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Bottled Water Execs Fined for Price-Fixing

Bottled Water Execs Fined for Price-Fixing

Austria fined a bottled water company for artificially inflating water prices

Austrian bottled water giant Voeslauer has been found guilty of fixing prices.

Bottled water seems expensive enough on its own, but Austria recently discovered that some bottles were even more expensive than they needed to be, because bottled water giant Vöslauer has reportedly been fixing prices with retailers for years.

According to The Local, the mineral water giant is Austria’s largest bottled-water company by far, and controls approximately 40 percent of that country’s bottled-water market. Austria’s Cartel Court says Vöslauer has been fixing prices in tandem with the country’s retailers, including grocery stores and supermarkets, on several different occasions between 2007 and 2012. The court ruled that the company was guilty of colluding to fix prices on its non-alcoholic beverages, specifically bottled mineral water, and has levied a fine of €653,775 against the company for "the anti-competitive practices related to influencing retail prices of certain non-alcoholic beverages, especially bottled water, in the period between January 2007 and December 2012.”

Vöslauer reportedly waived its right to appeal the court decision, so the fine will be final.


Miller Brewing Company was founded in 1855 by Frederick Miller after his emigration from Hohenzollern, Germany in 1854 with a unique brewer's yeast. Initially, he purchased the small Plank Road Brewery in Milwaukee for $2,300 ($66,736 in 2018). [3] The brewery's location in the Miller Valley in Milwaukee provided easy access to raw materials produced on nearby farms. In 1855, Miller changed its name to Miller Brewing Company, Inc. [4] The enterprise remained in the family until 1966.

In 1966, the conglomerate W. R. Grace and Company bought Miller from Lorraine John Mulberger (Frederick Miller's granddaughter, who objected to alcohol) and her family. In 1969, Philip Morris (now Altria) bought Miller from W. R. Grace for $130 million, outbidding PepsiCo.

In 1999 Miller acquired the Hamm's brand from Pabst.

In 2002, South African Breweries bought Miller from Philip Morris for $3.6 billion worth of stock and $2 billion in debt to form SABMiller, with Philip Morris retaining a 36% ownership share and 24.99% voting rights.

In 2006, SABMiller purchased Sparks and Steel Reserve brands from McKenzie River Corporation for $215 million cash. [5] Miller had been producing both brands prior to this purchase. [6]

On July 1, 2008, SABMiller formed MillerCoors, a joint venture with rival Molson Coors to consolidate the production and distribution of its products in the United States, with each parent company's corporate operations and international operations to remain separate and independent of the joint venture. SABMiller owned 58% of the unit, which operated in the United States but not in Canada, where Molson Coors is strongest. Molson Coors owned the rest of the joint venture, but the companies had equal voting power. [7] [8]

Sole ownership by Molson Coors Edit

In September 2015, Anheuser-Busch InBev announced that it had reached a full agreement to acquire SABMiller for $107 Billion. [9] As part of the agreement with U.S. Justice Department, SABMiller agreed to divest itself of the Miller brands in the US and Puerto Rico by selling its stake in MillerCoors to Molson Coors. [1] [10]

Consequently, on October 11, 2016, SABMiller in the U.S. sold its interests in MillerCoors to Molson Coors who had been its partner in the joint venture, for around US$12 billion. Molson Coors gained full ownership of the Miller brand portfolio outside the US and Puerto Rico, and retained the rights to all of the brands that were in the MillerCoors portfolio for the U.S. and Puerto Rico. [2] [11]

Miller is responsible for originating a number of alcoholic beverage brands. The most notable of those brands are Mickey's, Miller High Life, Miller Lite, Miller Genuine Draft and Milwaukee's Best.

