Nestle: A History Of Unethical Behavior And Controversies

Maryam Tajalli
From unethical marketing to endangering babies and then compromising on product quality and environmental safety, Nestle has done it all.

Nestlé’s latest controversy has the company facing a lawsuit worth $98.6 million. Recent tests in India have revealed that the Swiss giant’s widely popular instant noodles have a concentration of lead, putting consumers at elevated health risks.


Nestle India is fighting against the claims that Maggi contains higher than permissible levels of lead. "In recent months, we had over 2,700 samples of Maggi noodles tested by several accredited laboratories both in India and abroad. Each one of these tests have shown the lead component to be far below the permissible limits," Nestlé’s online statement said.

However, this isn’t the first time Nestle has found itself deep in a controversy. In 1970s, Nestle heavily marketed Infant formula to poorer countries. Activists like INFACT as well as religious groups retaliated, saying the intense marketing was causing severe health problems. Poor mothers mixed the formula with unclean water, or diluted the expensive formula too thin, leaving babies malnourished and often sick.

A boycott campaign against Nestle spread in 1977, and the company responded by a counter-campaign. Nestle later changed its stance by complying with the marketing code set up by the World Health Organization. However, Nestle then violated the code by donating huge amounts of free samples to hospitals, and as of 2007 was still continuing its unethical marketing practices in Bangladesh.


The Swiss giant’s history is also filled with compromises on product and environmental safety. Despite critics' appeals to not sell bottled water in developing countries, as it would make the government less inclined to improve infrastructure, Nestle started Nestle Pure Life. In 2005, Swiss Coalition of Development Organizations and ActionAid published a report raising questions on the quality of Nestle Pure Life in Pakistan.


The company also finds itself facing huge opposition from various U.S. states as it continuously attempts to increase the amount of water it's allowed to extract, despite droughts. Communities that have pushed back hard against Nestle's water hogging ways include the Texas town of Eustace in 1995, the people of Florida in 1998, residents of Coloma, Wisconsin, in 2000 and Michigan citizens in 2001, among others.

Even if Delhi wins the case against Nestle, it will only be a minor dent for the $247 billion entity. Still, it’s important for the company to realize its activities aren’t going unnoticed and that it should take responsibility for its actions.