Advertising Standards Authority finds against Nestlé

Annabel Ferriman, BMJ1

The Advertising Standards Authority has upheld a complaint against Nestlé over its marketing of infant formula in developing countries. The complaint concerned a 1996 newspaper advertisement in which Nestlé claimed that it had marketed infant formula "ethically and responsibly" both before and since the introduction of the international code of marketing of breast milk substitutes in 1981.

The standards authority's ruling, which has not been officially released pending an appeal by Nestlé, found that Nestlé could not adequately support its claim and that the advertisement "went too far." The ruling was due to be published in the authority's monthly report for February, but it has been held back because Nestlé has lodged an appeal against the adjudication.

The appeal application is being considered by the chairman of the authority, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank. The original complaint against Nestlé was brought by Baby Milk Action, a non-profit organisation in Cambridge, which campaigns against inappropriate infant feeding.

Baby Milk Action objected to an advertisement in the Oxford Independent, a student newspaper, that was published in 1996. The standards authority examined submissions from Baby Milk Action and Nestlé for nearly two years.

The authority's council discussed the complaint at their meeting in January and, "after extensive discussion and consideration," prepared its adjudication, which was due to be published on 10 February.

Mike Brady, campaign coordinator for Baby Milk Action, said: "We first received a draft ruling on our complaints from the [standards authority] in August 1997, five months after we complained. Nestlé's challenges delayed the case progressing to the [authority's] council until December 1998. The council finally made its ruling in January 1999. How long will Nestlé's appeal keep it from the public?"

A spokesman for the advertising authority said: "We reached a decision in January; then Nestlé appealed. It is standard practice if we receive an appeal not to publish the adjudication."

A spokeswoman for Nestlé said: "We don't think it is appropriate to comment as the matter is under appeal." Nestlé stand at Harare Agricultural Show, Zimbabwe

1. Ferriman, A. Advertising Standards Authority finds against Nestlé. BMJ 318:417, 1999 BACK

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