Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Weighing In on the Newark/Nestle Partnership- Tipping the Scales for Profit

Why is the world’s greatest purveyor of junk food “piloting’ a nutrition program for infants and children?    Nestlé wants us to believe their mission is to decrease waistlines when in fact it’s all about increasing their bottom line! 

Yes, it’s true one of the major contributors to global obesity, Nestlé Corporation is sponsoring a program targeted at reducing childhood obesity in one of the poorest cities in the US -Newark, NJ.  (25% of population is below poverty level)   Keep in mind, Nestlé (Gerber/Beechnut) is the largest baby food and infant formula manufacturer / marketer on the planet with total sales of $30 billion/ year in North America alone!   Can you say, “Conflict of Interest”?

On Feb. 11th, Mayor Cory Booker gleefully accepted a check from Marilyn Knox of Nestlé Nutrition, USA for $100,000 sealing the fate of these poor babies and children of Newark.   When the Mayor was filmed accepting Nestlé's check of $100,000.00, he was standing in front of a background covered with  Nestlé/ Gerber logos and the Nestlé's press release had pop-up ads for formula, coupons, rebates, Baby Club etc.

So with Mayor Booker’s blessing, here is what Nestlé has planned for Newark’s most vulnerable citizens at all 15 of the Family Success Centers.  First, Nestlé will provide their own “nutritionists” to "promote, educate and support" breastfeeding when in reality, formula feeding will be the focal point of instruction.   Second, the promotion of healthy eating, endorsing the use of home-made, whole, fresh foods for babies but in fact, they will promote Nestlé prepackaged, processed baby foods, first and foremost.   Also, Nestlé plans to set up peer counselor programs (using the clients to market Nestlé products), hand out gifts and samples “luring” the mothers in and making them dependent on Nestlé products. (formula costs at least $200 a month/ baby -that is 14% of the per capita income of the average Newark family!)   
It is quite telling that in this posted job description for the "Nestlé-Newark Now Family Nutritionist" there was no mention, at all, of breastfeeding.

Nestlé strategically plans to take this program across the country to other vulnerable US cities.  Nestlé's Infant Nutrition President and CEO Marilyn Knox, stated on a YouTube channel press release, "we want to recognize Mayor Booker specifically for not only what he is doing here, but the example of taking Newark and turning it into actually an example, a role model to replicate in other places ..."

If you’re not convinced yet of Nestlé’s true agenda, allow Peter Brabeck-Letmath, head of Nestlé S.A, to clarify, “Companies should only pursue charitable endeavors with an underlying intention of making money for investors.”  Simply put, Nestlé will only link its name to initiatives that will be profitable.
Source: Boston Herald “Nestlé chief rejects the need to 'give back' to communities”, 9 March 2005.

 It was clear to me that Mayor Booker and these poor Newark families are just being used as a "front" for the largest coup in US formula industry history!
That’s when I screamed, "Bad Move"!  Surely, Mayor Booker is ill-informed, I thought.  Obviously, no one told him about Nestlé’s appalling reputation of being one of the top 4 most boycotted companies on the planet or the studies that show formula, bottle feeding and early introduction of solid foods actually increase childhood obesity!

The World Health Organization, (WHO) International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, (the Code), endorsed by the US Government, was developed to try to curtail Nestlé's marketing practices

The International Nestlé Boycott, started in the US in the 70's, attempts to put pressure on Nestlé to comply with the Code.  Some people remember the Bottle Baby Scandal, where Nestle was implicated when millions of babies in Africa died.  Many people today think Nestlé has changed their ways but they have not.  Nestlé continues their well-deserved, notorious reputation for aggressive and unethical marketing including mislabeling/misrepresenting their formulas and baby foods worldwide.

Nestlé spends $4 million each year lobbying against regulation and taxation of unhealthy food. This manipulation enables them to continue manufacturing and marketing junk and confectionary foods that have resulted in increasing world obesity rates.

The Surgeon General's 2011 Call to Action for Breastfeeding Report called for "all women to exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first 6 months" and states “full-term infants have a 32% excess risk of childhood obesity associated with not breastfeeding.” Action 6 (from her report) states: "ensure that the marketing of infant formula is conducted in a way that minimizes its negative impact on exclusive breastfeeding".'s_Call_to_Action_to_Support_Breastfeeding.pdf

Nestlé is setting themselves up as "The expert nutrition educators" in the US and throughout the world.  In the US, they have already partnered with the AAP, USDA

 The Governor of Michigan has given Nestlé the go-ahead to "educate" in medical schools, hospitals and communities.
So, after failed attempts to meet with Mayor Booker, I created the petition, “Stop Newark /Nestlé Now!" on February 16, in an attempt to stop this hypocritical partnership.  Petition link: 
This petition has been a great educational tool, (around the world people are watching Newark / Nestle and speakers at conferences are discussing what is going on, groups are posting in their newsletters/blogs etc.).  We have signatures from over 2000 concerned people from 55 countries but it has not encouraged Mayor Booker to cancel his partnership with Nestlé .   He refuses to meet or communicate with any of us including the thousands of people, who have written to him through Public Citizen.

L'Tanya Williamson, Director of Child and Family Well-being along with other advisors to the Mayor, also refuse to communicate about this issue.   The NJ Health Commissioner, Mary E. O'Dowd, who supports breastfeeding, says she cannot stop the partnership because it is a donation to the City of Newark, while Governor Christie is differing back to the Commissioner.  Neither the Surgeon General nor First Lady Michelle Obama has responded to our multiple pleas for help.  Everyone seems to be “passing the buck” even though, it is obvious that this "donation" will negatively affect health, increase obesity and increase health care costs not only in NJ but across the country.

If you are concerned about Nestle being allowed to sponsor programs targeted to reduce childhood obesity, please sign our petition and spread the word! Contact your local politicians, health professionals, clergy and media.  We cannot let corporate money be the determining factor in our fight for a brighter, healthier future for our children.    Immediate action is needed before Nestle comes to your town.