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Mortality from Nestlé’s Marketing of Infant Formula in Low and Middle-Income Countries


Paul J. Gertler
Li Ka Shing Professor, Haas School of Business 
Professor, School of Public Health, UC Berkley and Scientific Director, Center for Effective Global Action


Pamela Jakiela
Associate Professor, Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics, University of Maryland


Justin Sandefur
Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development

Intensive and potentially unethical marketing of infant formula is believed to be responsible for millions of infant deaths in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), yet to date there have been no rigorous analyses that quantify these effects. Paul Gertler and colleagues drew on a sample of 2.48 million births in 46 countries, indicating that the introduction of Nestlé infant formula, the largest supplier worldwide, may have resulted in approximately 66,000 infant deaths in LMICs in 1981—the peak of the infant formula controversy—among households without clean water access. This suggests that unclean water inappropriately mixed into formula acted as a vector for the transmission of water-borne pathogens to infants.


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