Remembering The Nestlé Baby Formula Scandal That Rocked The 1970s

After WWII, many western families with infants switched from breastfeeding to bottle-feeding. The latter was considered more civilized, more modern, and less messy. Mothers who opted to bottle-feed were ostensibly backed by science; formulas made by companies like Nestlé – whose founder, pharmacist Henri Nestlé, invented baby formula in 1867 – were full of nutrients and provided a great alternative to breast milk. 

Faced with a declining population in the western world during the 1960s, however, formula sales fell. Baby formula companies had to find a new market for their product. Some companies, like Nestlé, turned to developing countries, providing mothers with propaganda and samples to hook them on a new method of feeding their infants.

The Nestlé infant formula, however, wrought horrible effects in Africa, South America, and south Asian countries. Lost lives linked to Nestlé baby formula skyrocketed, culminating in a Nestlé boycott during the 1970s. The boycott didn't end the problem but rather spurred the call for international formula standards. 

Reminiscent of the Nestlé infant formula predicament is an even more recent water scandal in Africa. Both of these stories prove that corporate interests – namely money-making – often triumph over basic human care.