Synod votes to end Nestle boycott after passionate debate

Andrew Brown
Monday 11 July 1994 23:02 BST

THE Church of England will drop its boycott of Nescafe instant coffee, the General Synod voted yesterday. The boycott had been imposed, amid much ridicule, in 1991, as a protest against the use of breast milk substitutes in Third World countries, which can lead to higher infant mortality than breastfeeding, writes Andrew Brown.

Nestle, the maker of Nescafe, claims to have stopped the distribution of free samples in these countries. Campaigners in favour of the boycott dispute this. The issue arouses great passion: the leader of the campaign against Nestle, Patti Rundall, was almost in tears after the vote. Nestle hired an exhibition hall on the campus of the University of York, where the synod is meeting, and staffed it throughout the weekend with public relations executives who put its case.

The motion before the synod called for the boycott to be reaffirmed and the Church Commissioners to disinvest in Nestle. It was defeated by 180 to 168, after a confused debate. The Archbishop of York, Dr John Habgood, voted against the boycott; the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, voted in favour.

Several speakers claimed that Nestle's representatives were not living up to the code of practice that the company tries to impose. Among them were the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev David Sheppard and the Rev Dr Susan Cole- King, who before becoming a priest worked on infant health for Unicef and the World Health Organisation.

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