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Infant’s Death Lands Nestlé Pakistan in Troubled Waters

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The Lahore-based subsidiary of Swiss food giant insists “the open sample provided by complainant was not NESTLÉ LACTOGEN 1”

LAHORE: Nestlé, the world’s largest food and beverage company, is facing a case following an infant’s death allegedly by one of its ‘poisonous’ products sold in Pakistan.

Nestlé Pakistan, earlier this month, was booked under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure on the order of SP Lahore Cantt Shehbaz Elahi after he received a report from the DSP (Legal), revealing the reasons behind the death of one-month-old Wajeeha. The child had consumed Nestlé’s formula milk, Lactogen, before falling sick and ultimately dying last year.

The report cited the findings of Punjab Forensic Science Agency (PFSA) which declared, ‘Lambda-Cyhalothrin (pesticide) and Phenytoin were detected in cavity material’ of the body. The PFSA carried out the examination after a magistrate court had allowed the exhumation of the baby’s body.

A First Information Report (FIR) was finally registered on April 10 with the Factory Area Police Station in which the complainant Usman Bhatti alleged that his daughter died due to consumption of Nestlé’s formula milk.

On the other hand, the company insists lab results “show that the open sample provided by complainant was not NESTLÉ LACTOGEN 1”.

 

 

“Samples from the same production batch were tested in local and international labs – including an external accredited lab in Germany – which confirmed that our product is safe and conforms to relevant international and local standards,” it said in a statement.

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“We are a great brand. If this milk has claimed the girl’s life, how are other babies surviving,” the statement further read.

While the food company reiterates that “NESTLÉ LACTOGEN 1 is safe for consumption”, the PFSA report of the formula milk consumed by the baby confirms a sharp difference of different ingredients from the preferred quantity. For instance, the amount of moisture in the powder was found out to be 4.38 per cent instead of the normal limit of a maximum of 2.60 per cent.

Moreover, the Calcium in the Lactogen on the scale of mg/100g consumed by the baby was found out to be 3902 as compared to the normal quantity of 256.35-487.50.

The amount of Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Chloride and Calcium was also found in visible disproportion to the standard parameters – as illustrated in the report.

The forensic analysis toxicology report furnished by the PFSA also declared in November last year that Lambda-Cyhalothrin (pesticide) and Phenytoin were detected in cavity material of the body after it was exhumed through a court order.

Sources in police say an investigation is in process.

Meanwhile, Nestle SA’s Pakistan unit has cut thousands of its staff since the start of last year as the food giant faces growing domestic competition and unstable economy in the country.

According to the company’s spokesman, the job cuts were “related to normal attrition” and that the company was replacing only critical business positions to stay competitive.

The Pakistan-listed company, 59 per cent owned by the Swiss food giant, currently employs about 4,200 people, down from 4,565 at the start of last year, Waqar Ahmad Sheikh, head of corporate affairs at Nestle Pakistan, told Bloomberg.

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In Nestlé Pakistan Limited’s annual report released last month, the Lahore-based company said that it faced “increasingly difficult economic conditions and competitive pressures,” but that the long-term growth potential of the business was positive.

The company recorded sales of Rs 29.1 billion for the first quarter ending March 2019, a decrease of 9 per cent over the same period of last year on comparable basis. Sales were impacted by the slowdown in the consumer demand mainly due to ongoing economic situation, according to the results announced upon the conclusion of the meeting of the Board of Directors on Monday (April 29, 2019).

Net profit for the same period decreased by 32.8 per cent to Rs 2.2 billion due to input cost pressures resulting from rising commodity prices, higher energy costs and currency devaluation.

Overall, Nestlé’s total workforce dropped to 308,000 last year from 323,000 and the company expects 700 million Swiss francs of restructuring costs this year.

https://www.nestle.pk/asset-library/documents/creating_shared_value/nestlé-csv-report-2018.pdf

 

 

(The author is a Lahore based journalist. He writes about religion, politics, culture, agriculture and 1947’s Indo-Pak Partition. He can be reached @imiftikharalam )

 

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