims in its baby formula. It also contradicts its own nutritional advice in different countries.

Busting the myth

Busting the myth

The report by the Changing Markets Foundation and Globalisation Monitor revealed the lack of scientific consistency in the composition and claims of Nestlé’s infant milks.

Researchers investigated over 70 Nestlé infant milks for babies under 12 months old, sold in 40 different countries. They found several products where Nestlé contradicts its own nutritional advice. On product labels sold in Brazil and Hong Kong the company advises parents against giving sucrose to infants, while two Nestlé infant milks in South Africa were found to contain the ingredient.

In an interview for The Guardian exclusive, Nusa Urbancic, campaigns director for the Changing Markets Foundation said: “We have come to understand that companies manipulate consumers’ emotional responses to sell a variety of products, but this behaviour is especially unethical when it comes to the health of vulnerable babies.

“If the science is clear that an ingredient is safe and beneficial for babies then such ingredients should be in all products. If an ingredient is not healthy, such as sucrose, then it should be in no products. Nestlé’s inconsistency on this point calls into serious question whether it is committed to science, as it professes to be.”

Some of Nestlé’s infant milks sold in Hong Kong are marketed as healthier for not having ‘any added vanilla flavour or flavourings for baby’s good growth’. However, the investigation found several Nestlé products that contain vanillin compounds in Hong Kong, mainland China and in South Africa.

In the UK some milks are marketed for “hungrier babies.” In European law only a few very specific health and nutritional claims can be made on infant formula (see Annex IV, Article 13 of EC Directive 2006/141/EC) and currently no claims related to “hunger” have been approved in EU legislation. The idea of a formula for 'hungrier babies' is also is rejected by the NHS as ‘there’s no evidence that babies settle better or sleep longer when fed this type of formula’.

The full report from Changing Markets Foundation can be downloaded here.

Sustain member Baby Milk Action have a long running campaign to boycott all Nestlé products. You can find out more about their work on their website.

Published 3 Feb 2018

Sustain: Sustain The alliance for better food and farming advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, enrich society and culture and promote equity.

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