Tom Levitt MP, who went on an all-expenses-paid trip to South Africa to investigate Nestlé has still not responded to Baby Milk Action about the information we provided on Nestlé malpractice in the country. Nor has Mr. Levitt accepted our offer to meet. He has, however, posted an article dismissing the information on his blog. Unfortunately comments on the article are disabled, so I am making my response here.
The blog states: "Mike Brady also refers to what he describes as “prohibited” NAN advertising in South Africa. This allegation is incorrect and the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa has, in fact, already ruled that this advertising did not contravene any advertising restrictions. Mr Brady’s final allegation that the health claims on the NAN labels are non-compliant is also incorrect as the health claims fully comply with the South African regulations that apply to this product."
Clearly Mr. Levitt did not think to check with the authorities in South Africa before accepting Nestlé's assurances. There is no ruling published on the ASA website and Nestlé did not provide this when asked, though it did reply to our letter. The South African Department of Health (DH) points out that it is usually consulted on ASA rulings regarding formula marketing and has no knowledge of a ruling on the shelf talkers. Indeed the DH points out that the advertising code states: "Appendix G 1.3.2 There must be no point-of-sale advertising..."
Nestlé was informed that shelf talkers are viewed by DH as a breach of the international marketing standards, yet continues to defend the shelf talkers.
Regarding the health claims the DH position is that: "The SA Regulations 2 (9) (b) & (c) of the Regulations Governing the Labelling and Advertising of Foodstuffs, published under Government Notice No. R. 2034 of 29 October 1993 strictly prohibits health/curative/restorative/prophylactic/medicinal claims.
"Therefore, statements such as "optimal physical and mental development", "activate your baby's immune defences" and "strengthen your baby's natural defences" as indicated on the labels are just some examples of prohibited statements on NAN 1 and 2".
Such promotion and claims are illegal in Mr. Levitt's constituency, so it is disappointing that he is defending these practices in South Africa and undermining the Department of Health's position.
This is a critical time for infant health in South Africa as the Government is consulting on tightening regulations. Mr. Levitt's attempts to portray Nestlé as voluntarily complying with international standards - when the opposite is the case - should be seen in this context. People who are interested in protecting infant health should visit the Baby Milk Action website and see the action in the 'code watch' section.
Mr. Levitt's defence of Nestlé has not gone down well with some people in Buxton, as letters to the press show. It doesn't take much to read what the marketing requirements say to realise that Nestlé is breaking them. Indeed we conducted a poll on our website, showing the shelf talker and the text of the Code and 100% of those completing it agreed Nestlé is breaking the rules. See: