Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Does Anyone Still Believe Nestle?

In September of 2008, I blogged about how Nestle was using a logo of a mother bear and baby cub on both infant formula packaging and coffee creamer. The Bear Brand is sold in Laos, whose population has such a high illiteracy rate that they can't distinguish between the two products.

This is a picture of the coffee creamer label where you can clearly see the mother bear holding her cub in the breastfeeding position, yet Nestle expects a population that is mostly illiterate to know this product is not a breast milk substitute.

The misuse of the coffee creamer was so wide-spread that a study was conducted and pediatricians and parents in Laos were surveyed on how they used the Bear Brand. Of the 26 pediatricians contacted, 24 said parents "often" or "sometimes" fed coffee creamer to their babies as a substitute for breast milk. Other results of the study? "In the capital city, pediatricians said that mothers used the product when they returned to work. In the countryside, they reported that poor families used it when the mother was ill or died. Of 1098 adults surveyed, 96% believed that the can contains milk; 46% believed the Bear Brand logo indicates that the product is formulated for feeding to infants or to replace breast milk; 80% had not read the written warning on the can; and over 18% reported giving the product to their infant at a mean age of 4.7 months."

Yet Nestle would like you to believe they do not violate the WHO Code in developing countries. The Code is about marketing of breast milk substitutes and in this case, the label is the only clue parents in Laos have as to what is in the container. If the same labels are used on infant formula and canned sterilized cow's milk, how can parents tell the difference? There is obviously a problem when doctors in Laos have admitted infants to the hospital who were being exclusively fed coffee creamer!

In January of this year, Nestle said it recognized there was a problem and had stopped distribution of the Bear brand creamer in Laos. They claimed they were "reevaluating" the Bear brand and studying how to prevent any future confusion. Yet look what Candice of Mom Most Traveled found in a grocery store in Nong Khai, Thailand in November.

Candice says, "This is a picture of sweetened condensed milk that I took at a grocery store in Nong Khai, Thailand. Identical products are sold in Laos. Nestle puts the Bear Brand logo on sweetened condensed milk, coffee creamer, baby formula, and other juice box drinks marketed to toddlers. None of these other products are equal to baby formula, but I can understand why parents would choose them over formula. It has the reassuring Bear Brand logo, and coffee creamer is lots cheaper than baby formula. I cannot read Thai, so I am effectively 'illiterate' like most of Laos. When my first son stopped breastfeeding (at age 26 months), he rejected cow's milk so I struggled to find a suitable substitute. I started buying the boxed toddler drinks with the Bear logo, thinking they had nutrients like baby formula. Now I realize that I would have been just as well feeding him Ovaltine or other standard sugary kiddie drinks. So even I fell for it. I am fully pro breastfeeding and well educated. My second son weaned at 24 months and also rejects cow milk. I am letting him drink juice instead of Nestle toddler drinks. "

It doesn't stop there. Upstate Mom from Our Life Upstate recently went to Ethiopia to pick up her adopted daughter. She found that not only does Nestle advertise its formula there, they also give free samples away in hospitals. All things they swear they do not do, because they (wink, wink) don't violate the WHO Code in developing countries.

Does anyone still believe Nestle?

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