6 Biggest Nestle Company Crimes & Surrounding Controversies

Nestle Company Crimes

Nestle company crimes are no less than a blackspot on Nestle’s fame…

Do you know the world-famous and largest publicly listed food processing company Nestle is one of the most hated companies globally? It sounds quite shocking, especially to Indians where the majority of processed foods belong to Nestle, be it Maggie, Kit Kat, Nescafe, etc

How’s that possible? You may ask.

Nestle Company Crimes

Due to Nestle company crimes!

To be honest, there is a long list of Nestle company crimes. But here we will cover the major ones that severely affected the customers and surrounded the processed food giant with controversies.

Stay tuned!

(A) Unethical Baby Formula Marketing

As the title suggests, the way Nestle marketed its baby formula in an unethical way. What they did do exactly? You may ask. Well, Nestle aggressively marketed its baby formula and said “Hey folks! Our baby formula is a perfect substitute for breast milk and it will provide more nutrition than mother’s milk.”

Baby Formula Nestle Company Crimes

Can you imagine it? Nestle was directly challenging biology/nature with its artificial chemical formulations. And that too without any evidence. 

Do you know what’s the crazy part here?

It aggressively promoted its baby formula in less economically developed countries. As a result, Nestle faced disastrous consequences.

Here’s a list of unethical baby formula marketing that is one of the biggest Nestle Company Crimes-

TimelineEvents (Unethical Baby Formula Marketing)
1970sConcerns arise about Nestlé’s aggressive marketing of breast milk substitutes, particularly in less economically developed countries (LEDCs). Critics accuse Nestlé of discouraging breastfeeding.
1977Boycott against Nestlé launches in the United States, spreading to Europe. 
1984Boycott was officially suspended in the US after Nestlé agreed to follow an international marketing code endorsed by the WHO. 
1989Boycott against Nestlé is relaunched.
1990sNestlé allegedly repeats aggressive marketing practices in developing countries, such as Pakistan.
1999Whistleblower Syed Aamir Raza Hussain releases a report with Baby Milk Action, accusing Nestlé of promoting infant formula over breastfeeding. Nestlé denies allegations. 
2011Nestlé included in the FTSE4Good Index for ethical investment.  
May 2011Nineteen Laos-based international NGOs, including Save the Children, Oxfam, CARE International, Plan International, and World Vision, launched a Nestlé boycott citing unethical practices.
2011Nestlé under investigation in China for alleged bribery of hospital staff to access medical records and promote infant formula, violating a 1995 Chinese regulation.
2011-2014Six Nestlé employees receive prison sentences in China as a consequence of the investigation.  
2014Inspired by the Nestlé controversy, the film “Tigers” directed by Danis Tanović is released.  
CriticismErnest W. Lefever and the Ethics and Public Policy Center were criticized for accepting a $25,000 contribution from Nestlé while developing a report on medical care in developing nations. Allegations suggest the contribution influenced the report’s release, with the author submitting an article praising Nestlé to Fortune magazine.   
Nestle Company Crimes: Unethical Baby Formula Marketing

Yet, Nestle is one of the biggest and highly profitable FMCG companies in the world! This is just the first Nestle Company crimes. Just go through the following sections, and you will be surprised to know its other deeds!

(B) Slavery & Child Labour in Cocoa Production

Nestle Company Crime in Ghana

Here comes the second horrific Nestle company crimes. You are well aware of the role of cocoa in chocolates, right? So, where does this cocoa come from? From the West African cocoa plantations. Nestle is heavily dependent on these plantations. 

And the surprising fact? It deployed children belonging to the age group 12-15 years old to work in these plantations. 

Here is how Nestle was involved in slavery and child labor in cocoa production-

TimelineEvents (Slavery & Child Labour in Cocoa Production)
Pre-2010sReports document widespread child labor, slavery, and trafficking in West African cocoa production, crucial for Nestlé and other major chocolate companies.
2010Documentary “The Dark Side of Chocolate” reveals children aged 12 to 15 involved in cocoa production. Fair Labor Association criticizes Nestlé for inadequate checks.
2005International Labor Rights Fund files a lawsuit against Nestlé and others under the Alien Tort Claims Act for alleged child trafficking, slavery, and beatings on Ivory Coast cocoa plantations.
2010U.S. District Court dismisses the lawsuit, stating corporations cannot be held liable for international law violations. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reverses the decision.
2016Fortune magazine study reports approximately 2.1 million children in West Africa involved in hazardous cocoa harvesting, with farmers earning meager incomes below the World Bank’s poverty standard.
2019Nestlé admits inability to guarantee child slave labor absence in chocolate products. Washington Post notes unmet commitments since 2001, with only 49% of purchases traceable to the farm level.
2021Nestlé faces a class action lawsuit by eight former child slaves, alleging aiding and abetting enslavement on Ivory Coast cocoa plantations. The lawsuit, involving other companies, is dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Nestle Company Crimes: Slavery & Child Labour in Cocoa Production

That’s how Nestle company crimes fetched a huge spotlight from consumers around the world, especially in the chocolate segment!