  • Miller Lite: A pilsner type light beer. It is 4.2% ABV (4% in Canada).
  • Miller Genuine Draft: Nicknamed MGD. Introduced in 1985 with the claim of tasting like draft beer, as that the beer is cold filtered and not pasteurized. MGD received the gold medal in the American-style Premium Lager category at the 1999 World Beer Cup. It also received the silver medal at the 2003 Great American Beer Festival. The concept for cold-filtered Miller Genuine Draft was developed by product consultant Calle & Company. Martin Calle evolved the concept from Miller's New Ventures effort to launch a new dry beer at a time Miller Brewing was in danger of becoming a much-cloned light beer manufacturer. Originally introduced as "Miller High Life Genuine Draft", the "High Life" part of the name was soon dropped. MGD is actually made from the same recipe as Miller High Life but with a different treatment. It was developed to try and replicate the non-pasteurized keg flavor of High Life in a can or bottle. As of 2007 Genuine Draft had a 1.5% share of the United States market by 2012 it had declined to 0.7% market share, representing a decline of 1.7 million barrels. [12] It has 4.7% abv. [13]
  • Miller 64— (Formerly Miller Genuine Draft 64) [14] A lighter version of the regular Miller Genuine Draft Light with a 2.8% abv, also known as "MGD 64". It contains 64 calories per 12 US fl oz (355 mL) serving (750 kJ/L). Until recently, no other beer on the market had less food energy, although Beck's Premier Light also has 64 calories per 12 US fl oz serving. In the late summer of 2009, Budweiser launched Budweiser Select 55 in response to Miller's popular MGD 64. Miller launched this beer in the summer of 2007 in Madison, Wisconsin. It was received favorably and testing expanded to Arizona, San Diego and Sacramento. [15]
  • Miller High Life : This beer was put on the market in 1903 and is Miller Brewing's oldest brand. High Life is grouped under the pilsner category of beers and is 4.6% ABV. [13] The prevailing slogan on current packaging is "The Champagne of Beers", an adaptation of its long standing slogan "The Champagne of Bottle Beers". Accordingly, this beer is noted for its high level of carbonation, making it a very bubble-filled beverage, like champagne. It was originally available in miniature champagne bottles and was one of the premier high-end beers in the country for many years. Today they are popular in 7 U.S. fl oz (207 ml 7 imp fl oz) pony bottles, introduced in 1972. [16][17] Except for a brief period in the 1990s, [18] High Life bottles have always been quite distinctive, as they have a bright gold label and are made of a clear glass that has a tapered neck like a champagne bottle. High Life has brought back its "Girl in the Moon" logo, which features a modestly dressed young lady that, by legend, is company founder Frederick Miller's granddaughter. The "Girl in the Moon" logo was originally painted in the early 1900s by an unknown artist and has since been re-painted by Nebraskan artist Mike Hagel, who added his own unique touch to it. [19] High Life beat out 17 other contestants to take home the gold medal in "American-style Lagers" category at the 2002 World Beer Cup. High Life has enjoyed a resurgence recently, using its humorous "Take Back the High Life" campaign—which features a common sense-wielding deliveryman (portrayed by Windell Middlebrooks) removing beer from "non-High Life locations" (such as restaurants serving $11.50 hamburgers) to position the brand as "a good honest beer at a tasty price".
  • Miller High Life Light: Introduced in 1994. It has 4.1% ABV. [13]
  • Miller Chill: A chelada-style 4.2% abv [13] pale lager brewed with lime and salt. Introduced successfully in 2007, sales dropped in 2008 after the launch of the rival Bud Light Lime. [20] In response, MillerCoors revamped their recipe from a 'chelada' style brew to a light beer with lime, created new packaging which included switching from a green to a clear bottle, and launched a new advertising campaign centered around the slogan "How a Light Beer with a Taste of Lime Should Taste".
  • Miller Midnight: According to the brewery, "This beer combines dark roasted and light crystal malts with caramel flavor. Getting this balance right was an important part of the two-year development process, led by Ronda Dannenberg and Jackie Lauman, specialists at Miller's flagship brewery in Milwaukee. Color, aroma, taste, and finish were all carefully considered. It is available in 330 ml and 500 ml bottles. Released in November 2008 this beer is available only in Russia." It has 5.2% ABV. [citation needed]
  • Sharp's: Miller's non-alcoholic beer.
  • Frederick Miller Classic Chocolate Lager: A beer for the holiday season [clarification needed] released October to December in Wisconsin, Chicago, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Indianapolis and northwest Indiana. It is brewed with six different malts, including chocolate and dark chocolate malts. [21]
  • Mickey's: Mickey's is Miller's "Fine Malt Liquor". It is 5.6% abv. [13]
  • Olde English 800: Malt liquor also known as "OE". It is 5.9% abv in the eastern United States, 7.5% abv in most western U.S. states and 8.0% abv in Canada.
  • Milwaukee's Best: Miller's economy label. It is 4.3% ABV, and commonly referred to as "The Beast", "Milwaukee's Beast", "Milwaukee's Worst" or "Milly B" [13]
  • Milwaukee's Best Light: Miller's light economy label. Also, it was the main sponsor of the 2008 World Series of Poker. It is 4.1% ABV. and commonly referred to as "Beast Light" [13]
  • Milwaukee's Best Ice: Miller's economy "Ice" beer. It is 5.9% ABV. and commonly referred to as "Beast Ice" or "the Yeti". [13]

