Nestlé has been accused of making unethical and contradicting health claims about its breast milk products. A critical report from the Changing Markets Foundation stated that Nestlé's infant nutrition products are “primarily informed by marketing strategies instead of driven by scientific evidence”.
The group investigated 70 Nestlé infant milks for babies under 12 months old, sold in 40 different countries and found ingredients that contradicted health claims across select markets.
The report said product labels on items in Brazil and Hong Kong warned parents against giving sucrose-based goods to infants. In South Africa, two products contained sucrose. Similarly, while products in Hong Kong were reportedly healthier for not containing “added vanilla flavour or flavourings for baby’s good growth,” these ingredients were present in products sold in Hong Kong, China and South Africa.
The report stated that these examples “illustrate how Nestlé uses nutritional science as a marketing tool rather than applying it across all its products in the best interests of children’s health”.
The Swiss company was also criticized for the ‘closest to breastmilk’ claims on some of its goods, a move prohibited by the World Health Organisation (WHO) because it is impossible to synthesize a substitute for breast milk and as the products had “major differences” in ingredients from breast milk.
Nusa Urbancic from the Changing Markets Foundation said: “While we have come to understand that companies manipulate consumers’ emotional responses to sell a variety of products, this behaviour is especially unethical when it comes to the health of vulnerable babies.
“If the science is clear that an ingredient is safe and beneficial for babies then such ingredients should be in all products. If an ingredient is not healthy, such as sucrose, then it should be in no products. Anything other than this approach calls into serious question whether Nestlé is a company committed to science”.
Nestlé holds nearly a quarter share of the global infant milk product market, reports The Guardian. Although no answers about the report’s particular claims were answered, a spokesperson from the company told the Guardian that the products were, wherever possible, “the ideal source of nutrition for babies”.