(C) Compromising Food Safety

Toxic Milk Product of Nestle

Now here comes another infamous and one of the most talked about Nestle company crimes. Being a Food Processing company, your first and foremost responsibility is to keep your food products safe and free from harmful germs and chemicals.

Sadly, Nestle failed to maintain its food safety. Here’s how-

(C.1) Toxic Milk Products and Baby Food

This incident occurred mainly in China and Southeast Asia. Let’s look at the timeline of events-

TimelineEvents (Toxic Milk Products and Baby Food)
September 2008The Hong Kong government finds melamine in a Chinese-made Nestlé milk product, leading to six infant deaths and hospitalization of 860 babies. Dairy Farm milk was produced by Nestlé’s Qingdao division.
October 2008Taiwan Health Ministry announces low-level melamine traces in six types of Nestlé-produced milk powders in China, prompting removal from shelves.
2013Nestlé implements initiatives to prevent contamination, adopting a “factory and farmers” model. Farmers directly supply milk to Nestlé-owned collection centers with computerized testing systems.
2014Nestlé opens the Nestlé Food Safety Institute (NFSI) in Beijing to address China’s demand for safe food. NFSI collaborates with authorities, providing scientific support for food safety policies and standards.
2015Incident in which weevils and fungus are found in Cerelac baby food.   
Toxic Milk Products and Baby Food

(C.2) E.Coli bacteria in contaminated cookie dough

Back in June 2009, there was a widespread sickness outbreak linked to Nestlé’s refrigerated cookie dough from a plant in Danville, Virginia. This affected over 50 people across 30 states in the US, and half of them had to go to the hospital. Nestlé had to recall 30,000 cases of the cookie dough. The issue was traced back to contaminated flour from a raw material supplier. To prevent this from happening again, Nestlé started treating the flour with heat to get rid of any harmful bacteria before using it in their cookie dough.

(C.3) Heavy amount of lead (toxic metal) in Maggie

Lead in Maggie

Do you remember a few years ago, Maggie was banned in India? Have you ever wondered why? Due to the presence of lead in Maggie. Let me tell you that lead is a toxic substance that can lead to poisoning in your body.

Let’s briefly go through the incidents-

TimelineEventsImpact and Resolutions
May 2015Food safety regulators in Uttar Pradesh find excessive lead and monosodium glutamate in Nestlé India’s Maggi noodles.The New Delhi Government banned Maggi sales for 15 days on June 3, 2015.
Major retailers like Future Group, Big Bazaar, Easyday, and Nilgiris impose a nationwide ban on Maggi starting June 3, 2015.
Gujarat FD extended the ban for 30 days on June 4, 2015, after detecting objectionable lead levels.
June 2015FSSAI banned all nine approved variants of Maggi in India on June 5, 2015, deeming them “unsafe and hazardous” for human consumption.Maggi returns to Indian shelves in November 2015.
Nepal imposes an indefinite ban on Maggi due to concerns about lead levels.
Nestlé launches an advertising campaign to regain consumer trust, featuring the Maggi anthem by Vir Das and Alien Chutney.
Maggi noodles were withdrawn in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and South Sudan following a complaint by the Consumer Federation of Kenya.Production resumes at all five plants in India on November 30, 2015.
Philippines RecallLocalized versions of Maggi instant noodles were sold in the Philippines until 2011.Maggi noodles do not return to the market in the Philippines.
The product group was recalled in 2011 due to suspected salmonella contamination.Nestlé continues selling seasoning products, including Maggi Magic Sarap. 
Heavy amount of lead (toxic metal) in Maggie

(C.4) Controversies Surrounding Nestle’s Water Practices

TimelineEventsImpacts & Resolution
Arrowhead Bottled Water (2000-2015)Controversy arose over Nestlé’s Arrowhead bottled water sourced from the San Bernardino Mountains in California, starting in 2000.Local citizen groups question water extraction’s impact on the drought.
Concerns about lead levels and water extraction during a drought in Millard Canyon’s Native American Reservation.Evidence suggests Nestlé’s permit to draw water from San Bernardino wells had expired in 1988.
Former forest supervisor Gene Zimmerman’s connections with Nestlé raise concerns.
Cascade Locks, Oregon (2015-2016)Cascade Locks considered trading water rights to Nestlé in 2015.Despite public opposition, Cascade Locks city council aims to continue the plan. 
Opposition from legislators and citizens against trading well water with publicly owned Oxbow Springs water.Governor Kate Brown intervenes, citing fiscal reasons.
69% voted against large bottling operations in Hood River County in 2016.Nestlé abandons the planned bottling operation. 
Ice Mountain Spring in Michigan (2005-2017)Nestlé gains rights to pump 250 GPM in Michigan under a 2005 court settlement.Attempts to increase the rate to 400 GPM face local opposition in Osceola Township. 
Local citizens and the planning commission rejected the plan, emphasizing concerns about water commodification. – Litigation burdens the small town financially.
National attention grows on the water rights dispute.   
California Water Rights Complaints (2021)April 2021: California’s Water Resources Control Board instructs Nestlé to stop unauthorized spring water diversions in the San Bernardino Forest.Direct impact on Nestlé’s water extraction practices in California.
Follows numerous water rights complaints and online petitions against Nestlé’s water practices.   
Controversies Surrounding Nestle’s Water Practices

