Nestle's WHAT in Africa? Google speaks...

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Wed Jul 18 2001 - 00:12:28 MDT

Miriam English wrote:
> Heard of the town of the babies with no brains in Brazil? Union
> Carbide's disasters in the third world? Nestles' nasty child murdering
> campaign in Africa? Similar examples can be found of how crazy things get
> when royalty or governments have too much power.

Nestle's *WHAT* in Africa?

[30 second pause.]

No, I've never heard of it, and neither has Google. Nestle + child +
murder... nothing. Nestle + Africa... nothing. Nestle + murder...

[2 minute pause.]

Okay, I spoke too soon. Putting a lot more effort into finding dirt on
Nestle turns up an allegation that Nestle gave away baby formula for free
to mothers in developing nations until their milk dried up, then started
charging them.

I found it difficult to believe any corporation could be that stupid, even
in the 1970s, although Monsanto recently came close. But it also seemed,
if perhaps legendary, like the kind of legend that often has a remote
basis in history, and besides, I know that the 1970s are not my own time
and that they used to do things differently back then. So I did a bit
more digging.

What actually happened? As far as I can tell from using Google, Nestle
identified the Third World as a major market for baby formula.
Unfortunately, baby formula doesn't work quite as well in the developing
world. Baby formula is supposed to be mixed with pure water and delivered
in bottles with sterile rubber nipples. In the third world, pure water
was the exception rather than the rule; likewise sterilization.
Furthermore, because baby formula was relatively much more expensive
compared to income, mothers were tempted to "stretch" the powder, diluting
it and degrading the nutritional value. Activists were outraged and
alleged infant fatality cases; this being the 1970s, Nestle told them to
take a hike. It eventually took a coordinated international boycott to
get Nestle to sign a paper agreeing not to market infant formula in the
Third World. Nobody knows how much effect the boycott had commercially,
but it was a public relations nightmare for Nestle.

And the other side of *that* story...

> Politics doesn't only affect medical care in the U.S., but also in
> Africa. A chilling Wall Street Journal article on December 5,
> 2000, exposed how proposed donations of baby formula by
> Nestle and Wyeth to Africa to stop the spread of AIDS are
> being thwarted by UNICEF. The article described how African
> babies face AIDS infection through breastfeeding by their sick
> mothers. Since the beginning of the AIDS crisis, 3.4 million
> babies worldwide are estimated to have been infected by their
> mothers, more than half of them through breastfeeding.
> UNICEF supports breastfeeding for mothers in Africa, and
> says that mothers with AIDS should be informed of the risk of
> infecting babies and told of alternatives. However, most
> AIDS-infected mothers are extremely poor, and can hardly
> afford to buy milk in the store, let alone a 1 lb tin of formula
> costing $6.00, as it does in Uganda. For such mothers,
> information about alternatives is no use without free formula: if
> they don't breastfeed the babies, they will die of starvation.
> Why can't Wyeth and Nestle donate formula to low-income
> mothers? In the 1970s corporations marketed formula to
> mothers, giving out free samples which supposedly
> discouraged breastfeeding. Activists protested, leading the
> corporations to sign a 1980s agreement, imposing a ban on
> the donation of formula. This agreement was put in place long
> before the AIDS epidemic was ever envisaged. But today
> African babies are paying the price, because UNICEF will not
> alter the agreement, even in cases of dire need. For example,
> in July, 2000, when formula supplies in Nsambya Hospital in
> Uganda ran out, Nestle offered to donate 4.4 tons. The offer
> was refused, and women were told to fend for themselves.

Moral of the story: Never trust a single source. That is just so

...and this all shows the failure of capitalism *how*?

-- -- -- -- --
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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