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Ethic Reaction

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Early 1970s, people began to feel more concerns on the promotion and sales of infant formula in developing countries. There was evidence that milk powder the Western multinationals arbitrary sales lead to infant malnutrition. The biggest and most sustained controversy was that Nestle promoted baby formula in Third World countries as an equal substitute or even a preferable option to breast feeding.(1) In 1977, a well-known "Nestle Boycott" movement broke out in the United States. Infant Formula Action Coalition (INFACT) persuaded American citizens not to buy "Nestle" product, and criticized its unethical business practices in developing countries. At the beginning, Nestle simply tried to defend itself, which resulted in more violent attacks from news media. The crisis had lasted for 10 years until Nestle finally admitted and the implementation of international regulations of the World Health Organization about the distribution of breast-milk substitutes in January 1984.

Nestle is the world's largest baby food company. It is a model for the entire business community. Unfortunately, it did not fulfill the corporate social responsibility and moral standard. Generally speaking, the infant formula promotions in developing countries mainly had the following ethical issues in the past: Knowing people in the developing country was not well educated, neglect or did not emphasize breastfeeding in all promotion brochures and product packaging; misled people breastfeeding is "original and not convenient"; gave free gifts and sample to stimulate bottle feeding. In addition, making the problem even worse was promoting bottle feeding in those undeveloped countries without clean water and safety environment to guarantee the proper treatment on the infant formula, which is an important indirect factor that led to high mortality rate of infants in those undeveloped countries.

From the contractarianism prospective, Nestle may not be considered as faulty. In any case it is the customer's own choice to buy the infant formula or not. The company did not force people to buy. The company guaranteed the quality of the product and gave explicit instructions on how to use the product. It should be the customers' own responsibility to use the product properly. However, on the aspect of virtue-based moral reasoning and deontology, we should also consider fairness, honesty, transparency and responsiveness. Insufficient customer education, false claim and exaggerating the positive effects of the infant formula, such as enhancing the baby's immunity, are definitely unethical behaviors.

I am also a new mum. My son was born in September last year. During my pregnancy and Lactation period, I kept receiving samples and gifts from various baby food multinational companies, e.g. Mead Johnson, Dumex, and Abbott. Promotion material from these companies also emphasizes lots of benefits of the infant formula. In fact, most regrettably, the first sip of milk my son had after he came to this world was the sample infant formula from Abbott,



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