Thursday, 30 January 2014

I Miss KitKat Chunky, but It's Worth It.

I haven't had a KitKat Chunky since about grade 11, but KitKat is made by Nestlé, and Nestlé knowingly puts the lives of babies in danger.  Ok, it’s not that simple, so allow me to explain. 

Since Nestlé created their baby formula in the late 1860s, they have been exporting this product to European colonies in Africa and South East Asia.  They’re, in theory, making nutritious formula available in less economically developed countries (LEDCs), but that's not exactly what's going on.  

Since the 1930s there has been an alarming increase in illness and death among babies whose mothers had been strongly encouraged to use formula instead of breastfeeding their child.  You need water to mix up baby formula, and water in LEDCs is often dirty and unsafe.  For example, in Niger, only 42% of people had access to clean water in 2006.  Nearly 40 million children under 5 die every year from unsafe water.  They die of preventable water borne diseases, like diarrhoea and cholera.  

Not to mention that the mothers need to be able to read to properly mix up the formula.  Too much water, and the formula is too diluted to be nutritious.  Not enough water, and the babies can suffer from dehydration.  Using Niger as an example again, only 15% of women can read, meaning it is very likely that the formula is not mixed up properly.

Breastfeeding works like nature’s birth control.  The risk of a woman getting pregnant is reduced when she is breastfeeding.  In areas of the world where contraception is not available or known about, or, in some cases, frowned upon by the culture, breastfeeding could be a way to lower the total fertility rate and therefore raise the quality of life as generally, countries or regions with a lower fertility rate have higher rates of education and employment.  Enabling women to use formula contributes to high fertility.

It's not like Nestlé isn't aware of what they're doing.  They’ve known since 1977 when the US Nestlé Boycott was first launched.  When the boycott went global in 1979, the World Health Organization developed a code to regulate the infant formula market.  The code is not technically legally binding, but there is a lot of moral and political weight to it.  In 1984, Nestlé promised to follow the code and the boycott was called off.  The promise wasn’t kept and the boycott resumed in 1988 and continues today, making it the longest running boycott.

International Baby Food Action Network claims that Nestlé distributes free formula samples in hospitals.  New mothers feed their infant the formula, and then they are forced to buy more because at that point, it has interfered with lactation and she is unable to breastfeed.  Because the families are poor, mothers purposely water down the formula to make it last longer, which, as mentioned above, makes it less nutritious.  Not to mention that this goes against part of the World Health Organization’s code that clearly states, “Manufacturers and distributors should not provide, directly or indirectly, to pregnant women, mothers, or members of their families, samples of products” (Article 5.2)  

They have also claimed that their formula is “The Gold Standard” and that it protects babies from diarrhea.  While that holds true in Canada where our water is clean and safe, it is the opposite in areas with unsafe water.  Not only does breastfeeding protect babies from diarrhea, it also protects them from acute respiratory infections, stimulates their immune systems, and improves response to vaccinations.  Nestlé’s Gold Standard claim also goes against the code by idealizing formula and implying that it is just as good, or better, than breast milk (Article 4.2).

I realize that it can be difficult to boycott a company as large as Nestlé, but we should all try our best to choose different brands.  Read your labels.  The above picture isn't a complete list of what they produce, for example, they also produce Häagen-Dazs, Skinny Cow, and Lean Cuisine.

That's my big reason for not buying their products, but it's certainly not the only one.  You may have seen this video of Greenpeace's campaign to stop deforestation in order to make room for palm oil plantations.  Nestlé has also (to name a few more things):
  • demanded Ethiopia repay it's debt to the company while the country was suffering from famine,
  • in Hong Kong, melamine was found in Nestlé's milk products, and as a result, 6 babies died of kidney damage and 860 others were sent to hospital,
  • the made claims that their bottled water is "the most environmentally responsible consumer product in the world, which just isn't true, and
  • purchase cocoa from plantations that use child labour, and the child slaves are often victims of human trafficking.
This isn't to say that their competitors haven't done some questionable things, but Nestlé had done more questionable things.

Now that you know the facts, I would encourage you to be more conscious of your chocolate bar decisions.

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