Nestle Folds to Consumer Pressure over GMOs in South Africa

Posted on May 12 2013 - 7:46pm by Sustainable Pulse

Nestle has gone on record in South Africa as saying that “it took consumer preferences into consideration and therefore all its infant cereals in South Africa used non-GM maize”, the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) announced Friday.

“This can only be a result of the action that so many…took last year after we released the results showing that Nestle’s Cerelac Honey contained 77.65% GM Maize. This is a victory indeed!” ACB continued.

ACB recently released results of tests conducted on 7 baby formulas and cereals, by an independent and accredited GM testing laboratory. The results reveal that Purity baby cereals contain extremely high levels of GM content whereas Nestlé’s infant formulas and cereal indicate that Nestle appears to be going GM free. Aspen’s infant formulas also indicate GM avoidance. Shockingly, comparisons also reveal that Purity’s GM baby cereals cost 250% more than non-GM cereals, exploding the myth that GM free food is an expensive and impractical luxury.


Purity’s Cream of Maize tested positive as containing 56.25% GM maize; and Purity’s Purity Baby First tested positive as containing 71.47% GM maize.

Neither of these baby foods were labeled as containing products derived from genetically modified maize. This is not the first time that Purity’s Cream of Maize cereal tested positive for GM. In 2008, consumer watchdog SAFeAGE revealed the product to contain more than 24% GM maize.

“Why has Purity not labeled its products? By failing to label, Purity has acted disingenuously and deprived parents of crucial information about their baby’s nutrition. Adult consumers in SA do not want to eat GM food, much less feed their babies with GM cereals, given that the safety of GM food is highly questionable,” said Zakkiya Ismail, ACB’s Labeling Campaign Co-ordinator.

Purity has a long history of producing and marketing jarred baby food in South Africa. Food giant, Tiger Brands owns Purity. Tiger Brands was fined R98.8 million (roughly $10 million) in 2007 by the Competition Commission for colluding with other bread producers in a bread price fixing scandal. Tiger Brand products are ubiquitous and account for around 15% of goods sold at every major retailer in the country. Its products include popular brands such as Ace Maize Meal, Albany Bread, All Gold Tomato Sauce, Black Cat Peanut Butter, and Koo bottled and canned food.

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Last year, the ACB tested Nestlé’s baby cereal Cerelac Honey, which contained 77.65% GM maize. This resulted in a huge public outcry. Now, the test results indicate a deliberate effort on the part of Nestle to avoid the use of GMOs in its baby products containing maize and soya products, as its formulas, Nan Pelargon and NAN AR Infant are both GM free. Nestlé’s Mixed Cereal, comprising of maize flour, contained extremely low levels of GM maize and GM soya that would not have triggered labeling. Curiously, however, soya is not listed as an ingredient on the packaging.
These results indicate that Nestlé is not using ingredients or products derived from GMOs in their baby cereals, and considering that 72% of maize grown in South Africa is GM, Nestlé must indeed be trying to avoid it. The traces of GM found in its cereal may well be attributable to contamination along the value chain. “Is Nestlé’ giving in to the demands of South African consumers?” asked Ismail.


The test results contrast starkly with Nestlé’s pro-GM stance, and its donation of $1.2 million to support an anti-GM labeling initiative in California last year. On 3rd May 2013, Nestlé’ was reported as having dismissed calls by US consumer groups for it to refrain from using GM ingredients in its baby formulas in the US.1 “We call upon Nestlé’ to stop using double standards, and desist from using GM ingredients in all its food products, in all countries, as it does in European countries,” said Ismail.


The ACB is shocked to learn that Purity’s GM-laden cereals are 250% more expensive than Nestlé’s baby cereal that contains only traces of GM contamination. “This belies the claim of the food and biotech industry that segregation of GM and non-GM grains along the value chain and the labeling of GM products will dramatically increase costs, which will inevitably be passed on to the consumer. It appears as if Nestlé has found a way to either absorb such costs, if indeed they do exist, or source non-GM maize economically,” said Mariam Mayet, Director of the ACB.