Miller has been a large motorsport sponsor since the 1980s. In the CART World Series, the company has sponsored drivers such as Al Unser (1984), Danny Sullivan (1985–1989, 1991), Roberto Guerrero (1990), Bobby Rahal (1992–1998) and Kenny Bräck (2003). It also sponsored the Miller 200 race at Mid-Ohio.

In NASCAR Cup Series, Miller has sponsored Bobby Allison from 1983 to 1988, Dick Trickle in 1989, Rusty Wallace from 1990 to 2005, Kurt Busch from 2006 to 2010, and Brad Keselowski since 2011. Allison won the 1983 NASCAR Winston Cup Series, and Keselowski won the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The company has sponsored the Miller High Life 500, Miller 500, Miller High Life 400, Miller 400, Miller 300, Miller 200, and Miller 150 races.

In NHRA, Miller sponsored Larry Dixon for 11 years, ending their relationship in 2007. [22]


Why Nestle is one of the most hated companies in the world

Child labor, unethical promotion, manipulating uneducated mothers, pollution, price fixing and mislabeling – those are not words you want to see associated with your company. Nestle is the world’s largest foodstuff company, and it has a history that would make even hardcore industrialists shiver. We’re gonna look at why Nestle has such a bad reputation and whether or not it deserves it.

Introduction

People love to hate, and they really love to hate on big companies – whether or not they have a reason to. I especially dislike it when the latter happens. Companies (big companies included) are the very backbone of our economy, and they often get a bad rep for little or no reason. But sometimes there is a reason, or as in this case, several solid reasons, as we’ll see below. Which brings me to the next point: why are we writing this article? ZME Science is a science website (crazy, right?), and this is not strictly science, at least not in the way our regular articles are. But we also write about environmental issues, especially when they affect many of us, and especially when we can make a difference.

Nestle is a Swiss multinational food and beverage company. According to Wikipedia, their products include baby food, bottled water, breakfast cereals, coffee and tea, confectionery, dairy products, ice cream, frozen food, pet foods, and snacks. Twenty-nine of their brands have sales of over $1 billion a year and have over 8,000 brands. They have 447 factories across 194 countries and employ around 333,000 people. They truly are what you would call a giant. They’re also considered to be one of the best employers in Europe with six LEED certifications and sponsor numerous activities and sustainable projects. Looking at only these stats, it would seem that Nestle is one of the “good guys”… but then why are they so hated? Let’s take it step by step.

Baby Formula and Boycott

We’re in the 󈨞s, and this is a sad story about poverty, breastfeeding, and greed. Nestle aggressively pushed their breastfeeding formula in less economically developed countries (LEDCs), specifically targeting the poor. They made it seem that their infant formula was almost as good as a mother’s milk, which is highly unethical for several reasons.

This is one of the first Nestle formula ads, from 1911.

The first problem was the need for water sanitation. Most of the groups they were targeting – especially in Africa – didn’t have access to clean water (many don’t to this day), so it was necessary for them to boil the water. But due to low literacy rates, many mothers were not aware of this, so they mixed the formula with polluted water which put the children at great risks. Nestle seems to have knowingly ignored this and encouraged mothers to use the formula even when they knew the risks. Breastfeeding, one of the most important aspects for an infant, especially in unsanitized areas, was cast aside. Baby formula was “the nearest thing in the world”, and this “splendid triumph of care and science” is “so like mother’s milk that the tiny stomach won’t notice the difference”. But the tiny stomach did notice the difference.

“Breastfeeding is unparalleled in providing the ideal food for infants.The optimal way to feed a baby is exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months followed by breastfeeding combined with complementary foods until the child is two years old…” – a 2007 Save the Children report.

