There has been a long-running boycott against Nestlé (see http://info.babymilkaction.org).

The main complaint is that their promotion of formula milk in developing countries is irresponsible because there is not always clean water to dilute it with, and because parents may overdilute it due to poverty and/or inadequate instruction.

The impact of this boycott has been acknowledged by Nestlé PR in the past and is still considered significant.

Is there adequate evidence to support or refute the accusation that Nestlé's current business practices result in the deaths of children in developing countries?

Since this boycott has been running for over 30 years, has the situation changed in that time?

  • Does not give a direct answer, but it is interesting to explore: theguardian.com/news/datablog/interactive/2012/dec/13/…
    – nico
    Sep 5, 2013 at 6:29
  • 1
    AFAIK, Nestlé was the first to introduce instant milk, that didn't need hot water or boiling to dissolve. But as of now that's the case of all baby formula available on the market.
    – vartec
    Sep 5, 2013 at 11:46
  • @Flimzy I have tweaked the question to emphasize the current situation a little more, but historical context might be interesting too.
    – RichR
    Sep 5, 2013 at 20:49
  • This claim is absurd. It's like claiming that Nestlé's chocolates cause obesity, and thus deaths, on the USA.
    – T. Sar
    Feb 12, 2016 at 12:40
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    @Thales It's not the selling, it's the aggressive marketing. For example, one of the most important accusations is that baby milk companies push free samples in hospitals to new mothers along with advertising implying this is more healthy/desirable than breastfeeding: the free sample then lasts just long enough that the mother stops lactating, leaving her dependent on formula milk. Many such practices are now banned, here's an article from 1982 before they were Feb 12, 2016 at 14:51

1 Answer 1


There are presently many boycott campaigns against Nestle. As far as I know, when they concern infant mortality it is because several WHO reports and academical articles indicate that breastfeeding reduces infant mortality.

See for example:

1) http://www.babymilkaction.org/nestlefree#overview

Nestlé promotes its baby milk around the world with the claim such as it is the ‘natural start’, ‘gentle start’ and ‘protects’ babies. In truth, babies fed on formula are more likely to become sick than breastfed babies and, in conditions of poverty, more likely to die. Nestlé has promised to drop the ‘natural start’ claim by mid-2015 following pressure from the campaign, but not the others.

2) http://files.ennonline.net/attachments/421/bobcontents-and-introduction-summary.pdf

For the vast majority of infants and young children throughout the world, breastfeeding saves lives, prevents morbidity, promotes optimal physical and cognitive development, and reduces the risk of some chronic diseases. Evidence of the benefits of breastfeeding for mothers is growing as well.

3) http://www.who.int/topics/breastfeeding/en/

Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.

  • The first article is just a repeat of the claim. I'm no expert in this area, but these last two articles seem to be about colostrum - in the first few days after birth. They don't seem to cover what happens later. Can you provide evidence that breastfeeding is still important after the first week?
    – Oddthinking
    Feb 12, 2016 at 9:24
  • From link 3): "Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond."
    – shamalaia
    Feb 12, 2016 at 9:34
  • @Oddthinking Also link 1) is not a repetition of the claim as I explain in the answer. The point is not anymore the formula or its immoral pushing in poor countries but on the misinformation about breastfeeding benefits.
    – shamalaia
    Feb 12, 2016 at 9:40
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    Do not just dump links. Please include relevant quotes.
    – user22865
    Feb 12, 2016 at 9:41
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    @ThalesPereira Suing of fast food chains is not unheard of. Almost all the times such suing are justified by the evidence that there is a misinformation campaign about the benefits a certain food has. The same is true for Nestle (e.g., babymilkaction.org/archives/6246). In any case, you will never find a generally accepted source stating that Nestle kills infants..
    – shamalaia
    Feb 12, 2016 at 12:56

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