Decades ago in Africa, when Nestlé was making inroads with their imitation-milk formulas, baby bottles were often left on top of or inside infants’ graves. The bottle, was, after all, the child’s beloved object. Unfortunately, it was also the thing that killed, for Nestlé marketers were championing formula as the smart, Western thing to do – even while Western women were beginning to breastfeed in greater numbers.
What happened, though, is these marketers unconscionably targeted women whom they knew had little access to clean water, little money, and less education.
Of course the new mothers wanted to be seen as progressive and intelligent.
But they mixed formula powder with unboiled water, and their babies died from disease. They eked out the powder to make it last longer (since they could ill afford more), and their babies died of starvation.
Because they were using formula, their perfectly healthy, sterile and sufficient breastmilk went unused and therefore dried up, since breastfeeding is based on a law of demand-and-supply. Baby demands, gets fed, the mother’s body makes more milk. Simple and effective. Had these mothers known in time, they could have reinstituted breastfeeding. But it takes very few days for an eight-pound infant to succumb to disease and malnutrition.
Fast-forward to the 21st century, after Nestlé’s shame and the international condemnation that followed, and guess what? Different times, different corporation, different market, but just as many lies.
In Turkey, which still wants to be admitted to the EU (even though only 3% of Turkey is located in Europe), Danone, producing Aptamil formula, has engaged in a series of lies and deceits in order to convince Turkish families that mothers cannot produce enough breastmilk for their six-month-olds, so they’d better trot round to the local grocery and snap up some Aptamil right quick.
As The Independent reports here, the company used inappropriate research and tied its product to the World Health Organization (WHO), part of the United Nations (UN). Both WHO and UN are outraged and demanding that Danone stop. In addition, the conclusions the company presented to prospective customers as factual are so flawed they are inherently unusable.
Why target Turkey at all? Because it has a high birthrate accompanied by a high rate of breastfeeding. Thus it is a plum ripe for picking. If Danone could shift even 10% of families onto its products, the result would be millions in profit from a previously barren land.
Turkey is unlikely to enter the EU, not just because of its huge position in Western Asia, but because of the goals it needs to attain to even resemble a European country, many still need work. (Plus, Europe is veering right, and an influx of Turks will be regarded as catastrophic.) The push-pull of Islamist parties versus secular ones continues. A small percentage of Turks still practice FGM (female genital mutilation), implicated in deaths, miscarriages and high neonatal and maternal mortality rates – a woman who has been mutilated is much more likely to die during childbirth, as is her baby.
So Turkey already has enough problems. It doesn’t need problems created by deceptive corporations greedy for cash and willing to harm Turkish infants to get it.
Babies in Turkey deserve healthy food. Their parents deserve the truth.
Danone and Aptamil deserve the boot.