Nestle Food Company is taking legal action to get a bigger share of the baby formula market in the US (The Lancet, 12 June 1993). It is suing two rival manufacturers, Abbott Laboratories and Mead Johnson along with the American Academy of Pediatrics
Nestle claims that they drew up a “code of marketing practice” that discouraged direct advertising to consumers but endorsed marketing to doctors and health workers. Such an arrangement, claims Nestle, gave the two companies an advantage over competitors because they already have large sales forces, experienced at selling to doctors and hospitals. The code, therefore, creates a barrier to free competition and so violates US antitrust law, claims Nestle. AAP executive director James Strain admits that formula milk companies donate around $30m a year to the academy’s budget, but denied that this has any influence on its policies.
Meanwhile, Nestle was in trouble elsewhere over its own alleged breach of a code (BMJ, 12 June 1993). Its annual general meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland was picketed by protesters and babies’ coffins. The protesters claim that Nestle constantly breaks the World Health Organization’s international code on marketing formula by giving free samples of baby milk to hospitals and promoting its products to health workers in developing countries. The International Baby Food Action Network is concerned at reports that Nestle and the Brazilian Paediatric Society organised a luxury cruise for Brazilian paediatricians.
The network also has reports that Nestle is promoting its formula to mothers and doctors in hospital clinics in Manila. Last year, Nestle Philippines held a raffle party in a children’s hospital and gave gifts to health workers.
Unicef estimates that a bottle fed baby is 25 times more likely to die than one who is breastfed, as mothers tend to overdilute the powder, often with polluted water. In Uganda, the cost of bottle feeding a baby is nine times a manual worker’s annual income.