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Nestle Infant Formula as cause of child deaths

Company Background

Heinrich Nestle and his family members started off producing carbonated water. They later on also combined cow’s milk with wheat flour and sugar to produce a substitute of mother’s milk for those children who couldn’t accept breast feeding. In 1866 a milk food formula was developed for infants who were unable to tolerate their mother milk. His product became a success, and it created a demand throughout Europe. By the 1960’s Nestle was one of Switzerland's biggest company with over 200 factories around the world (Nestle, 2009).

Nestlé considers that research can help them make better food so that people live a better life.  Good Food is the primary source of Good Health throughout life. In the first months of life, a baby’s nutrition needs are very specific – and different than any other stage of life. Obtaining energy and nutrients is vital for babies’ healthy growth and development at this critical stage of life. To meet the specialized needs of infants, Nestlé Nutrition works with the Nestlé Research Center and R&D centers to provide infant formulas with total nutrition.

We strive to bring consumers foods that are safe, of high quality and provide optimal nutrition to meet physiological needs. In addition to Nutrition, Health and Wellness, Nestlé products bring consumers the vital ingredients of taste and pleasure. Research is a key part of our heritage at Nestlé and an essential element of our future. Nestlé believes that the best food for babies is mother’s milk.

Mission Statement

“Breast milk nutrients that nourish protect and promote growth and development. However, for different reasons, not all mothers are able to breastfeed their babies or choose to do so, and need a safe, high-quality alternative that provides babies with the precise nutrition they need in the first months of life (Nestle 1990).”

Infant formula Industry

Infant Formula Industry Development and marketing of milk food product for infants begin in 1867. The Creation of the product progressed due to the urgent need of a substitute for infants who could not consume any food Infant formula foods were matured around the 1920’s. As an alternative to breast milk the sales boost after WWII and reached its climax in 1957. The Market took a downturn around the 1970’s. Nestlé then decided to market to countries like Africa, South Africa and Far East because of population growth (Boycott, 2007).

Nestle and the Infant Formula

1800 was the century when Henry Nestle founded the infant substitute for breast milk for women who could breast feed their children at the time of their birth. Thus, this led to the death of millions of child infant death. Nestle in the early years marketed Infant formula as the best option for infants and also continued to aggressively promote the milk better then breast feeding. The containers had large writing in blocked letters claimimg the best choice for newly born babies which led to an excessive drop of breast feeding and high number of women feeding their children the infant milk. The stats were roughly around 80 % of Singapore three- month-old infants were being breastfed in 1951. By 1971 on 5% of mothers nursed their infants In Mexico around 1966, fewer than 40% mothers nursed their infants Chile experienced three times as many deaths of infants before they became 3 months old in 1973 (Ford, 2008).   There was marked shoot in the rate of gastroenteritis and malnutrition among the babies in the third world countries relating to the improper use of infant formula and the associated feeding equipment, such as bottles and nipples

During the 1970’s, British Charity Organization circulated a 28 page pamphlet called the Baby Killer which was targeted towards Nestle Switzerland and the poorly advertised marketing efforts in Africa. After the publication was well distributed it raised a concern for the general public and population of the affected countries and other countries. Later, Nestle was alleged as “Unethical and immoral behavior”.Nestle fought back and the trial lasted for two years therefore nestle was sued for defamation but inevitably Nestle won. But during this time nestle was given a set of code of ethics to follow by World health organization and UNICEF (Birbeck, 2007). The rules were as follows:

The key points of the Code as established in 1981 were:

Breast milk substitutes should not be advertised.

Mothers and health care members are not to be given free supplies and samples.

No promotion of products through health care facilities.

No the marketing personal is not supposed to be in contact with the mother

Information to health workers should be scientific and factual only.

All information on artificial feeding, including the labels, should explain the benefits of breastfeeding and the costs and hazards of artificial feeding.

Unsuitable products prohibited for babies.

Babies should not be depicted on infant formula packaging.

Labels should be set out in local native languages.

By the end of 1989, The MNC introduced “plan of Action for Infant and Young Child feeding” where it committed to put a stop to all low priced and free supplies of infant milk formula in developing countries except for the number of children who need it.

How Nestle breaks the Rule: Unethical Practises

Nido is promoted worldwide. In Bolivia and other countries, Community and health workers are given free samples of Nido which stirs a mixed feeling among the mothers for children above four months although there is no age limits for nido.

Neslac is promoted widely for babies for their first birthday although breast feeding is recommended for at least two years of age. Nestle promoted Neslac with the help of posters, gift offer and advertisements in all types of media.

In Mexico and in other countries, Nestlé provides pediatricians and nurses funds for congresses and other professional events

Nestle sponsors workers with boxed lunches and vouchers in Taiwan..

In Italy, Nestlé sponsored meetings and conferences under the brand name Guigoz.

Cerelac is promoted in Pakistan on huge posters and roadside banners. Labeled bowls and cups are given out with every purchase of cerelac.

The blue bear Logo that is seen almost in every country represents Infant formula and food.

In UAE, Nestles distributed Pens with Cerelac logo.

Company reps contact mothers though telephone in Hong Kong and Taiwan (Stafford, 1999). Nestlé- Baby Milk Ethical Issues

Ethical Issues

a) Infant Formula.

The most important ethical question that arises regarding the use of infant formula is that if it is moral to produce or use the formula as a substitute for breast milk? The point of concern is that, if the infant formula is a bad thing like tobacco smoking or does it lie on the same fronts as consumption of alcohol where misuse leads to harms? The International Baby Food Action Network (IFBAN) suggests that in theory the infant formula might not be a bad thing but, on moral grounds it acts as a substitute for a perfectly good thing that is breast milk.

b) Infant Formula cause of Child Deaths?

