Why you should throw out that Nestlé chocolate

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It is Nestlé-Free Week from October 28th – November 4th, and in recognition of that I present ‘why you should throw out that Nestlé chocolate from Halloween night.’

I know, I know. Throwing out those smarties, areos, coffee crisps, and kit kats will be hard. Don’t even get me started on the butterfingers. I’ll let you ignore for now that those little bars are just the tip of the iceberg of Nestlé products.

Nestlé is the largest food company in the world and that means they have the capital to pull some terrible moves.

Reason #1

California is in the worst drought since the early 1900’s. Millions of trees have died from the lack of water. Water costs have risen significantly, resulting in farmers having to shut down their farms (I’m not even going to go into what this means for the food industry, ie, fresh produce costs rising). Residents of California are being forced to reduce their own water use by 25%. Sounds pretty terrible, right?

It’s okay though. I’m sure the residents of California don’t mind buying back their own water. You see, Nestlé built a pipeline through the San Bernardino National Forest, it taps into a spring there. The permit, which expired in 1988, costs them $524.00 USD per year. This allows them to export more than 36 million gallons of water yearly. From California. The state with the draught.

Reason #2

Nestlé is not just buying up water in the US. Earlier this year the Township of Centre Wellington in Ontario put in a bid to buy a well from the Middlebrook Water Company. The well which is 10km outside of Centre Wellington in Elora meant water security to the residents of Centre Wellington. Until the Canadian Government puts measures in place to protect water being taken by third parties the municipality felt it was in their best interest to prevent exactly that from happening to their own town. But Nestlé outbid them. You know, they wanted to own the well for future business growth purposes. Never mind the fact that just down the road in Aberfoyle, Nestlé already owns a well. That well currently exports 3.6 million litres of water a day. For which Nestlé pays the Ontario government $3.71 CND for each million. Three dollars and seventy one cents. #nutty!

EDIT: Nestlé did not outbid Centre Wellington. Nestlé had an offer already in on the well from 2015 and was in the process of having the conditions met. Nestlé learned there was another offer on the well and waived the conditions, thus completing the sale. Nestlé was not aware who the other offer was from.

If reason 1 & 2 were not depressing enough, then read on!

Reason #3

Child slavery.

The Ivory Coast is the world’s largest producer of cocoa. Nestlé is connected to many of the farms on the Ivory Coast that produce the cocoa. This is not a new issue and it is one that Nestlé has come under fire for in the media and with human rights organizations for decades. They have promised to end the use of child labourers but the problem still continues.

This linked documentary goes more into detail about the horrors these children face.

Reason #4

Disclaimer: This is not a breast is best statement. Formula absolutely has it’s place and we support babies being fed.

The WHO and UNICEF estimate that 1.5 million babies die each year simply because they were not breastfed.

The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes is an international framework adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1981.

The code is outlined as follows;

Mothers
  • Information and educational materials on infant and young child feeding should be objective and consistent and emphasize the importance of breastfeeding. In no case should such materials refer to a brand name of a product.
  • All forms of product advertising and promotion are prohibited.
  • Mothers should not be given free product samples.
  • Promotional devices such as discounts and special displays at the retail level are prohibited.
  • Company representatives may not initiate direct or indirect contact with mothers.
  • Health risks to infants who are artificially fed or who are not exclusively breastfed should be highlighted through appropriate labeling and warnings.
Health workers
  • The Code gives health workers the responsibility to encourage and protect breastfeeding.
  • Materials regarding products given to health professionals by manufacturers and distributors should be limited to ‘scientific and factual’ matters. They should not be tools to promote the use of products.
  • Product samples may be given only when necessary for professional evaluation or research at the institutional level. In no case should these samples be passed on to mothers.
  • In order to prevent conflicts of interest, manufacturers and distributors should not give material or financial inducements to health workers.
Health care systems
  • Promotion of any product is forbidden in a health care facility. This includes the display of products, placards and posters concerning such products and distribution of materials provided by manufacturers and distributors.
  • Formula feeding should be demonstrated only to those mothers or family members who need to use it and the information given should include a clear explanation of the risks of formula feeding and hazards of improper use of products.
  • Donated equipment and materials should not refer to brand names of products.
  • Free Supplies: Manufacturers and distributors are prohibited from providing products to health care facilities for free or at low cost. (According to guidelines under the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, ‘low cost’ means less than 80% of the retail price.)
Labelling
  • Information on labels for infant formula must be in simple and easy to understand terms in an appropriate language.
  • Labels of infant formula must contain a statement on the superiority of breastfeeding and that the product should only be used after consultation with health professionals.
  • Pictures or text which may idealize the use of infant formula and certain wordings, such as ‘humanized” or “materialized” or similar terms should not be used.
  • Nutrition and health claims on labels for breastmilk substitutes should not be permitted unless allowed by national legislation. 
  • Labels must contain explicit warnings on labels to inform consumers about the risks of contamination of powdered formula with pathogenic microorganisms. 
  • Labels must conform with WHO guidelines on safe preparation, storage and handling of powdered infant formula.

 

In 1978, when Nestlé was asked, “Can a product which requires clean water, good sanitation, adequate family income and a literate parent to follow printed instructions, be properly and safely used in areas where water is contaminated, sewage runs through the streets, poverty is severe and illiteracy is high?, their answer was no. The answer is still no in 2016.

And yet, Nestlé does not abide by any of the code that was set out to protect infants and the implications are huge in developing countries.

Let me be clear. I understand that the layers of the above issues are many. And I understand that Nestlé is not the only company that pulls shady moves.  It just takes a few minutes of reading on Google to start uncovering the fact that others companies are also a problem.  A few minutes on Google will also reveal all kinds of excellent explanations for why we should all boycott Nestle. You can start with Baby Milk Action, Infact Canada and The Council for Canadians, Acting for Social Justice.

I know that throwing away Halloween Nestlé candy is not the biggest gesture but it is a step in the right direction. Most significantly, throwing that candy away gives me a chance to teach my children about buying power and about taking a stand against businesses that act unethically and for important issues like child health and water security.

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Meghan Jarzyna is the Practice Director for Generations Midwifery Care. You can read more about her here.