The fight for the first sip of milk: Nestle China employees convicted of illegally obtaining patients’ information from health workers

According to a report from the chinese Legal Weekly (11/7/2017) six employees from Nestlé China including the regional manager, have been convicted for illegally obtaining patients’ personal information from hospitals in Lan Zhou, capital of Gansu province. To gain market share, the employees also sent samples of baby formula to hospitals for the purpose of passing them on to parents of new-born babies, a practice forbidden by Chinese regulations. Bribed health workers served as intermediaries.
The criminal ruling was issued by the Gansu Province Intermediate People’s Court in May 2017 following an appeal from the 6 defendants. The heaviest sentence levied on the regional manager, is 1 year and 6 months and a fine of RMB 4000, followed by a 2 year probation period.
In response to what is dubbed “the first sip of milk” scandal is, Nestlé China said “We completely respect the decision of the court, and our company is completely compliant with the national law, the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and the Nestlé’s Policy and Instructions for implementation of the Code”. Nestlé appears to have gotten away scot free in this scandal while the regional employees shoulder the blame.
This case reveales the lack of internal management of Nestle China and the extent of aggressive and unethical marketing practices that takes place in China, the biggest formula milk market in the world. It also shows the lack of internal regulation within the healthcare systems.