Posted by: zhak39 | October 4, 2008

Boycott

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First let me say that the Chinese company being cited as the most problematic is Shijiazhuang Sanlu Group Co.  The last account that I read cited twenty-two companies operating in China that have been issued recalls for having melamine in their milk products.  In the last week the number of babies effected from having been fed this industrial chemical has more than doubled.  We are talking about tens of thousands of children.

So let’s get down to the gritty details.  What is this stuff?  Why is it in the milk?  And what does it do?  Basically melamine which has a high concentration of nitrogen  makes a product look like it has a higher concentration of quality protein in lab tests.  It is a cheap way to make milk products look more nourishing.  Only it doesn’t nourish.  It kills the kidneys.  Especially in babies.  This is why infants and toddlers who have been fed this mess over the last few months are developing kidney stones and dying.  From an AP report “Melamine is used in making plastics and is high in nitrogen, which registers as protein in tests of milk. Though health experts believe ingesting minute amounts poses no danger, melamine can cause kidney stones which can lead to kidney failure. Infants are particularly vulnerable.” (References follow)

One of the companies that has products with ‘trace’ amounts of melamine is Nestle’s.  A press release on the Nestle’s website admits that some of their products contain melamine but it is just a little bit so these products are not dangerous.  An AP report says that melamine is in Nestle’s catering products and should not be fed to small children.  Nestle has not explained why a chemical used in making plastic is in the food chain in the first place.

So why am I bent out of shape about this?  Because I have boycotted Nestle’s products since 1974.  I wasn’t even a teenager then but when I heard about the infant formula scandals in India I said no more Nestle’s Hot Cocoa for me.  As I say to my kids, my personal boycott doesn’t mean a bucket of spit in the ocean but it gives me satisfaction.  Well right now I am not so satisfied.  In fact, I’m miffed.  Let me tell you a little about the background here.

In the 60s and early 70s Nestle recognized an open market in third world countries for baby formula.  No one in these countries used baby formula.  If they could convince these populations that formula was better for the babies then breast milk they would have a huge market.  So they did.  They flooded these countries with misinformation about the quality of breast milk and the ability of women to produce enough milk for their babies.  They paid hospitals to feed infants formula for the first few days of life.  Breastfeeding is a self-regulating activity.  The more the baby stimulates the mother (demands) the more the mother produces.  By thwarting this relationship from birth, the mother’s ability to produce is temporarily lowered.  As well, by introducing formula first, the baby doesn’t benefit from colostrum or first milk.  Colostrum is rich in antibodies, low in fat, highly nutritious and has a laxative effect which helps clear out baby’s brand new digestive track and get it working well.  (Formula does not do any of this.)  Nestle sent in sales women dressed in nurses uniforms to convince women that artificial feeding is superior to natural feeding.

There are a few things that Nestle did not do.   They did not explain or direct users in the importance of sanitary practices.  They did not check to make sure that people in these countries had stoves to boil the water for the formula or sterilize the bottles.  They did not print instructions in native languages.  They did not offer alternative instruction to people who could not read.

And when babies started dying they said, “whoa, not our fault.  Our product is safe.  Too bad those people are too stupid to use it right.”

Now part of me says OK.  It’s like the mortgage thing.  If a person doesn’t take the time to become informed, to understand that buying a house with no money down and taking out a mortgage for 20% more than the price of the property with a temporary interest plan that is sure to go up then they made a bad choice.  If these families in third world countries decide that every generation of every mammal that has ever been on earth has been feeding their babies in an inferior way just because some conglomerate says so, they are mistaken .  This is not to say that every mother should choose to breastfeed.  There are medical conditions and situations that challenge or preclude breastfeeding as an option.  This accounts for maybe 5% of babies with living mothers and in this case formula is a  godsend. It is those who are capable of breastfeeding but choose not to that concern me.  International agreements regarding advertising were developed after the original boycott and are enforced.  These require formula manufacturers to let people know that human milk is better for babies than formula.  If after all this people choose to use formula and their children have negative outcomes then they should carry some of the responsibility for being suckers.

But this is different.  This is an inferior product purposefully manipulated with a toxin in order to appear nutritious.  This is unforgivable.  And this is actionable.

This is International Nestle-free Week.  I encourage everyone to look closely at labels and do not purchase or use Nestle products from October 4 to October 10.  A list of Nestle products, companies is here.

If you are interested in reading more or wish to check some of the articles where I got this information please browse:

Hong Kong finds melamine in Nestle milk from China (September 21, 2008)

Wary of Chinese milk powder, Tawain bans Nestle items (October 2, 2008)

Number of Sick Children from Tainted Formula Nears 13,000

Asia still finding tainted Chinese milk powder (October 2, 2008)

Background

A timeline of action associated with opposition to Nestle business practices

Multinational Corporations and the Impact of Public Advocacy on Corporate Strategy: Nestle and the Infant Formula Controversy

And finally, from

Nestle

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