(C.5) Causing water pollution with single-use plastic bottles

A bottle of Nestlé’s water contributes significantly to plastic pollution, posing environmental challenges. Despite being a major global food and beverage company, Nestlé is consistently identified as a leading plastic polluter. The single-use plastic packaging used by Nestlé, much of which is non-recyclable, contributes to ocean pollution and litter in various environments.

Despite claims on Nestlé’s website about a “long-standing commitment to sustainability” as of September 2022, critics argue that the company’s approach falls short. Nestlé aims to make 100 percent of its packaging reusable or recyclable by 2025. 

However, environmental organizations like Greenpeace assert that Nestlé plans to address plastic waste by incineration, causing harmful pollution detrimental to both humans and wildlife.

(D) Deforestation in Ghana and Ivory Coast

Deforestation in Ghana

Nestlé’s chocolate story takes a dark turn, according to some critics. Back in September 2017, a group called Mighty Earth investigated and found out that the way chocolate is made in Ivory Coast and Ghana is causing serious deforestation issues. What happens is big cocoa traders get beans from areas they shouldn’t and sell them to giants like Nestlé, Hershey, and Mars, and it’s all contributing to wiping out the rainforests.
The result? 

Less than four percent of Ivory Coast’s land is now covered in lush forests, and animals like elephants and chimps are taking a big hit. Mighty Earth warns that if this keeps up, there might be no forests left in these places by 2030! When big chocolate companies were asked about it in late 2017, including Nestlé, they admitted they used cocoa beans from places with illegal deforestation but promised they’re trying to stop it.

(E) Ethiopian debt repayment during severe famine

Ethopian Debt Repayment

In 2002, Nestlé faced widespread criticism for its controversial demand that Ethiopia repay a debt of $6 million during a severe famine affecting the nation. This move drew significant public backlash, with over 8,500 people expressing their discontent through emails to the company. Responding to the outrage, Nestlé ultimately backed down from its demand.

As a resolution to the situation, Nestlé committed to reinvesting any funds it might receive from Ethiopia back into the country. This was seen as an acknowledgment of the inappropriate timing and nature of their initial request, considering the dire circumstances of the famine.

In 2003, Nestlé took a step further by accepting a reduced offer of $1.5 million from Ethiopia. Rather than pocketing the amount, Nestlé demonstrated a more socially responsible stance by donating the entire sum to three prominent charities actively involved in Ethiopia: the Red Cross, Caritas, and UNHCR. This gesture aimed to contribute to the relief efforts and address the pressing needs of the Ethiopian people during the challenging times they were facing. 

The incident underscored the importance of ethical considerations, especially in times of crisis, and prompted Nestlé to reevaluate its approach to corporate responsibility.

(F) Forced Labour in Thai Fishing Industry

Nestle Company Crimes- Forced labor in Thailand

In November 2015, Nestlé concluded a year-long, self-imposed investigation revealing that seafood products sourced in Thailand were produced using forced labor. As expected from Nestle… But the astonishing fact is Nestle accepted it!

This disclosure was surprising for the industry, as international companies rarely admit to abuses in their supply chains. The investigation found that virtually all US and European companies buying seafood from Thailand faced similar risks of exploitation in their supply chains.

But how come Nestle became infamous in the Southeast Asian market where it lacks dominance?

Well, here is an interesting fact. While Nestlé is not a major player in the Southeast Asian seafood market, it conducts some business in Thailand, primarily for its Purina cat food.

In response, Nestlé committed to launching a year-long program in 2016 aimed at protecting workers throughout its supply chain. The company pledged to implement new requirements for all potential suppliers, provide human rights training for boat owners and captains, and employ auditors to ensure compliance with the newly established rules. 

This move marked a significant step towards addressing and rectifying issues related to forced labor in Nestlé’s supply chain.

Final Thoughts on Nestle Company Crimes

Nestle Company Crimes, ranging from controversial marketing practices to environmental and ethical concerns, reveal a troubling pattern. Instances such as promoting infant formula unethically, contributing to deforestation through chocolate production, and demands during Ethiopia’s famine underscore the need for increased corporate responsibility. 

Nestle’s involvement in forced labor in Thailand and pollution through plastic waste further tarnish its image. While the company claims to address these issues, ongoing concerns emphasize the imperative for sustained vigilance and accountability. 

The overall impact of Nestle Company Crimes calls for public awareness, ethical consumer choices, and continued scrutiny to ensure responsible business practices.

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Published By: Supti Nandi
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