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Nestlé under fire in India for clinical research on preterm babies

by K. V. Venkatasubramanian, special to C&EN
August 11, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 32


India is probing whether Swiss food giant Nestlé, whose products include infant formula and baby food, illegally funded a clinical trial involving preterm infants. India’s Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles, and Infant Foods Act bans producers, suppliers, or distributors of infant milk substitutes from funding seminars, conferences, educational courses, fellowships, or research. The Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India, an advocacy group, found the clinical trial listed in a government registry. The registry lists Nestlé India as the primary sponsor of the trial, which was to monitor 75 infants born at 24–34 weeks’ gestation “to assess the growth outcomes and feeding intolerance observed” in the infants. “Nestlé India is always in compliance with all laws and regulations,” and the study was approved by the ethics committees of the trial sites, a company spokesperson says. The objective of the study in question was to encourage science-based research, not to promote the use of infant milk substitutes, feeding bottles, or infant foods, the spokesperson says. The Indian Council of Medical Research is investigating whether the study violated the law. Nestlé was also in the spotlight in January for allegedly influencing doctors to recommend its baby products, including infant milk powder, to parents.


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