Nestlé’s believes that breastmilk is the ideal nutrition for babies. That’s why we support and 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 the phrase ‘breastfeeding is best’ wherever possible on packaging and in other communications and develop educational materials for healthcare professionals and parents on the benefits of breastfeeding. Nestlé runs campaigns and seminars on breastfeeding for the medical community in partnership with governments and medical institutions.
Where mothers cannot or choose not to breastfeed, infant formula is the only suitable breastfeeding substitute that the WHO recognizes as appropriate. Nestlé has a global commitment to support and protect breastfeeding by implementing our policy on responsible breastmilk substitute BMS marketing.
As a minimum, Nestlé complies with the WHO Code and later WHA Resolutions as implemented by national governments worldwide. We voluntarily apply our own policy when it is stricter than national regulations in 152 countries considered ‘higher risk’ in terms of infant mortality and malnutrition. In these countries, we also specify that children should only be fed complementary foods from six months.
Nestlé also has robust compliance measures and mechanisms, including a network of internal WHO Code Ombudspersons. We are proud to be the first BMS manufacturer included in the FTSE4Good Index and have consistently achieved its rigorous criteria for responsible BMS marketing since 2011.
In 2018, Nestlé ranked second in the 2018 Global Access to Nutrition Index’s sub-ranking of BMS manufacturers. We report transparently on our progress in our annual report and on our corporate website, and encourage stakeholders to share any concerns they may have on our BMS marketing practices through our ‘Tell Us’ system.
Nestlé investigates all concerns raised, and quickly addresses any instances of non-compliance reported to us.
John Hopkins Peru study
We would like to talk with authors of the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study on BMS marketing practices in Peru, to better understand the details of their study and give information on our policies and practices. The authors did not contact Nestlé before publishing their study.
In Peru, Nestlé fully complies with local legislation (Supreme Decret 009-2006-SA). This allows us to share evidence-based scientific information exclusively with healthcare professionals, and support their continuing medical education. We do not distribute product samples intended for babies aged 0-2 years to healthcare professionals or mothers.
Changing Markets Foundation report – Nestlé’s response
We invited CMF to discuss its 2018 ‘Busting the Myth report’ on Nestlé’s commitment to infant nutrition science with us, to allow us to clarify some of the inaccuracies in the findings.
Where mothers cannot, or chose not, to breastfeed, infant formula is the only suitable breast-milk substitute. CMF recognizes the vital role that infant formula plays in such cases, and we welcome this.
We agree that formula manufacturers have a responsibility to provide products that are safe and as nutritionally complete as possible, backed by the best science. 600 Nestlé researchers are working to this end, in partnership with academic organizations.
CMF criticizes on pack statements in the U.S., Hong Kong, Switzerland and Spain, but these comply with local regulatory requirements. We do not use any statements on infant formula products or in other communications that idealize such products, or imply they are superior or equivalent to breastmilk.
Modern formulas are compositionally closer to human milk, so we do state that their ingredients are ‘inspired by breastmilk’ or contain components that are comparable to those in breastmilk – like proteins or human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), when this is scientifically proven.
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.
Ingredients are another focus of the CMF report. Here CODEX standards and local regulations (which may vary from country to country) determine the essential ingredients needed in infant formula. All our products meet these requirements.
Contrary to what the report states, we do not use sucrose in any infant products (0-6 months), and voluntarily removed sucrose from all other follow-on formulas (6-12 months) by the end of 2018.
Vanilla flavoring 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 in our infant formula products in South Africa. We are voluntarily removing such flavorings from the few products that still contain them.
CMF’s follow-up 2019 report ‘Busting the Myth’ made many of the same arguments.
We do not idealize our products or imply they are superior or equivalent to breastmilk. However, modern formulas are compositionally closer to human milk than cow’s milk, for example. As such, we say that our products are ‘inspired by breastmilk’.
Hong Kong law allows promotional activities for growing-up milks (criticized in the report) and our own policy on BMS marketing. Finally, many factors determine the local pricing of Nestlé products – including import duties, local taxes, production costs and distribution and trade margins.
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