Paper 2 and haiku (blog 8)

The Baby Formula Battle


Every night I hear

Babies cry for nourishment

Formula won’t give

In light of the recent boycotts of infant formula I decided to research about the Nestle formula case.  To give some background about the case, during the 1970’s, parties accused Nestle of encouraging mothers in developing countries to use baby formula.   Even at this time breast milk was known to be nutritiously superior, and even less costly than infant formula. Poor women in Asia, Africa, and Latina America transitioned to using infant formula in efforts to “westernize” as they moved from rural to urban environments.  Furthermore, these mothers in the Third World over-diluted formula in order to make it last longer, heightening malnutrition problems.

As I look to Paper 2 and the White Paper I will explore the the Nestle case from a virtue ethics perspective.  I will analyze the Nestle’s intent and the context to the ethical issue. Virtue ethics will give a nuanced perspective on components of the case.  To provide one example, formula companies hired “sales girls in nurses’ uniforms” to sell door to door and encourage formula use, specifying that undernourished mothers hurt their infants.  Formula companies also sponsored hospitals, and in turn hospitals gave out formula pamphlets and free samples.

Baby formula marketing campaigns cased the retarded growth, malnutrition, death of millions of babies.  Fortunately, by 1981 the World Health Assembly created the International Code of Marketing Breast-Milk Substitutes.  This code explains how companies can market formula to consumers.  Activists argue that Nestle, amongst other companies, fail to uphold these conduct codes.  Formula companies like to create customers from a child’s birth, consequently they include free samples given to new mothers at hospitals.  Recently, the nation’s top hospitals are doing away with this practice because it makes adopting formula feeding extremely easy.

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9 thoughts on “The Baby Formula Battle

  1. I really like this topic that you decided to research. It seems that Nestle has quite a few problems between the baby formula and where they get its chocolate. However, it seems extremely unethical for companies like Nestle to take advantage of those in third-world countries. I am interested to see what you come up with after all your research.

  2. The baby formula is a big issue in mainland China, since different suppliers are used to provide between HongKong and Mainland, and the ingredients used in those for mainland China were harmful, and made babies poisoned. Various brands had these problems.

  3. I have heard about this case before and it is very sad to me because many people believe that Nestle is acting in their best interest, but instead they are just pushing product. Also, in order to make this instant formula you need constant shipments to the region. I heard of one instance in which the women ran out of formula and were no longer able to produce breast milk.

  4. This is a really interesting topic. Nestle is obviously taking advantage of these people in the third world who do not know what else to do. Have you thought at all about what policy change you’re going to suggest?

  5. I haven’t heard a whole lot about this topic, but seems appalling. When you said “formula companies hired “sales girls in nurses’ uniforms” to sell door to door and encourage formula use, specifying that undernourished mothers hurt their infants”, I was outraged. Unfortunately, this is a business that clearly holds money over the health of infants.

  6. I know the older case. I am very interested to see what has happened since. I think another angle here, possibly worth pursuing, is how culture, power, and gender identity inter-relate. For example, in developed countries, poorer women are more likely to have jobs where breast-feeding is very difficult. Picture a Burger King worker with a wrap nursing a baby and checking people out versus a lawyer tucked away at her desk doing the same. Second, as you point out, ideas of hygiene and being modern shape how women evaluate their choices.

    At the same time, this is a great case there are some instances where good formula IS a life-saving product. My younger son, a twin and born a little early, could not quite attach. For the first week or so, as his weight was dropping too much, I had to sort of spoon feed him formula. He switched to breast milk later…

    • I like your suggestion to analyze how gender identity, socioeconomic status, culture, and power inter-relate. I wanted to use this older case and juxtapose current scenarios to see how industry has become more or less transparent with their intentions. Alternatively I could look at how Nestle reformed their marketing campaign since the case. I agree that formula undoubtedly benefits children. I have been the nanny for an adopted boy from Kazakhstan since he was only a year old. He was malnourished coming to the United States and formula helped him gain weight, grow hair, and energize him.

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