Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Open Letter to Director PAHO/WHO

Open Letter To: Mirta Roses Periago, Director, The Pan American Health Office
                       Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization

Dear Ms. Periago,

I was deeply disheartened to learn that your organization has accepted a $150,000 contribution from Nestlé, 1 the major violator of the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.

First of all, your alliance with Nestlé is a direct contradiction to your own Mission Statement : "To lead strategic collaborative efforts among Member States and other partners to promote equity in health, to combat disease, and to improve the quality of, and lengthen, the lives of the peoples of the Americas."3  I contend that Nestlé is a major contributor to inequity of health by their predatory marketing practices.4
Also, they increase world-wide disease by methodically sabotaging breastfeeding efforts which can only result in the quality and length of lives being greatly diminished, not improved.  

This absurd affiliation can be further clarified by referring to your very own Health Agenda for the Americas 2007-2017 which states, "In accordance with the quest for equity, the Health Authority should prioritize and emphasize specific actions to reduce maternal, neonatal, and child mortality in all segments of society. Breastfeeding should be promoted, and actions taken to prevent infections, dehydration, respiratory diseases, and malnutrition and obesity among children as part of the problems of childhood nutrition."5   One must ask why an organization who publishes the above statement would align themselves with Nestlé, the largest purveyor of infant formula and junk food on the planet, infamously boycotted for their callous, aggressive marketing tactics.6

In addition, Nestlé products for babies and children are made from modified cow’s milk, genetically engineered soy, high-fructose corn syrup, added sugars, a variety of fats (palm, soybean and coconut oils), plus a long list of chemicals to adjust nutrient levels and enhance product appearance. Bottlefeeding artificial baby milks often leads to large volume, parent-controlled meals leading to overfeeding which contributes to childhood obesity in the Americas.7

Also, I noticed on your website the PAHO Core Values which include,
"Integrity - Assuring transparent, ethical, and accountable performance".8  Accepting funds from Nestlé is far from honorable. Instead, it clearly demonstrates the grave conflict of interest that exists between health organizations and the junk food industry. Not to mention, a clear and all too common, example of Nestlé’s false benevolence.

Furthermore, this action proclaims a blatant breach of trust with the very mothers and children you protect, not to mention, the health advocates, such as myself, who have devoted their lives tirelessly to promoting the WHO International Code for Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes.
Lastly, linking with Nestlé seriously undermines the credibility of your organization and WHO as a whole. WHO is known as the global guardian for public health. When your organization accepts money from Nestlé, it sets a bad precedent and the wrong tone for the future. Many rely on WHO for protection from industry self-interest, do you want the legacy of opening that predacious door?

I strongly urge you to reconsider your decision to accept Nestlé funding, in turn reaffirming your commitment to the WHO Code and those it protects. I implore you to join WHO and publicly call for Nestlé executives to end their unethical promotion of infant formula and unhealthy foods and to stop lobbying against regulations that safeguard global health.
Maria Parlapiano RN IBCLC
Chatham, NJ


1. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/19/us-obesity-who-industry-idUSBRE89I0K620121019
2. http://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/code_english.pdf.
3. http://new.paho.org/usa/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=36&Itemid=163
4. www.babymilkaction.org
5. www.paho.org/english/gov/ce/od328-strategy-e.pdf
6. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303592404577361070078
7. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1316395/Baby-milk-formula-make-child-obese-5.html
8. http://new.paho.org/usa/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=36&Itemid=163