Nestlé, the world’s largest food company, is one of the most extensive companies, with more than 450 manufacturing facilities in over 80 countries spread over six continents. The company calls itself the “world’s leading nutrition, health and wellness company” , and their website slogan claims; “Good Food, Good Life is the promise we commit to, everyday, everywhere – to enhance lives, throughout life, with good food and beverages.” Somehow, it seems that objective has been entirely neglected, because Nestle executives have taken an opposite approach. Nestle has an alarming history of child labor, unethical promotion, manipulating undereducated mothers, privatization of water, and more.
Nestle products are very well known and include popular brands of baby food, bottled water, breakfast cereals, coffee and tea, confectionery, dairy products, ice cream, frozen food, pet foods, and snacks. Twenty-nine of their brands have sales of over $1 billion a year, and they have over 3,000 brands. They have 436 factories across 85 countries, and employ around 335,000 people. Nestlé currently controls more than 70 of the world’s bottled water brands, among them Poland Spring, Deer park, Purelife, San Pellegrino and Vittel. Nestle has also virtually taken over the water supplies in parts of South Africa, Ethiopia, and Pakistan, leaving residents of those countries to sicken and die from what remains.
The company’s CEO Peter Brabeck claims that all of the world’s water will soon come under the control of corporations like his. Non-governmental organizations typically believe that water is a public right, unlike Nestle. Peter Brabeck says these organizations “bang on about declaring water being a public right. That means as a human being you should have a right to water. That’s an extreme solution…water is a foodstuff like any other and like any other foodstuff it should have a market value…” Brabeck wants every drop of water controlled, privatized, and delegated in a way that supposedly sustains the planet. This could mean that one day, cities and towns may be forced by international law to limit each household to a set amount of water.
Nestle’s technique is to find an economically struggling region, purchase land surrounding the water source, and place an offer appealing to troubled regions; offering them its bottled water as a “safe health-enhancing alternative,” and employment that is hard for them to refuse. Nestle finds places that are already struggling with poverty, then, make this poverty worse by damaging watersheds and wetlands, collecting millions of gallons, and leaving the fields barren and dry. But this isn’t something that is just happening in Third World countries. The company has done this in Denver, Colorado, and Sacramento, California, as well as Fryeburg, Maine, and Mecosta, Michigan. Many may be aware of the state of emergency in Flint, Michigan, whose dangerous water contamination is causing residents to go blind, develop skin lesions, and lose hair and even their memory — just from bathing in their own homes. However what many may not know is that Michigan’s Governor has been allowing Nestle to pump 200 gallons of fresh water every minute out of the state’s reserves. On top of Nestle’s cruel tactics, their environmental consequences of bottled water on our atmosphere, watersheds and landfills are simply too big to ignore.
Nestle has not only been problematic in terms of water. In the 1970’s Nestle began to promote western style baby formula to underprivileged mothers in third world countries. Nestlé claims to believe breastfeeding is the best start in life for a child, and promotes its infant formula around the world with claims such as it “protects” babies and is the “gentle start” . In truth, babies being fed on formula, in conditions of poverty, are likely to be malnourished and contract diseases that will leave them physically and intellectually stunted for life. Communities in impoverished countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America are unable to use these products properly, and mothers do not have access to the basic facilities that most English housewives would take for granted. For example, they lack access to fuel to boil water, electric (or other reliable) light to enable sterilization at night. UNICEF estimates that a formula-fed child living in disease-ridden and unhygienic conditions is between 6 and 25 times more likely to die of diarrhea and four times more likely to die of pneumonia than a breastfed child.
Despite this, many are uninformed and there is in these communities a trend away from breastfeeding – the safest, surest method of nourishing the young infant. The company denies that their marketing has influenced the choice of feeding methods, and they contend that misuse of their products is rare. For them, a rich global market is at stake. In the world market, estimated to be as great as $2 billion wholesale, Nestle commands a 50 percent share, while the American companies and dozens of other competitors divide the rest. Today, universities, colleges, and schools have banned the sale of Nestlé products from their shops and vending machines in the period since the revelations. In the United Kingdom, 73 students’ unions, 102 businesses, 30 faith groups, 20 health groups, 33 consumer groups, 18 local authorities, 12 trade unions, education groups, and many celebrities support the Nestlé boycott.