Nestlé’ is not alone in its avoidance of GMOs. Aspen’s Infacare Infant was tested to be GM free, and its InfaCare Gold Soya 1 to contain very low traces of GM maize and soya, also indicating possible contamination along the value chain. Multi-national company Aspen is a supplier of branded and generic pharmaceuticals and infant nutritional products. It recently bought Nestlé’s interest in Pfizer to distribute a portfolio of infant formulas to several countries in Africa.

“These latest findings make a mockery of the ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ argument of the pro-GM machinery in their opposition to GM labeling. They can no longer peddle the myth that the provision of non-GM food is an onerous luxury we cannot afford,” said Mayet.
Nestlé and Mead Johnson Nutrition dismiss call to remove GMOs from US infant formula

Status of GM food labeling and the right to know in South Africa

South Africans have been eating GM maize, soya and products preserved or containing GM cotton- seed oil for more than a decade without even knowing it. This is because up until 2011 there was no obligation to label GM foods and provide consumers with information to make a choice. This changed in October 2011 when the Consumer Protection Act came into force. According to the law, all foods containing 5% or more GM content must be labeled. Despite this law, only a handful of companies are beginning to label, the majority are not. In March 2012, the ACB had four products tested for GM content: Cerelac Honey infant cereal, Wheat Free Pronutro, Impala Maize Meal and Future Life Energy Meal. Very high levels of GM content were found yet none of these products were labeled. It emerged that according to the food industry, it felt that it was not under any legal obligation to label GM food because the Consumer Protection Act is not clear as to whether the law applies to processed food. The Consumer Goods Council of South Africa claimed that the labeling laws only apply to live GMOs such as whole kernels of maize. This view means that the majority of the food derived from GMOs on our market will not be labeled. This precipitated widespread consumer pressure on food producers and the government to ensure immediate labeling.

On the 9 October 2012 the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) published draft amendments to the regulations governing the labeling of GM food. According to the draft amendments, all locally produced and imported food containing 5% or more GM ingredients or components must be labeled as “contains genetically modified ingredients or components”. The proposed amendments convey the clear intention of government that the food industry must now step up to the plate and label their products. The final regulations have to date, however, not yet been promulgated.

Nevertheless, several products derived from GMOs are being labeled:

  • Pioneer’s Sasko bread is labeled as “soyabean produced using genetic modification”
  • Premier’s IWISA maize is labeled as “contains genetically modified organisms”
  • Pioneer (Sasko’s) Food’s White Star maize meal is labeled as “produced using genetic modification”
  • Pioneer Food’s (Bokomo’s) corn flakes are labeled as “corn 90% (genetically modified)”
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About the Author

Sustainable Pulse is a global news outlet covering sustainable agriculture, GMOs and pesticides.

29 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. carl mann May 12, 2013 at 21:18 - Reply

    i will no longer support Nestle . killing babies is not good money sense. no gmo’s

    • arnie May 14, 2013 at 04:35 - Reply

      “Not good money sense?” How about not good moral or ethical sense? Does that factor into your teeny, tiny equation of life, Carl?

  2. Cherel Michelle Whitehawk May 12, 2013 at 21:27 - Reply

    No games or joke about it GMO chemicals are killing my children, grandchildren, my self, great grandchildren. WE have very limited to the foods we can eat and/or enjoy. If we go outside of that limited range of foods we become very ill and on a number of occasions we end up in the hospital. We cannot even enjoy an night out at a restaurant.

    • Cherel Michelle Whitehawk May 12, 2013 at 21:33 - Reply

      Correction: We are very limited to the foods we can eat or enjoy. The damage to our systems has proven dangerous, and in some cases deadly. You can say anything you want but the real prove shows up in our health screening and blood work.

  3. Lisa freira May 12, 2013 at 21:59 - Reply

    I stopped buying Nestle products already despite them having a factory in my own hometown. This is slap in the face to American consumers, and just solidifies my decision.

    • Liz October 23, 2013 at 03:31 - Reply

      Americans? Why?

  4. Gloria Kobler May 12, 2013 at 23:27 - Reply

    The USA is ignoring the health and well being of its citizens. Our babies and youngsters are being used as guenna pigs . I will not buy anything made by Nestles and other Companies that I know use GMOs and will be sure to inform anyone I meet of the danger to their health. US..I am ashamed of you !!

