नेस्ले विवाद: बच्चों के भोजन में चीनी से लेकर मैगी पर प्रतिबंध तक, हम भारत और विदेश में शीर्ष 8 चिंताओं पर नज़र डालते हैं

नेस्ले विवाद: बच्चों के भोजन में चीनी से लेकर मैगी पर प्रतिबंध तक, हम भारत और विदेश में शीर्ष 8 चिंताओं पर नज़र डालते हैं

Nestlé Controversies: From sugar in baby food to Maggi ban, we look at top 8 concerns in India and abroad

Nestlé, a leading food and beverage company, has come under fire for various controversies, including high sugar content in products marketed in developing countries.

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  • 18, Apr, 2024
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Sampda Gupta
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Nestlé Controversies: From sugar in baby food to Maggi ban, we look at the top 8 concerns in India and abroad

The investigation highlighted significant differences in sugar content between Nestlé's products marketed in low-income and middle-income countries and those sold in Switzerland. In particular, two of Nestlé's best-selling baby-food brands in developing nations contained high levels of added sugar, contrasting with sugar-free products in Switzerland. In CY22, Nestlé India's milk products and nutrition portfolio, including dairy whitener, condensed milk, yoghurt, maternal and infant formula, baby foods, and healthcare nutrition, reported sales of ₹6,815.73 crore. Backlash Over Unhealthy Food Portfolio In 2021, the world’s largest consumer food and beverages company came under fire following the disclosure of an internal presentation indicating that a significant portion of its mainstream food and beverages range is not considered healthy, as per a Hindustan Times report.

In the internal document, Nestlé revealed that 60% of its food and drinks portfolio, excluding pet food, baby formula, and coffee, failed to meet recognized health standards. The company also admitted that certain food products within its range may never achieve a healthy status. It had then announced plans to update its nutrition and health strategy and review its entire product lineup to ensure alignment with nutritional requirements. Nestlé said it had reduced sodium and sugar content across its products by at least 14-15% over the past seven years. Maggi Noodles Banned in India Between June 5 and September 1, 2015, approximately 38,000 tonnes of Maggi Noodles were withdrawn from retail shelves across India and subsequently destroyed. The withdrawal severely impacted Nestlé India, with Maggi's market share plummeting from 80% to zero.

Maggi sales contributed to over 25% of Nestlé India's revenues, posing a significant threat to the company's operations in the country. Sanjay Singh, a food inspector at the Uttar Pradesh government’s Food Safety and Drug Administration, found the fault during a routine inspection in March 2014. Singh found packets of Maggi noodles boasting "no added MSG (monosodium glutamate)" and sent a sample to the state laboratory at Gorakhpur for analysis. The results confirmed the presence of MSG, prompting further testing at the Central Food Laboratory in Kolkata in June 2014. The results received almost a year later in April 2015, revealed the presence of MSG and lead, with the lead content exceeding Nestlé India's claims by over 1,000 times. Months later, in May, Nestlé issued its first official statement reassuring consumers. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) took up the matter on May 25 and, on June 5, 2015, ordered Nestlé to recall Maggi noodles.

Boycott in the US for Discouraging Breastfeeding In the United States, Nestlé faced accusations of discouraging breastfeeding to promote its baby formula as a healthier alternative despite the lack of proven evidence, as per a Hindustan Times report. This sparked a boycott of Nestlé products in the United States in 1977, which later spread to Europe. The boycott persisted until 1984 when Nestlé agreed to adhere to an international marketing code endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO), which led to the official suspension of the boycott in the US. Child Slave Labour Accusations Nestlé faced legal heat over allegations of child slave labour. In 2021, eight former alleged child slaves sued the company, along with others, for alleged involvement in the illegal enslavement of children on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast, as per a report by Utopia.org.

The petitioners accused Nestlé of “aiding and abetting the illegal enslavement of thousands of children on cocoa farms in their supply chains." However, in June 2022, a US District Court dismissed the case for lack of standing to sue because the plaintiffs did not show a “traceable connection" between the seven defendant companies and the specific plantations where they worked, as per a Reuters report. Hershey and Cargill were also named in the lawsuit. Exploiting Drought-Ridden Areas Nestlé's water bottling practices have drawn criticism, particularly in drought-prone regions like California. Despite the state's recurring droughts, Nestlé had been extracting water from the San Bernardino National Forest since 1988, paying a nominal fee despite an expired permit. Since 1984, Nestlé has used this water for its Arrowhead water source.

Multiple petitions addressing this issue have been filed in US courts. In October 2023, BlueTriton Brands, approached the Fresno County Superior Court, arguing against the State Water Resources Control Board's decision to halt “unauthorized diversions" of water from springs in the San Bernardino Mountains, as per an LA Times report. Nestlé claimed the board has overstepped its authority “far beyond what California law allows." Among the World's Top Plastic Polluters, Nestlé's packaging practices contributed to plastic pollution, as per a report by Utopia.org. Critics raised concerns over their approach to plastic waste management, suggesting that a focus on incineration may exacerbate pollution. Nestle's website claims it “aims for above 95% of our plastic packaging to be designed for recycling by 2025."

However, Greenpeace claimed that the company burned its plastic waste, leading to toxic pollution, as per Utopia.org. Contaminating Groundwater Accusations also mounted against Nestlé for groundwater exploitation. In Pakistan, where water scarcity is a pressing issue, Nestlé's operations have allegedly led to sinking water levels and contamination. Forensic audits submitted to the Pakistan Supreme Court showed significant water wastage, contradicting management's assertions. “While the Nestle Pakistan management said that 15% of water was wasted during the Reverse Osmosis (RO) process in water treatment, it could not justify the rest of the 28% wastage of water," the audit report said. Further, according to the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, allegedly, no payments were made for the water supply."

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Sampda Gupta

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