ASA rejects Nestlé appeal over baby milk ad

Nestlé has lost its appeal against a decision by the Advertising Standards Authority in January which dismissed the company’s blanket claims to be an ethical and responsible marketer of baby milk.

Nestlé has lost its appeal against a decision by the Advertising Standards Authority in January which dismissed the company’s blanket claims to be an ethical and responsible marketer of baby milk.

After one of its longest investigations, the ASA Council upheld complaints from pressure group Baby Milk Action against a one-off Nestlé ad which ran in a student newspaper in 1996 (MW February 4).

The Nestlé ad aimed to reassure consumers about the way the company markets infant formula in developing countries. For the past 20 years, campaigners have objected to the marketing of infant formula to healthy mothers in Third World countries, in case they use it instead of breast-feeding.

Nestlé UK chairman and chief executive Peter Blackburn, who is president of the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers, appealed to ASA chairman Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank. The appeal was dismissed on Friday.

In a statement, Nestlé says: “Nestlé does its best to market infant formula ethically and responsibly and the ASA judgment does not suggest otherwise. The fact that it has taken nearly three years for a decision to emerge shows that the matter was far from clear cut. The ASA does not say we made false claims about the way we sell infant formula in the developing world but rather that we were too “absolute” in the way we stated our beliefs.”

Nestlé could still take legal action against the ASA through a judicial review. Since 1988, ten companies have challenged the ASA this way but only one, The Insurance Service, has succeeded.

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