Many mothers were able to read in their native language but were still unable to read the language in which sterilization directions were written. Even if mothers understood the need to boil the water, they might not have had the facilities to do so. UNICEF estimates that a formula-fed child living in disease-ridden and unhygienic conditions is between 6 and 25 times more likely to die of diarrhea and four times more likely to die of pneumonia than a breastfed child. Another problem was that mothers tended to use less formula than needed – to make the jar last longer, resulting in many infants receiving inadequate amounts.

But even if the water was boiled, and even if the formula was administered in the right proportion and in the right quantity, it is lacking in many of the nutrients and antibodies that breast milk provides. Breast milk contains the required amount of the nutrients essential for neuronal (brain and nerve) development, and to some extent, protects the baby from many diseases and potential infections. According to the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), Nestle used unethical methods to promote their infant formula to poor mothers in developing countries. But it gets even worse.

Rachael Romero, San Francisco Poster Brigade
Boycott Nestle, 1978
poster
Courtesy Inkworks Press Archive, Berkeley, CA

IBFAN claims that Nestle distributes free formula samples to hospitals and maternity wards after leaving the hospital, the formula is no longer free, but because the supplementation has interfered with lactation, the family must continue to buy the formula. Nestle denies those allegations… sort of.

“Nestlé takes reports on non-compliance with the WHO Code very seriously and we have endeavored to investigate all allegations brought to our attention, despite the fact that in many cases we are not provided with accurate details substantiating the accusations. This makes it difficult for us to investigate how, where and when the alleged infringement could have occurred. Some of the allegations are several years old before they are brought to public attention, which also could complicate the investigation.”

Health experts were concerned from the very start. It’s been known for quite a while that bottle-feeding infants in impoverished tropical environments, with limited sanitation and refrigeration, can be a recipe for disaster. But Nestlé’s asked that critics should focus on doing something to improve unsafe water supplies, which contributed to the health problems associated with bottle feeding. They also later used this approach to promote their bottled water, using their huge marketing budget to influence people’s behavior, while avoiding denying any direct responsibility.

Today, several countries and organizations are still boycotting Nestle, despite their claims to be in compliance with WHO regulations. There’s even a committee, the International Nestlé Boycott Committee that monitors their practices. Several universities and student organizations have also joined the boycott, especially in the UK.

More recently, the company has also been under head for a study on breastmilk substitutes in India. India’s apex medical research authority asked the company to stop paying study participants, which included pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.

It’s not clear how many lives that were lost directly and indirectly due to this aggressive marketing campaign, and of course, Nestle does not claim responsibility for these tragedies. But it was easy for them, as it was easy for everybody to see the risks and the negative effects their formula was having. It was easy for them to save many lives, but they chose the money instead. Profits before children — check. Let’s move on.

Nestle and Water

Brown admitted that Nestlé currently wastes about 30% of the 700m gallons of water a year it draws from the ground in California. Image via Sum of Us.

Few people know it, but Nestle is actually the world’s largest producer of bottled water. In fact, they’re so keen on their water business (which also involves many of their other products), that they believe water isn’t a universal right. Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe said:

“There are two different opinions on the matter [or water]. The one opinion, which I think is extreme, is represented by the NGOs, who bang on about declaring water a public right. That means that as a human being you should have a right to water. That’s an extreme solution.”

Having access to water is not an extreme solution. It’s what we have called a basic need for centuries. Even Brabeck, after the media attack that followed, backed down. He said that he “believes that water is a human right” and “advocates for universal access to safe drinking water”. But his actions, as well as Nestle’s actions, show that that’s just greenwashing.

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At the second World Water Forum in 2000, Nestle pushed for making access to drinking water from a “right” to a “need,” a defining change. Meanwhile, Nestle drains the aquifers it controls as much as possible, without any regards to sustainable usage or environmental concerns. A recent case is the California drought – an issue without precedent in the past 1,200 years. But Nestle doesn’t care. Even as Starbucks recently announced they would transfer their Ethos water bottling facility from California to Pennsylvania, Nestle CEO Tim Brown said: “Absolutely not. In fact, if I could increase [water bottling operations], I would.”

