We always keep our eye on what Big Food — and some of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ partners — is up to in developing nations, especially now that sales in the United States are lagging at best, and industry looks toward “emerging markets” for higher profits.
Case in point, this recent development in Mexico, via the International Baby Food Action Network:
“While welcoming the Mexican Government’s promise to include the protection and support of breastfeeding in its newly launched National Crusade Against Hunger, the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) is deeply concerned about the news that the initiative involves partnerships with global food giants such as PepsiCo, Nestlé, Walmart, 7 Eleven and KMart.
As part of the partnership agreement signed yesterday, Nestlé will run a programme called Mi Dulce Negocio Nestlé (My Sweet Business). This will create a network of 15,000 women who will sell ‘nutritional’ and other products in the poorest communities and give nutritional advice – all sponsored by Nestlé. (Nestlé will run courses for women on the business of selling desserts while PepsiCo will create a formula for pregnant and nursing mothers.)”
As IBFAN explains, “the initiative will, in effect, subsidize and facilitate the penetration of Nestlé products into the Mexican market, under the perfect philanthropic guise of conquering malnutrition. Such businesses partnerships affect the development of food policies and undermine local food production and traditional food culture.”
Here is what Patti Rundall, OBE, Co-Chair of IBFAN and a leader of the 20-Country Nestlé Boycott had to say on this partnership:
“It is shocking and sad that [Mexican] President [Enrique Pena] Nieto has allowed the Crusade – which has such important objectives – to be captured by some of the world’s most dangerous corporations, precisely those who are driving the chronic disease epidemic. There is no doubt in my mind that these ‘partnerships’ will distort the Mexican Government’s laudable aim to tackle hunger. However genuine these companies and their public relations teams may sound, their top strategy priority is to change the traditional eating patterns in developing countries. Their tricky tactics undermine confidence in local fresh foods and breastfeeding and will lead to more, not less, malnutrition.“
Dr. Marcos Arana, Co-Regional Coordinator for IBFAN Latin America also weighed in:
“The involvement of 15,000 women hired by Nestle to promote food education, could represent one of the biggest violations of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and the subsequent World Health Assembly Resolutions. These UN rules warn against such conflicts of interest, and forbid baby food manufacturers from making direct or indirect contact with mothers. We should make a call to the Mexican government to stop this immediately and instead bring in regulations that incorporate the Code and ban junk food marketing to children. These marketing controls should be a central plank of the Crusade to protect children. In my region of Chiapas, every day I see how bad infant feeding results in malnutrition and infant deaths. This is an outrage that is totally avoidable.”
Alas, this is unavoidable when public health efforts are outsourced to the food industry, which relies on “causewashing” for a PR boost. It’s really no different from the vast problems that come up when the Academy outsources continuing education for dietitians to the likes of Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Kellogg’s.