WASHINGTON — A group of consumer activists said today it is resuming a seven-year boycott of the Swiss-based Nestle corporation because of its promotion practices for infant formula and is extending the boycott to the U.S.-based American Home Products.
Action for Corporate Accountability accused Nestle and American Home Products, which it called the largest manufacturers of infant formula in the world, of distributing free formula through maternity wards as a promotional tactic that undermines the practice of breast-feeding.
Representatives of Nestle and AHP have rejected the accusations and said they were complying with World Health Organization and individual national codes on the subject.
"After the World Health Assembly passed its resolution calling for an end to the industry practice of dumping formula supplies in hospitals and maternity wards almost 2 1/2 years ago, we assumed that Nestle and the other formula manufacturers would abide by the resolution," Janice Mantell, the executive director of Action for Corporate Accountability, said in a news release.
"Since that time, we have been patiently meeting with the companies, and writing to the companies and waiting for them to change the dangerous promotional tactic. . . . The hard fact is that babies are dying as the companies are violating the WHA resolution."
Companies Failed to Act
She said her group asked Nestle and American Home Products to present a plan for ending their supply programs by today. "Neither company has produced one," she said. "We have no other recourse but to ask for public support of a boycott against these two companies."
The boycotts will focus on two products from each company, ACA said.
The Nestle boycott will focus on Taster's Choice Instant Coffee, and Coffeemate Non-dairy Coffee Creamer. Coffeemate is a product of Carnation, which is a wholly owned Nestle subsidiary.
The AHP boycott will focus on Anacin aspirin and the Advil brand of ibuprofin, a pain reliever.
Earlier Action Successful
Action for Corporate Accountability, based in Minneapolis, is the successor of groups that organized a boycott against Nestle from 1977 to 1984 in the United States and nine other countries. The groups halted the boycott after Nestle agreed to comply with the World Health Organization Code.
"Through sophisticated promotional techniques, the infant formula industry persuaded hundreds of thousands of poverty-stricken mothers in the Third World that formula feeding was best for their children," ACA said.
As a result, it said, the industry created a nearly $6-billion market "for a product that is inferior in every respect to breast-feeding."
"In areas where sanitary conditions for cleaning bottles are unavailable, water is impure and the level of income does not permit families to purchase sufficient quantities of formula for their infants, use of the product is deadly," ACA charged.