This information has been mainly obtained from Baby Milk Action:
mother after mother in the paediatric wards, head in hands, crying beside
the cribs where their babies lay, malnourished, dehydrated, sick from
Bottle Baby Disease. It doesn't need to happen. A decade ago we knew the
truth about irresponsible marketing of infant formula. Allowing the
companies to continue these practices is an inexcusable outrage of
humanity, if not outright criminality.
Janice Mantell, Action for Corporate Accountability (USA)
Without breast feeding babies don't get the benefit of passive immunity normally passed on in the mothers' milk. The risk of contracting serious diseases from bottle feeding is therefore high, but it is further compounded by the fact that, in the Third World, many people don't have access to a clean water supply with which to make up the formula, and poverty can lead to mothers over-diluting the formula to make it go further. Waterborne diseases fed straight to vulnerable babies causes what is now a common condition in many parts of the world - diarrhoea, vomiting, respiratory infections, malnutrition, dehydration and commonly death - known as Bottle-Baby disease.
The companies know this happens. Concerns over 'bottle baby disease' in the Third World, and the aggressive promotional activities of the companies, led to the drawing up of the WHO/UNICEF International Code of Marketing of Breast milk Substitutes in 1981. At the World Health Assembly in the same year, 118 countries voted for this to become the new voluntary code of practice adopted as a minimum requirement for all countries.
After a long boycott campaign, Nestle and other companies eventually agreed to abide by the Code, and the boycott was called off in 1984. However reports have continued to come in from around the world that the Code is still being violated by baby milk companies, and Nestle in particular has become the focus of criticism being by far the largest supplier of baby milk to Third World countries.
The boycott campaign was re-launched in 1988, and is now active in over 80 countries.
Today, International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) groups continue to lobby for world-wide adoption of the code, and to monitor all companies producing breast milk substitutes. Baby Milk Action (the group co-ordinating the Nestle boycott in the UK) claims that over 99% of mothers are able to breastfeed. The code exists to ensure that any woman who wishes to breastfeed will not be dissuaded by company promotions undermining the message that 'breast is best'.