Infant formula manufacturers (Nestle and Bristol-Myers in the forefront; also Abbot and American Home Products) are pushing their products on the Third World in order to ensure their continued profit, since the birthrate in the United States is declining. They rely on exploitive and deceptive tactics to sell their products. Some of these include: giving free samples to mothers so their own milk will dry up, leaving them dependent upon the expensive formulas; enticement toward “modernization and heightened status” through use of the formulas, as encouraged by their well-financed media campaigns (which include radio and television spots, calendars, billboards, and baby contests); telling new mothers that their own milk is “inappropriate” or may be “unsuccessfully” given to their baby, etc.
The majority of the Third World mothers wind up watering down the formulas, using contaminated water (in Chile, an investigation in 1973 revealed a bottle contamination rate of 80 percent), and otherwise malnourishing and infecting their children because they cannot afford to administer the formulas in the prescribed way. Parents would have to (and sometimes do) spend 30-40 percent of their average daily wage to feed their babies on this (almost always) unnecessary mother’s milk substitute. Malnutrition and denial of natural immunities (which would have been provided had the mother breast-fed) caused by infant formula feeding account for 35,000 deaths and untold brain damage in babies of predominantly Third World countries.
Meanwhile, the profit margins on infant formulas have been documented at as high as 72 percent. A billion dollars a year are taken from the Third World countries from the import of these formulas.
Teaching, by U. S. and Swiss corporations, of the “repugnance and backwardness” of breast feeding is accounting for what has been termed “commerciogenic malnutrition” on a massive scale in Third World countries. The unethical and shocking impact of this practice makes this story a nominee for one of the “Ten Best Censored Stories of 1977.”
“The Bottle Baby Scandal–Milking the Third World for All It’s Worth,” by Barbara Garson, Mother Jones magazine, December 1977, pp. 33-44+.
“Into the Mouths of Babes,” by Leah Margulies, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, Seven Days magazine, April 19, 1976, pp. 23-24.