Yes, if he could, he’d increase water bottling operations, even though Nestle has been working without a permit since 1988. Inhabitat reports that the company has been sourcing its water from the San Bernardino National Forest without a permit and they’ve been recently been bumped to the front of the queue for permit renewal (which will take around 18 months), and they can keep working in the meantime as long as they pay a laughable $524 annual fee. Also, California doesn’t know how much water Nestle uses, because they have no legal grounds for making the company divulge this information, and Nestle hasn’t published any reports. An independent analysis puts all their water usage at 1 billion gallons a year.

Arguably, that’s not much when you considering that 500 billion gallons of water that will be saved under Gov. Brown’s new water restrictions, but there’s something absurd and immoral about a private company using as much water as they want while the rest of the state is facing severe restrictions.

But other areas in the world have it even worse than California.

In the small Pakistani community of Bhati Dilwan, a former village councilor says children are being sickened by filthy water. Who’s to blame? He says it’s bottled water maker Nestle, which dug a deep well that is depriving locals of potable water.

“The water is not only very dirty, but the water level sank from 100 to 300 to 400 feet,” Dilwan says. (source)

The small village of Bhati Dalwan is suffering a water crisis following the development of a Nestle water bottling facility. Image source.

Indeed, unsustainable usage of aquifer water can lead to a significant decrease in water levels, and can even exhaust the aquifer. That’s right, underground water isn’t the inexhaustible source many people believe it to be. In the case of Bhati Dilwan, people are getting sick because if the community had fresh water piped in, it would deprive Nestle of its money source – bottled water under the Pure Life brand. Greedily using natural resources for profits? Check.

But when Nestle isn’t trying to privatize water or use it without regards to the environment, it’s simply bottling… tap water. A Chicago-based business has sued the company (again), claiming that the five gallon jugs of Ice Mountain Water they bought were nothing else than tap water. It may come as a shock to you, but nearly half of the bottled water in PET plastic bottles is actually from a tap – though Nestle never advertised this. They know what’s likely going to happen though, as this is almost a dress rehearsal of a previous scandal. Twelve years ago Nestle Waters was sued over allegation of false labeling, and ultimately settled for $10 million in charitable contributions and discounts.

More recently, Nestle expressed their concern to the city of Flint, Michigan, which was undergoing a massive water crisis at the time — a crisis which still takes a toll to this day. Meanwhile, the company was using nearby water reserves for their own bottled water products. Nestle was bottling hundreds of thousands of bottles, paying only $200 to use this natural reserve.

Child labor, abuse, and trafficking

Most people love chocolate, but few know the dirty deals behind chocolate production. The 2010 documentary The Dark Side of Chocolate brought attention to purchases of cocoa beans from Ivorian plantations that use child slave labour. The children are usually 12 to 15 years old, and some are trafficked from nearby countries – and Nestle is no stranger to this practice.

Children labor was found in Nestle’s supply chain. Image via Crossing Guard Consulting.

In 2005, the cocoa industry was, for the first time, under the spotlight. The International Labor Rights Fund filed a lawsuit against Nestle (among others) on behalf of three Malian children. The suit alleged the children were trafficked to Côte d’Ivoire, forced into slavery, and experienced frequent beatings on a cocoa plantation. In 2010, the US District Court for the Central District of California determined corporations cannot be held liable for violations of international law and dismissed the suit – a controversial decision which has since been appealed. But even if Nestle wasn’t legally liable for these abuses, they are, at least morally. But that wasn’t the only case of this kind.

A report by an independent auditor, the Fair Labor Association (FLA), says it found “multiple serious violations” of the company’s own supplier code. It was reported that Nestle hadn’t carried out checks against child labor and abuse. Additionally, many injuries caused by machetes, which are used to harvest cocoa pods, have been reported. Nestle’s excuse can be summed up broadly as ‘everybody does it’:

“The use of child labour in our cocoa supply chain goes against everything we stand for,” says Nestle’s Executive Vice-President for Operations Jose Lopez. “No company sourcing cocoa from the Ivory Coast can guarantee that it doesn’t happen, but we can say that tackling child labour is a top priority for our company.”

The FLA reported that Nestle was fully aware of where their cocoa was coming from and under what conditions, but did little to improve conditions. Child slavery and abuse? Check.

