IBFAN Media Release
“Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules 2010” is out
A brand new 208-page report details the latest marketing strategies used by baby food manufacturers
and exposes violations of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and
subsequent World Health Assembly resolutions over the three years from end 2007 to end 2010. In
May 2010, the Assembly called on companies to meet their obligations and governments to act to
protect their citizens from practices that undermine breastfeeding and put babies fed on formula at
risk. Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules 2010 provides up-to-date evidence that action is
Independent monitors from over 46 countries contributed evidence showing that breastfeeding still
faces multi-million dollar competition from baby feeding companies using new ways to promote
their products, such as basing marketing campaigns on added ingredients, even when these have no
Nestlé, the market leader, has rolled out a new global "premiumisation" strategy documented in the
report. The report also shows how the Danone Group is trying to compete with similar "designer"
brands after jumping into second place in the market with multiple acquisitions in 2008. A promised
'root and branch' review by Danone executives has seen promotion worsen, not improve. Danone is
likely to find itself the target of consumer action based on these results. Nestle has long been the
target of an international boycott which campaigners say has forced that company to drop some
aggressive marketing strategies.
In another major acquisition, the pharmaceutical company Pfizer appears to be pushing the ever
aggressive Wyeth to become even more vociferous. There is documented evidence of the company
challenging a national law and providing forbidden incentive packages to staff to hit sales targets on
its formula products.
The evidence was compiled, checked and legally analysed by the International Code Documentation
Centre (ICDC) based in Penang, Malaysia. ICDC is part of the International Baby Food Action
Network (IBFAN). Each company´s violations are presented along with an updated profile. IBFANICDC
produces global monitoring reports about every three years. It also publishes country and
Yeong Joo Kean, IBFAN-ICDC Legal Advisor, said:
“This report is different from previous reports in that it analyses trends in marketing. While
our work on regulations and grassroots campaigns has stopped some practices, the report
shows that health and nutrition claims are now the key marketing strategy that needs to be
tackled. Companies are using the most extraordinary and bizarre claims to suggest that their
new ingredients provide functional benefits that are essential to child health. As markets
become saturated this is a sure fire way to ´add value´ and increase profits.”
For example, Nestlé has rolled out a strategy claiming its "premium" formula 'protects' babies, while
Danone´s recently acquired subsidiaries Nutricia, Milupa and Dumex are trying to compete with
claims that its trademarked ingredient, Immunofortis, stimulates the growth of good bacteria in
baby´s gut and strengthens its immune system. These claims have been shown to be scientifically
unsubstantiated by advertising and regulatory authorities, but are nonetheless used as the basis for
global marketing campaigns.
Nestlé's Protect logo has been launched on products in 120 countries in a campaign coordinated
from its Swiss headquarters. Protect Start and Protect Plus are unsubstantiated claims that formula
milk with a “unique nutrient combination with Bifidus BL supplementation” "protects" babies.
Nestlé disputes that the logos mislead parents and undermine breastfeeding, claiming they help to
distinguish formulas with the additives from “less advanced products”. A brochure in Egypt says
they “Enhance the immune system and help preventing intestinal infections in the crucial first year
of life”. Nestlé has also increased its reach by purchasing the Gerber company and moving its“Good Start” formula brand in the US to Gerber.
Mead Johnson, Abbott, Wyeth and others claim their formulas improve eyesight and make babies
more intelligent – implying that synthesised ingredients in the totally different environment of
formula provide benefits similar to breastfeeding. IBFAN works actively to improve the composition
requirements for formula and takes the view that if an ingredient is proven to be necessary, it should
be in all products and not used as a marketing tool.
Health claims are in direct conflict with the Code, Codex Alimentarius guidelines on nutrition and
health claims and two clear World Health Assembly resolutions which prohibit claims unless they
are specifically permitted. ICDC's legal experts say it is dishonest and misleading to claim that a
product will protect babies from infection when formula-fed babies are far more likely to become
sick than breastfed babies and, in conditions of poverty, are more likely to die.
The annual total baby food market exceeds US$31 billion according to global marketing reports.
Double-digit growth is forecast for several regions and global sales are expected to reach up to
US$42.7 billion by 2013. Hence the pressure to increase market share is intense.
Annelies Allain, Director of the International Code Documentation Centre, said:
“It is ironic. The issue is so simple, it should have been solved 30 years ago; despite the
universal understanding of the crucial role of breastfeeding in the survival of children and
the now well established risks of artificial feeding - companies continue to seek bigger and
bigger markets using social marketing and other tricks of the trade. These tactics create an
uphill battle for health workers and all those trying to protect child health and ensure that all
parents are provided with sound objective and independent information they need.
"Only when laws are comprehensive and well enforced do families get the necessary
protection. Where there are no laws or where they are not enforced, we have to hold
companies to account by spotlighting their malpractices through reports such as this and
using public outrage to force changes."
Contact: Yeong Joo Kean or Annelies Allain at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel: 60-4-890 5799 - Penang, Malaysia.
The full report can be purchased online at www.ibfan.org/icdc
“Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules 2010”
How to get a copy
The Executive Summary, Introduction and a Summary of the Code and WHA resolutions may be
downloaded free of charge. The profile of each company is also available online.
Each of the 11 individual milk company reports can be purchased. The 11 bottle and teat companies
are sold as one block.
For-profit entities* must pay the following prices, based on length of each report:
Bayer/United Pharmaceuticals, Friesland, Heinz, Hero,
Hipp or Humana: US$ 50 each;
Abbott, Mead Johnson or Wyeth/Pfizer: US$ 100 each;
Danone or Nestle: US$200 each;
Block of 11 feeding bottle and teat companies: US$100.
The entire report costs US$450.
For non-profit public interest groups, prices are half the above and the entire report is available at
Please write to IBFAN-ICDC via email at email@example.com for sales enquiries and see the website
for purchasing instructions.
*'For-profit entities also means business-interest civil society groups (BINGOs)
and public-private partnerships'.
The International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) is a coalition of voluntary
organisations in both developing and industrialised nations, working for better child
health and nutrition through the promotion of breastfeeding and the elimination of
irresponsible marketing of commercial infant foods.
The International Code Documentation Centre (ICDC) was set up in 1985 to keep
track of Code implementation worldwide. It holds training courses in legal drafting,
provides direct support to governments, and coordinates monitoring to measure
compliance with the Code.