Milk is Murder
Nestle baby formula; Nestle S.A.
Nestle and other manufacturers have a history of aggressively marketing baby formula to poor Third World mothers who lack access to sanitation and clean water, often resulting in infant malnutrition and disease. In 1977 the corporate watchdog group INFACT organized a highly visible boycott of Nestle which helped lead the World Health Organization to adopt its International Code for Marketing Breast-Milk Substitutes in 1981; WHO estimates that effective breast feeding could avert 1.5 million infant deaths per year. INFACT called off the boycott in 1984 after Nestle agreed to change its marketing behavior — but when Nestle was caught backsliding in many countries, INFACT’s sister organization, Action for Corporate Accountability, renewed the boycott in 1988 in order to continue pressuring Nestle to abide fully by its marketing agreement.
Gerber baby food, Gerber Products Co.
Apparently no one has yet called for a boycott of Gerber, but maybe someone should: Multinational Monitor named Gerber one of the Ten Worst Corporations of 1996 because of its sledgehammer tactics marketing baby formula in Guatemala. Although the adorable, chubby, healthy, blue-eyed Gerber Baby is an attractive marketing image — so powerful that some Guatemalan parents have named their babies “Gerber” — the trademark also violates Guatemala’s 1983 Law on the Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes. That law, like the WHO code it’s based upon, explicitly prohibits images of babies on packaging, and requires packaging to state that breast milk is the best food for babies.
Gerber not only refused to comply, it wrote to the Guatemalan president threatening trade sanctions under GATT and other trade agreements. Then the U.S. government — your tax dollars at work — threatened the tiny country with a total ban on imports if it didn’t weaken its own law and allow Gerber’s baby trademark on formula. After years of resisting Gerber’s pressure, the country succumbed to the bullies; it stopped enforcing its baby milk law in 1995, and last year an obliging Guatemalan Supreme Court ruled that imports — like Gerber — were exempt.