Tigers: Exposing the great formula scandal
I woke up this morning with a pounding headache which I don’t doubt was linked to the emotional roller-coaster I experienced last night while watching a film at the cinema called Tigers.
The film is based on the true story of the unethical marketing of infant formula by Nestle, one of the largest formula companies in the world, and the devastating consequences for mothers and babies in Pakistan.
After the film there was a live Q&A with Andy Paterson, the producer of the film; Syed Aamir Raza Hussain, the former Nestle employee and whistle-blower who exposed them, and Patti Rundall the director of a charity called Baby Milk Action who work to stop misleading marketing by the baby feeding industry, and protect breastfeeding and babies fed on formula to prevent unnecessary death and suffering.
This is the synopsis of the film:
“From Oscar-winning director, Danis Tanovic (NO MAN’S LAND) and Andy Paterson (GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING, THE RAILWAY MAN) comes a true story, 12 years in the making. A Pakistani salesman, employed by Nestle, one of the world’s largest corporations, learns that his promotion of baby formula to doctors is causing babies to die. He risks everything to make it stop, taking on the industry with the help of Cambridge-based Baby Milk Action.
A BBC Films/UK Film Council version of the film was halted weeks before production; with defamation laws operating as ‘guilty until proven innocent’ the huge potential costs of defending a true story in court meant that a transnational company could prevent a true story being told simply by virtue of its deep pockets. A few years later Indian producers Prashita Chaudhary and Guneet Monga finally made the film possible.
TIGERS is highly relevant for all those concerned about uncontrolled corporate power and malpractice, its impact on health and the struggle to get the truth out to the public.”
As I sit here and write this, I am still feeling angry about what I witnessed and heard last night.
I am angry that there is so much misleading information in the world around formula, and that this causes so many babies to suffer and die unnecessarily.
I am angry at the injustice, that formula companies cannot legally be held accountable for their actions because they have the money and therefore the power to stop this from ever happening.
I am angry that formula companies continue to violate the marketing code despite it being in place since 1981.
I am angry that funding is being cut or stopped for breastfeeding support, while formula companies are able to invest millions into marketing their products.
Just to be clear – this isn’t about being anti-formula. This is about protecting mothers and babies from the devastating consequences of irresponsible and unethical marketing.
And the question which has been playing on my mind since last night is: what can I do? What can we all do to stop this from happening?
So here is a list of everything that I can think of:
1) Firstly, watch the film Tigers.
I think every human on the planet needs to watch this film and become aware of the lengths that some formula companies will go to to promote their products, with little regard for human lives. You can find a list of upcoming screenings here: http://www.babymilkaction.org/tigers
If you cannot attend a screening you can still watch the film online here: https://www.zee5.com/movies/details/tigers/0-0-7599
Watch the trailer here: https://youtu.be/dJxsiUvccuM
2) Secondly, watch the Dispatches – Channel 4 programme ‘The Great Formula Milk Scandal’ to understand how these issues affect mothers and babies all around the world.
For example, the programme highlights the unethical marketing practices which mislead us into believing that we need follow-on milk for our babies. When actually the marketing of follow-on milks is just a clever way for companies to get around the law which prevents them from promoting their first infant milks.
You can see this programme here:
To confirm, follow-on milks are NOT necessary for babies. See more details on this here:
3) Support the incredibly important work that Baby Milk Action are doing either through donations, or by becoming a member for as little as £1 a month.
Their work includes supporting governments and campaigning for new laws and improvements to existing laws to protect babies from unnecessary suffering and deaths due to unethical marketing practices. You can find out how to support them here:
4) Read the books ‘The Politics of Breastfeeding‘ and ‘Breastfeeding Uncovered‘
These books explore the social and political factors at play around the world which are creating barriers to breastfeeding, and highlight how infant feeding is one of the most important public health issues of our time.
5) Help to protect breastfeeding by supporting mothers who want to breastfeed.
If you speak to a mum who is struggling with feeding, signpost them to their local breastfeeding support groups, their local breastfeeding supporters or the national helplines that they can call for support.
We are currently on a mission to list all free breastfeeding and other support groups in our online directory to bring them all together in one place. We want to build a global support network so that ALL mothers who want to breastfeed are aware of how to access their local breastfeeding support services. Please support us on our mission by signposting support group leaders to list their group for free here:
You can search for your nearest free support group here: https://directory.themotherside.org/
Alternatively you can join our online support group where we have lots of qualified breastfeeding professionals to offer information and support. We also have free online workshops available. You can join us here: www.facebook.com/groups/themotherside
In the UK the national breastfeeding helplines are:
6) Signpost mothers who are using formula to accurate information about formula milks to help them feed their babies safely.
You can find links to reputable sources here:
- A simple guide to infant formula, follow-on formula and other infant milks Published by First Steps Nutrition Trust
- A guide to bottle feeding Published by the Department of Health and the Baby Friendly Initiative
7) Report any violations of the marketing code to Baby Milk Action
You can find more details on how to do this here: http://www.babymilkaction.org/monitoring-uk
8) Become an ethical consumer and boycott the products made by companies who continue to act unethically.
You can find details on how to do this here:
9) Share the above information and links far and wide to help promote and raise awareness of the Tigers film, the Dispatches programme, Baby Milk Action’s important work and the politics that surround breastfeeding which affect us all.
We need to stop the unethical marketing practices by formula companies and the misleading information being circulated about formula. We need to address why mothers and babies are STILL suffering. It has to stop. Let’s work together to make it stop!
***If there is anything I have missed off this list please drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know and I will add it on!***