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Your questions about breast-milk substitutes


Nestlé's purpose is to enhance the quality of life for our consumers and contribute to a healthier future. Supporting the 'First 1000 Days' is fundamental to this purpose. It is a privilege to accompany millions of parents, babies and caregivers around the world on this journey. Where mothers cannot or choose not to breastfeed, infant formula is the only suitable alternative to breastmilk recognized by the WHO. Therefore, we value the trust placed in us, and take our responsibility over the entirety of a consumer's lifetime seriously - from cradle to their eldest years.

We have over 150 years of dedicated research and development to confidently meet the needs of families who rely on carefully tested, science-based products. In tandem, we listen to the perspective of stakeholders and the parents who rely on our products so we can best contribute to improving industry standards. From complying with our own strict policy and local regulations, to advocating for regulations, to raising awareness throughout our value chain on the importance of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes (WHO Code), we are thoroughly committed to reviewing and regulating so the best product is delivered to families’ newest, cutest member. Nevertheless, the process behind is complex and comes with a whole host of questions. Read on to learn more.

How do we guarantee the overall quality and nutrition of infant formula?

Our focus on quality is consistent from the farm to the factory up through to the moment it reaches your little one.

The milk that forms the basis of our formula milks is stored in cooling tanks to ensure it is used at the peak of freshness. It is transported in insulated stainless-steel tanks, which keeps it fresh and healthy. Once at our factory, it undergoes up to 500 different checks for contaminants and antibiotics. To prevent harmful microorganisms that grow in wet environments, our powder formulas are made in completely dry areas. The production area is also carefully cleaned to avoid contaminative moisture and even the air conditioner works with special filters to reduce humidity in the air. These controlled processes along with constant monitoring, ensure our formulas remain in the same conditions from the moment they are made.

In tandem, our 600 Nestlé researchers and close partnerships with academic organizations are continuously using the latest discoveries to refine and enhance our formulas, keeping in mind that breastmilk is the absolute gold standard that will never be replicated. Their developments are rooted in an ever-evolving understanding of breastmilk, its benefits and how formulas can contain the proteins, minerals and other components to bring infants an optimal alternative. These undergo clinical trials with leading independent institutions around the world to validate their safety and quality – so that ultimately, we can confidently support babies’ growth and development, whenever mums cannot or decide not to breastfeed.

Careful production and processing are critical to upholding our high product standards. This eye for quality continues when we consider our packaging and ultimate consumer use. formula is packed and sealed in containers to protect the freshness, flavor and nutritional value until it reaches your home. Easy-to-understand labels always provide specific, clear instructions on our packaging for how to use, prepare and store it. These directions help parents and caregivers feed their baby their formula in the safest way possible. Our packaging and labels play a critical role ensuring our formulas are used at the right age — so your little one gets exactly what they need, when they need it.

Is Nestlé trying to replace mother's breastmilk with infant formula?

The short answer is no.

We believe that breastmilk is the ideal nutrition for babies. That's why we promote the World Health Organization's (WHO) recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months. After this, parents or caregivers should introduce nutritious complementary foods, alongside sustained breastfeeding for up to two years and beyond.

We use such phrasing as 'breastfeeding is best' wherever possible on packaging and in other communications as well as develop educational materials for healthcare professionals and parents on the benefits of breastfeeding. In partnership with governments and medical institutions, we also run campaigns and seminars on breastfeeding for the medical community.

At the end of the day, parents should feel comfortable and respected making the choices that are right for them, their children and their families—and this includes parents who work at Nestlé. Today, breastfeeding rooms are a requirement for any Nestlé building with more than 50 female employees. We have also installed nearly 6,000 breastfeeding rooms within our local communities around the world. And to truly walk the talk, Nestlé's gender-neutral Global Parental Support Policy offers primary caregivers (including adoptive parents) at least 18 weeks paid leave and secondary caregivers at least four weeks of paid leave. It also includes employment protection and non-discrimination, flexible work arrangements.

How is responsible marketing ensured and rare cases of non-compliance addressed?

The WHO Code and WHA Resolutions are recommendations to national governments worldwide to implement into local regulations on the marketing of BMS, feeding bottles and teats. Through its policy, Nestlé recognizes the WHO Code and subsequent relevant resolutions and, as a minimum, complies to the WHO Code as implemented by national governments everywhere. Voluntarily, we apply our own policy when it is stricter than national regulations. This is the case in 152 countries considered 'higher risk' in terms of infant mortality and malnutrition, representing more than 80% of the world’s population.

In these countries where our regulations provide stricter guidance, our do's and don'ts are clear. For instance, we do specify that children should only be fed complementary foods from six months and carry out internal and independent external audits on WHO Code compliance. Conversely, we don't permit staff whose responsibilities include the marketing of infant formula to make direct contact with mothers, except in response to consumer complaints, nor do we allow educational material relating to the use of infant formula to be displayed publicly in hospitals and clinics. As a result, we are proud to be the first BMS manufacturer included in the FTSE4Good Index and have consistently achieved its rigorous criteria, all 104 of them, for responsible BMS marketing since 2011.

Furthermore, like every industry, we need to consider responsible practices across our digital platforms: our compliance managers track price promotions on our e-commerce activity, our social media managers only share science-based content, and our customer service managers purely inform parents who contact them how to safely use the product and direct them to talk to their healthcare professional with any decision-making questions.

Internally, Nestlé also has robust compliance measures and mechanisms, most notably a network of WHO Code Compliance managers who each are experts in both the company's standards and the local legal frameworks of their area. They are the go-to contact for questions or issues of concern within their region, and update each other as they work through their local needs. In this way, best-practices are collectively known and inform a consistent approach globally.

Reported allegations are normally related to point-of-sale concerns with advertisements, displays or promotions. Usually, it is on account of lack of awareness or discipline in execution of the rules by local authorities in some countries. We report our progress in our annual report (pdf, 5Mb) and on our corporate website, where we encourage stakeholders to share any concerns through our 'SpeakUp' system.

How is Nestlé working to continually improve our responsible practices?

The most effective way to level the playing field so the private sector operates within the same framework, is to secure WHO Code compliance through well-drafted and well-implemented legislation in all countries.

Moreover, we gave careful thought to the Call to Action and made a pledge aimed at stimulating commercial change where regulation doesn't exist like in the U.S., Canada and Japan. Our response to the Call to Action (CTA) makes a number of unilateral commitments, which add up to a big commercial impact. It also sent a strong message to our industry colleagues that real change happens when our industry as a whole makes meaningful progress.

Our advocacy efforts support an evidence-based approach to policy making, respecting independent, peer-reviewed science. This was reiterated in our CTA response, where we noted our support for regulating promotion of infant formula for babies up to 12 months of age globally, and our desire to engage with stakeholders to advocate for WHO Code adoption. We also committed to strengthen our advocacy practices in line with the Responsible Lobbying Framework.

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