What is Nestlé's position on infant formula marketing?
What is your response to the Changing Markets Foundation and Global Monitoring follow-up report to Busting the Myth, which alleges that you still give contradictory and misleading advice on infant formula?
Nestlé believes that breast-milk is the best nutritional choice for an infant, and that breastfeeding plays a fundamental role in a baby’s growth and development during the first 1000 days of life.
In 2015, we adopted our Maternity Protection Policy, which aligns with the ILO’s Maternity Protection Convention and offers new mothers up to six months maternity leave and access to 425 breastfeeding rooms across our work facilities worldwide.
In China in particular, we have collaborated with public and private organizations, and opened 3,297 breastfeeding rooms. This is an important expression of our global commitment to support breastfeeding, which we also protect through our industry-leading policy to market breastmilk substitutes (BMS) responsibly.
We apply the WHO Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent WHA resolutions as implemented by member states. We have strict measures to ensure compliance, and we encourage anyone with concerns regarding our practices to share them with us. We can assure you that we will respond systematically.
Even though vanillin flavorings in follow-on formula (for infants of 6-12 months) are allowed by CODEX and local regulations, we have voluntarily decided to remove them from the few recipes that still contain them. We are in the process of finding alternatives, and are also removing vanillin claims on new labels.
Nestlé does not use any statements that idealize our products or imply that they are superior to or equivalent to breastmilk on our infant formula labels or communications materials. Infant formulas have evolved and are compositionally closer to human milk than unmodified cow’s milk.
As such, we communicate that products are "inspired by breastmilk". For infants who cannot be fed on breastmilk as recommended, infant formula is the only suitable breastmilk substitute.
In addition, promotional activities for growing-up milks are allowed under Hong Kong national law and our own policy.
Finally, pricing is determined by many factors including import duties, local taxes, production costs and distribution and trade margins.
What is Nestlé's response to the Changing Markets Foundation report on infant formula marketing?
The Changing Markets Foundation (CMF) report on infant formula raises some important points. We invited the CMF to discuss these with us, and to allow us to clarify some of the inaccuracies included in the findings. CMF has indicated its willingness to engage in a dialogue with us. We hope to collectively discuss the critically important challenge of ensuring access to the right nutrition for infants.
Nestlé has a global commitment to support breastfeeding as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), and to protect it through our industry-leading policy (as measured by the independent Access to Nutrition Index), to market breastmilk substitutes (BMS) responsibly.
We comply with the WHO Code on the marketing of BMS as implemented by national governments everywhere in the world, as a minimum. As the Code has only been implemented by 39 countries globally, we voluntarily apply our own stringent policy when it is stricter than the national code, in the 152 countries considered as high risk in terms of infant mortality and nutrition.
Where mothers cannot, or chose not, to breastfeed, infant formula is the only suitable breast-milk substitute. We welcome the recognition in the CMF report of the important role that infant formula plays in providing adequate nutrition where this is the case.
We agree that formula manufacturers have a responsibility to provide products that are safe and as nutritionally complete as possible, and to ensure their composition is strictly informed by the best available science.
600 Nestlé researchers, in partnership with academic organizations, are dedicated to the continuous improvement of our products to ensure healthy growth and nutrition for infants. Through our support for breastfeeding, scientific research, responsible marketing practices and commitment to providing safe and nutritious products, we intend to offer infants the best possible start in life.
Do you make statements on some products regarding their closeness to breastmilk?
The report mentions specific statements that we make on our products in the US , Hong Kong, Switzerland and Spain. All these statements are compliant with regulatory requirements in these countries. We do not use any statements on our infant formula products or in our other communications that idealize our products or imply they are superior to or equivalent to breastmilk.
Modern infant formulas are compositionally closer to human milk. As such, we permit communications stating that our infant formula ingredients are 'inspired by breastmilk' or contain components comparable with components of breastmilk. For example, proteins or human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), where these are scientifically proven as equivalent. This does not breach the WHO Code as implemented by national governments or our own stringent policy when it is stricter than the national code.
Why do the ingredients in your infant formula products vary?
CODEX (a body established by UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and the World Health Organization to develop food standards) and local regulations determine the essential ingredients needed in infant formula. All our products meet these requirements. We comply with the regulations of every country in which we operate, which may differ from country to country. Infant formula composition varies and is influenced by local regulation, and guidance from local or regional scientific bodies. In parallel, as science progresses, we constantly adapt our range of products by adding ingredients and bringing compositional changes as permitted by local laws and regulations to provide choice to healthcare professionals and parents.
Do you use sucrose and vanilla flavouring in some infant formula products?
Contrary to what the report states, we do not use sucrose in any of our products for infants (0-6 months), and we are voluntarily eliminating sucrose from all other follow-on formula products (6-12 months), which will be completed before the end of 2018 for this age range. As of today, sucrose is present in less than 10% of our recipes for this age range.
Vanilla flavouring is safe and permitted for infants above 6 months of age, according to CODEX. It is present in a very limited number of products for this age range, and is not used in our infant formula products in South Africa, contrary to what the report states.
What external oversight is there of your infant nutrition activities?
8 independent external audits and 57 country internal audits of our infant nutrition activities took place in the last two years alone. We report transparently and publicly on the results of these audits and take corrective actions where necessary.
We are proud to have been the first BMS manufacturer included in the FTSE4Good Index, and to have consistently met its rigorous criteria for the responsible marketing of BMS since 2011.
Although we recognize the need for continuous improvement, as noted in CMF report we also ranked first in Access to Nutrition Index's most recent ranking of global BMS marketing policies and practices.
Find out more
- Read more about our compliance record, including the Bureau Veritas Assurance Statements
- Read more about the WHO code
- Read a summary of our policy (pdf, 53Kb) on the implementation of the WHO International Code of marketing of breast milk substitutes
- Read more about our responsible infant food policies
- Read more about FTSE4Good