  5. Eve Mayer May 13, 2013 at 00:27 - Reply

    Boycott them forever! That’s then only way they will listen. If everyone in America boycotts, how long do you think it would take to make them get rid of GMO’s?

    • Jello Biafra June 2, 2013 at 19:38 - Reply

      Boycott !! This is Democide. When is the U.S. going to have Nuremberg trials?

  6. dave fergusson May 13, 2013 at 05:23 - Reply


  7. Nestle+Monsanto = True Luv May 13, 2013 at 08:40 - Reply

    Boycott Nestle, Dear Friends! Nestle is apparently ruled by the same “thought process” as is Monsanto: Profit above All.

    I used to like Nestle Chocolate. No More.

    • kathy krepski June 25, 2013 at 00:46 - Reply


  8. Susan LosCalzo May 13, 2013 at 14:48 - Reply

    I will not buy any Nestle’s baby food until it is GMO free in America too.

  9. colleencallea May 13, 2013 at 17:03 - Reply

    I will no longer by nestle products iuntil they start doing right by the loyal customers that have purchased their products for years do whats right

  10. Fey Fand May 13, 2013 at 18:09 - Reply

    Now what about your inclusion of Palm Oil products? I have been boycotting you, Beacon and Cadbury as well as any other products using Palm Oil, which is leading to the decimation of primate populations in Borneo and Sumatra. What about that?

  11. Veronique Free Spirit May 13, 2013 at 19:05 - Reply

    It’s not just Nestle though. Just about everything we eat has got GM’s in it. We have to educate ourselves and continue to put unrelenting pressure on these food giants to clean up the food chain. And in the meantime, I don’t trust one single one of them, I only shop at organic markets now.

  12. J Glenn Lowe May 14, 2013 at 04:37 - Reply

    And the might baby killing AG giants will finally fall and die from the consequences of thier evil actions. Boycott is the quickest path to the death of these ‘death for profit’ companies

  13. truthie May 14, 2013 at 06:15 - Reply

    Nestle has been sucking the water out of the ground water table for years in Aberfoyle, Ontario Canada to sell as their “Pure Life” brand of spring water despite the years of protests by the local townspeople. While they do pay their property taxes as we all do, they don’t pay a PENNY extra for IT, yet they are given free access to the public water table. They have made millions with Aberfoyle’s water, shipping it globally as far as Japan; i once read that their goal was to claim a 75% market share in Canada alone. Now what right does a big mother corporation have to suck out the CLEAN COMMUNAL water of the people (and wildlife)?
    Nestle are known as nothing but bastards round here as we Canadians are watching the private corporatization of our WATER happening here more and more.
    I’ve always known they are one of the biggest users of crap gmo ingredients, and already disliked them since i heard they tried to convince the women in Africa to stop breastfeeding and use their shite formula insted! They are a farce and nothing but a traitor to mankind.

  14. Diaz June 1, 2013 at 19:03 - Reply

    Oh goody! Now they get to spend the money they were spending for GMO’s, on acquiring their ‘right’ to own water.
    How wonderful.
    I’m telling you…watch for it.

  15. Mick June 2, 2013 at 23:19 - Reply

    Everytime I research a problem, there is a Yoo behind it, go figure.

  16. Louis June 3, 2013 at 11:26 - Reply

    I will no longer support any company that supports GMO’s in their product .

    Bye bye Nestle’s and others using GMO’s

  17. Jrebecca June 3, 2013 at 18:26 - Reply

    All this testing for GMOs and nothing mentioned about testing for traces of pesticides. You’re all missing the poisons.

  18. T. mItChElL June 18, 2013 at 07:55 - Reply

    Really ! , you are killing customers with GMO foods. That’s a great marketing tool !! You will make more money by being GMO free, trust me. Please rethink the circle of death you are in. Until you remove ALL GMO sources of food, including animals fed with GMO foods then My very , very large family will no longer buy your foods.

  19. daniel k.pulkrabek October 13, 2013 at 09:52 - Reply

    does anyone know if monsanto execs and their scientists actually eat the stuff they produce? i’ll bet they have their own organic gardens.

  20. paschn January 20, 2021 at 05:49 - Reply

    Want to avoid Glyphosates/GMO completely?
    Simple, shop kosher.
    Their Talmud flatly decries poisoning one another.

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