Nestle Makes the Very Best... or do they?
Do you remember 1988? I do, just graduated from high school – the sweet smell of clove cigarettes, watered down draft beer and the stirrings of political awakenings. And I faintly remember hearing about a Nestle boycott, something about breastfeeding, formula and a big who cares from me. Well, that boycott is still going on, and Nestle inadvertently revived talk about its practices when it held a junket for mommy bloggers at its headquarters last month.
With their families chowing down on Omaha steaks back home, the bloggers were put up in a luxury hotel and toured the facility in Pasadena. In between eating frozen food and chocolate, some bloggers asked Nestle about their questionable practices of marketing formula to women with little access to potable water in third world countries as well as their sourcing of cocoa from the troubled Ivory Coast. And they got very corporate, very uninteresting answers.
And then the Twitter firestorm began (if anything in 140 characters can be considered a firestorm). Mommy blogger against mommy blogger, the issue hit a lot of hot buttons. Some women were furious that the bloggers took advantage of the junket, others felt the only way to get answers is to go straight to the source. Some attendees tried to ignore the debate and tweeted about the benefits of Stouffers frozen food: “No preservatives, who knew?” And got slammed for being so naïve. (reminder: check fat and salt content before advocating processed food.) . Things got ugly – some unfortunate insults were hurled. And Nestle seemed totally unprepared to deal with the debate. Just shows that the mommy bloggers maybe worth wooing but they should not be underestimated.
Somewhere along the line a discussion of Nestle’s practices was rekindled adn the boycott picked up blog-fuelled steam. The discussion is being driven by Ottawa mom, PhDinParenting who has been relentless in shaking out answers from Nestle and picking them apart. The debate begs the bigger question: at what point do we close our eyes to a corporate giant’s practices internationally? What if the food we buy for our kids is hurting other kids around the world? As the global leader in consumer food products does Nestle have an onus to do better?
I’m not sure of I have a definitive answer to that, I have tried to buy fair trade chocolate in the past. Fueled by disgust of children harvesting cocoa, a friend and I ordered fair trade Halloween candy from the U.S. We didn’t realize we had to pay duty on it, so it got stuck at Customs and cost us more than the kids’ costumes. I also had to go out at the last minute and buy the junk anyways. Once it arrived I ate it all myself, it was delicious. You definitely pay for quality.
This year, I will mostly search out Cadbury (who is moving to Fair Trade certification for some products later this year) which I’ve always liked better anyways. And given a choice between Smarties and M&Ms, I will opt for the M&Ms. The kids can enjoy their Smarties and Kit Kats but maybe this year there will be a few less boxes thrown in their bags.
For a list of Nestle products and window signage (like the one shown here) go to http://boonestle.blogspot.com . Our family will decide together how far we will go with the boycott. But I am really starting to dread the idea of debating ethics with blood-soaked, candy-fuelled kids and especially their parents.