There is no point questioning the fact that hundreds of thousands of young infants die every year in the developing countries mainly because of water-borne disease, malnutrition and some other factors. In case of Nestle it is important to distinguish between the deaths caused by the use and misuse of the infant formula which is the result of improper marketing of the formula as a substitute of breast milk and the deaths caused by other reasons. The use or misuse of the infant formula may lead to child death for various reasons which include negligence to certain important facts regarding the usage or simple ignorance of the mother or the feeder. Non-availability of proper ingredients like pure or clean water, or usage of non-sterilized bottles which are used to feed the infants has proved to be the major health risks.

c) Supply of infant formula to regions with inadequate healthcare systems.

The supply and promotion of infant formula to areas with weak health care facilities leads to a ethical predicament that, if it is moral on the company’s behalf to supply their products in areas like Africa even if they are working within the frame work of the International code? Continue supply to these areas by infant formula companies is not considered an illegal issue as they follow the international code but their product is liked to deaths of young infants which surely make it an ethical issue. In such areas like Africa unsafe water and lack of sanitation are major factors underlying many of the 10 million child deaths every year. Repeated episodes of waterborne diseases like diarrhoea can push children to the brink of survival, leaving them too weak and malnourished to survive even common childhood illnesses (IBFAN, 2008). Illiteracy is another issue that these areas face as they are not able to read the instructions. In some cases, cans of formula were being sold with the instructions in the wrong language for the women being targeted which also proved to be an issue to some extent (Moorhead,2007).

d) Abiding by the Code

Out of all the other ethical issues one of the key issue revolving around the infant formula is the extent to which manufacturers are abiding by the International Code. According to the code article 1, the aim of the Code is to contribute to the provision of safe and adequate nutrition for infants, by the protection and promotion of breastfeeding, and by ensuring the proper use of breast milk substitutes, when necessary, on the basis of adequate information and through appropriate marketing and distribution (Ann,2007). Another article from the code states that there should be no advertising or any other form of promotion to the general public of products within the scope of this Code. The code was formed in 1981 reason being the manufacturers of the infant formula products were promoting their products as a replacement for breast milk and breast feeding was declining. Nestle even stated that the infant formula is better than the breast milk that lead to the boycott of Nestle products. After the boycott Nestle fell in line with the code but every now and then it has been seen that they find a loop hole in the code and take advantage. This is the reason boycott still continues.

In Defense of Nestle

The key ethical issues to the substitution of the breast-milk feed, there are two main key points to discuss in this part, and to show how the company thinks that the infant formula is not unethical. First point will be the status and the position of the infant formula, Nestlé has a unique question to ask those whom are considering the infant formula as an ethical formula, and the question is "Is the infant formula a bad thing in itself, as bad as the gambling and tobacco? Second point to discuss is child death cases and relating it to the infant formula, where Nastle's says that there are many child death cases all over the world, and there are people and organizations known as competitors or IBFAN where they relate some of those child death cases to the infant formula, and ignoring the other real facts which they were the reason behind those cases, for an example, these people or organizations are ignoring the fact of the death cases in some countries in South Africa, and these reason are, it is really hard and somehow impossible to find pure and clean water, although the UN is trying their best to provide that clean water for the people in South Africa, and those people want the infant formula to be withdrawn from there. Withdrawn the infant formula from that part of Africa can lead to some serious problems, where other competitors can enter South Africa with new non-efficient infant formula and cause more serious problems to those kids or the infant formula can be replaced sugar water or goat milk. Another causing of death cases to those poor kids is the weak health care system, those people or organizations are ignoring the fact of the weak health care system for instant in some countries in South Africa, therefore Nestlé argument here is that countries in South Africa are having a weak health system, and people there are not well treated medically, therefore death cases should be related to the weak health system there not to the infant formula, therefore it is unfair and unethical to relate the death cases to the infant formula and to Nestlé. These countries should have full medical health care, especially for kids to protect them and to make them strong in order to face other illnesses in the future. After providing full and strong medical health care to those kids, then people can start put the blame on Nestle's side after considering the other serious causes of death. Based on these two argument points Nestlé sees itself doing an ethical and right thing by providing that part of the word with the infant formula.

In Conclusion

Breastfeeding is the best thing for baby because it’s containing the perfect amount of antibodies, water, carbohydrates, fat, protein, vitamins and minerals. Also mothers who can’t breastfeed there newborn babies they will select formula as the second option for there babies, also many business women who work most of their time

They don’t have time to feed their babies as a result they always try to choose alternative ways to feed their babies and in the same time it contains every thing the baby’s needs.

 First of all when we talk about the advantages of breastfeeding we will find out a lot of good results that impact the children’s health and their bodies in the future. Breast milk is personalized for babies as a whole meal because this milk contains everything the babies’ need to protect their bodies from allergy so that they will be less likely to get allergies and protecting them from asthma. Also, breastfeeding may help reduce the chance of becoming over weight, reducing stomach infections, and support baby’s sensitive digestive system .more over breast feeding is a very comfortable for the mother and its easier than using other artificial milks , in addition to what I mentioned earlier , another advantage of breastfeeding is to save money and its available at anytime and everywhere while artificial milks can be expensive and unaffordable however the breast feeding has a strong relationship between the mother and their babies.

Secondly, on the other hand, The disadvantages of the artificial milks as we know that nestle is a leading consumer products companies in the world however it has many ethical issues relating to the breast milk substitutes, first of all , the moral status of the artificial milk or  the infant formula is more like tobacco or gambling where the problem arise from misusing it  such as the role of infant formula in child death , supplying infant formula in areas of weak healthcare systems

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