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

From: Miriam English (
Date: Wed Jul 18 2001 - 03:07:55 MDT

Wow! Excellent piece of research Eliezer! Very cool!

It missed a couple of points (the fact that their sales reps were dressed
as nurses, the marketing of formula as superior to breast milk, the bribing
of local officials after bans were imposed...) but basically it covered the
main facts. I don't know if Nestle ever stopped doing it.

I wasn't mentioning it as an example of the failure of capitalism (though
it could be seen as a failing of capitalism). All I was saying is that
powerful groups can be dangerous and that capitalist groups are no
exception. Note that I am not saying that all powerful groups are dangerous
or all capitalism is bad. (I have to keep pointing this out, as whenever I
don't join in the chant "mmmm... capitalism... gooood" many people seem to
jump for their guns branding me as a dirty commie bastard. :)

Briefly, on the point of women with AIDS and the danger to their babies of
infected milk. It is really not "the other side" so much as a side issue.
Unfortunately companies can't be expected to donate enough milk formula for
kids to live on till weaning, and the very poor will still dilute it too
much to make the expensive stuff last longer, and use unsterilised water.
Sadly their children are at risk of dying from infected breast milk or
infected formula milk -- I really wish there was some easy solution for
this. The statistics are mind-numbing! But it doesn't change what I was
saying about the jerks at Nestle cynically killing untold numbers of
children for money.

Best wishes,

         - Miriam

At 02:12 AM 18/07/2001 -0400, Eliezer S. Yudkowsky wrote:
>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

Q. What is the similarity between an elephant and a grape?
A. They are both purple... except for the elephant.
Virtual Reality Association

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