Nestle goes rogue with the Guidance on Ending the Inappropriate Promotion of Foods for Infants and Young Children

In May 2016, the World Health Assembly (WHA) adopted resolution 69.9 [2016] that calls on countries to implement the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Guidance on Ending the Inappropriate Promotion of Foods for Infants and Young Children.

The Guidance, applicable to government programmes, non-profit organizations and private enterprises, was developed as a response to a growing body of evidence which shows that the promotion of breastmilk substitutes (BMS) and some commercial foods for infants and young children undermines progress on optimal infant and young child feeding.

Among other things, the Guidance specifies that messages used to promote foods for infants and young children should include a statement on the importance of continued breastfeeding for up to two years or beyond; specify the appropriate age of introduction of the food (not less than 6 months) and recommend or promote bottle feeding.  Nestle also ignore an earlier violation that prohibits nutrition and health claims. (WHA 63.23[2020])

It has been more than 6 months since Resolution 69.9 was adopted. Monitoring by   Liewensufank, the IBFAN group in Luxembourg, shows that Nestle is refusing to take WHA resolutions or the Guidance seriously.

This is obvious from the label of Nestle Baby Cereals in Luxembourg (picture below). Not only is Nestle persisting in labelling the product as suitable for babies below 6 months, the label shows a feeding bottle that will promote bottle feeding and contains idealising claims about “immunonutrients” that help support the baby’s immune system.

This is surely not acceptable conduct from the biggest baby food company in the world but then again, it is not a surprise. The company has been a systematic Code violator from before the Code was adopted. It is clear that the Guidance on Ending the Inappropriate Promotion of Foods for Infants and Young Children is not going to make any difference unless governments adopt laws that give effect to it.

Editors’ note: Resolution 69.9 [2016] calls upon –

  1. Member States to take all necessary measures to implement the Guidance.
  2. Manufacturers and distributors of foods for infants and young children to adhere to the Guidance.

Member States are encouraged to take additional actions to end inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children.