Five Nestle Controversies You Never Knew About

Published: 06th June 2015 03:07 PM  |   Last Updated: 06th June 2015 04:36 PM   |  A+A-


File Photo. |Reuters

Nestlé is not new to controversies. One of the world's largest instant food companies, likes to be addressed as the “world’s leading nutrition, health and wellness company.” Long before the MSG and excessive lead in Maggi furore, Nestlé has for long, invited flak over promoting baby food formula in third world nations for babies as young as a six-month-old, bottled water, poor labour practices in poor nations and misleading advertising on foods like Maggi.  

The baby food controversy

The countries where baby milk powder was promoted most were countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Third world nations were soft targets where Nestlé marketed baby food by salesgirls dressed as nurses who emphasized the importance of supplementary baby food, like the one they were marketing, for a baby's health. Third world nations had mothers mixing 'infant formula' with water they had access to – which was particularly unclean – leading to diarrhea and malnutrition.

Despite research emphasising that babies need to be breastfed mother's milk at least up to six months, such foods were marketed and toddlers were prone to infection from the bottles in which they were supplied the milk from.

According to World Health Organisation, six months of exclusive breastfeeding increases a child's chance of survival by six times. For such practices of encouraging mothers to the expensive baby food packets and discouraging breastfeeding, leading to problems of kwashiorkor and marasmus among infants, Nestlé faced boycotts of its products in places like Switzerland, Britain and the US.  

Bottled Water Controversy

Nestlé began selling less expensive water in poor countries in the late 1990s. According to reports, Nestlé currently controls 67 different brands of bottled water. Nestlé deepened it's roots in the booming water business by taking over corporations like Perrier, San Pellegrino and Vittel. Nestlé's Pure Life brand of bottled water fetches it 10 billion Swiss Francs per year.

In order to own water, Nestlé started owning land and acquiring leasing rights to land. With pumping of water for 'water production', Nestlé used to pump out gallons of water from their land. For instance in the rural areas like Maine, Fryeburg, Newfield and Shapleigh, Nestlé purchased many water rights and resources. With water extraction, nearby farmers and families raise their voices against the depleting groundwater in those regions.

The company’s 383,000 square feet bottling plant in Millard Canyon, California packages water for the Nestlé Pure Life brand. The plant was easily bottling spring water and reaping huge profits, when the Governor of California declared an emergency state of drought in the nation in 2014. Nestlé in that state of drought did not have to heed the restrictions on water usage or the emergency measures imposed in California. In poor markets like Pakistan where there is a shortage of clean water supply, Nestle Pure Life is a promoted as a healthier alternative and an expensive one too, making it inaccessible to lower middle class and poor people.  

Horsemeat in Nestlé Beef Products

Nestlé pasta products, Buitoni Beef Ravioli and Beef Tortellini, were taken off markets in Italy and Spain after tests found horse DNA present in large quantities than the permissible amount which is 1 per cent in Britain. Nestlé blamed the adulteration on the beef procured from HJ Schypke. They also said that tests on products in UK and Ireland markets, proved absence of horse meat.  

Child Labour

The instant food giant was one of three companies which faced a lawsuit for not running a background check on child labour violation on it's cocoa suppliers. The cocoa supplied by the company was used to manufacture the famous KitKat chocolate bars. Children were reportedly found on cocoa farms in Ivory Coast working for low wages and for 14 hours a day. Once the child labour violation was exposed in Nestlé's cocoa supply chain, Nestlé had regretted and went on to promise on starting schools and raising awareness against child labour in Ivory Coast.  

Labour Law Irregularities

Nestlé had locked horns with unions in countries situated in the southern hemisphere and the United States. In late 1970's migrant farm workers in the Midwest campaigned for high wages and better working conditions. In 2003, IUF protested against the labour policy of Nestlé and its subsidiary companies for their labour practices and 'artificial promotion' of workers into managerial positions which would keep them away from membership in labour unions. In last few years, Nestlé has seen massive protests by workforce over low wages in India, Hong Kong, Tunisia and Russia.

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