Corporate political activity of the baby food industry: the example of Nestle in the United States of America

Hacer Tanrikulu, Daniela Neri, Aileen Robertson, Melissa Mialon

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftsartikelForskningpeer review


The marketing practices of the breastmilk substitutes industry have been known for decades, but little is known about the influence of the baby food industry, more generally, on public health policy, research and practice, also known as ‘corporate political activity’ (CPA). In this study, the baby food industry refers to for-profit companies that manufacture, market or distribute breastmilk substitutes and food products for infants and young children under two years. In addition, trade associations, public relations firms, marketing agencies and individuals or groups affiliated with the baby food industry are also considered to be part of the baby food industry. The aim of the current study was to systematically identify and monitor the CPA of the baby food industry in the USA, shown by the activities of Nestlé, the largest industry actor in this sector in the country.

The case study consisted of an analysis of publicly available information for data published between January and November 2018. We included documents from the industry, the government and other sources, including professional organisations, charities and consumer associations. We analysed data using an existing framework to classify the CPA of the food industry.

During the period of data collection, Nestlé employed a list of action-based ‘instrumental strategies’. The most prominent strategy was ‘information strategy’, used to fund, produce and disseminate industry-preferred information. Nestlé was further found to ‘establish relationships with key opinion leaders and health organisations, and the media’, ‘seek involvement in community’ and directly influence policies and programs through indirect access and the placement of actors in government policy settings. The company also used argument-based ‘discursive strategies’ to frame the debate on diet- and public health-related issues.

This study showed that Nestlé used various CPA strategies which may have influenced public health policy, research and practice in ways favourable to the baby food industry. These results could be used to further recognise and pre-empt the influence of corporations on health, in order to ensure that commercial interests do not prevail over public health goals.
Udgave nummer1
StatusUdgivet - 2020