Health Threats

In July 2009, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned consumers to avoid eating any varieties of prepackaged Nestle Toll House refrigerated cookie dough due to risk of contamination with E. coli O157:H7 (a foodborne bacterium that causes illness). In the US, it caused sickness in more than 50 people in 30 states, half of whom required hospitalization. In particular, one woman had a fatal infection before the batch was reclaimed.

“The fact that our product was implicated in Linda Rivera’s 2009 illness and tragic passing was obviously of grave concern to all of us at Nestle,” the company said in a statement. “Since then, we have implemented more stringent testing and inspection of raw materials and finished product to ensure the product meets our high quality standards,” which sort of makes you wonder – why weren’t stringent testing and inspections implemented in the first place?

But this is just a minor incident compared to the 2008 Chinese Milk Scandal. Six infants were killed and 860 were hospitalized with kidney problems after Nestle products were contaminated with melamine, a substance sometimes illegally added to food products to increase their apparent protein content.

In October 2008, Taiwan Health ministry announced that six types of milk powders produced in China by Nestlé contained low-level traces of melamine and were removed from the shelves.

The scandal quickly escalated, with China reporting over 300,000 victims, raising concerns about the security of major food companies operating in China. Two people were executed and several life prison sentences were issued, with the World Health Organization (WHO) referring to the incident as one of the largest food safety events it has had to deal with in recent years.

Nestle denied implication and claimed that all its products are clean, but the Taiwan government linked their products to toxic melamine. As a response, Nestle says it has sent 20 specialists from Switzerland to five of its Chinese plants to strengthen chemical testing.

Nestle’s CEO, Peter Brabeck.

Pollution

As with any “respectable” large company, Nestle has been involved in several incidents regarding pollution. A 1997 report found that in the UK, over a 12 month period, water pollution limits were breached 2,152 times in 830 locations by companies that included Cabdury and Nestle. But again, the situation in China was much worse.

While people in the US and Europe are slowly becoming more environmentally concerned and some are opting for more sustainable sources of water, Nestle has moved to another market – Asia. Alongside companies such as Kraft or Shell, Nestle made several environmental violations.

Nestle Sources Shanghai Ltd’s bottled water manufacturing plant also made the list for starting operation before its wastewater treatment facilities had passed an environmental impact assessment.

“These are only some of the water pollution violations committed by multinational companies in China, since our website has yet to cover information about air and solid waste pollution,” said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs. “The parent companies in their home countries are models for environmental protection. But they have slackened their efforts in China.”

Another article claims that Nestle capitalizes on China’s already-polluted waters to make a good profit, while Corporate Watch highlights the fact that Nestle continues to extract water illegally from Brazil for their Perrier brand. Although Nestlé lost the legal action, pumping continues as it gets through the appeal procedures, something which can take ten years or more.

Ethiopian Debt

In 2002, Nestle made what turned out to be a colossal error: demanding that Ethiopia pay them back a debt of US$6 million. There’s nothing wrong with that per se… if Ethiopia wasn’t facing extreme famine at the time. For a company that has 29 brands that make over $1 billion a year, asking a famine-stricken country to pay you back 6 million seems questionable, to say the least.

Nestle’s claim dates back to the 1970s when the military regime in Addis Ababa seized the assets of foreign companies.

The public roar came almost overnight with the company receiving 40,000 letters from outraged people, in one of the most famous cases of public opinion beat corporate greed. In the end, Nestle took a U-turn, settling for a partial debt which was also invested in the country’s bouncing back from famine. For Nestle, who initially insisted that the compensation issue was “a matter of principle” and that it was in the best interest of Addis Ababa to settle the demand to repair its record with foreign investors, it was a huge moral defeat. For analysts, it was an exciting case which showed that even giants can falter in the face of public opinion.

“This is a welcome result because it shows that Nestle is not immune to public pressure,” said Phil Bloomer, a senior policy analyst.

A Deal With Mugabe

Striking dubious partnerships to make a profit seems to be a recurring theme. The Swiss multinational made a deal with the wife of the infamous dictator from Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe, buying 1 million liters of milk a year from a farm seized from its rightful owners by Grace Mugabe

Grace has taken over at least six of Zimbabwe’s most valuable white-owned farms since 2002, building a farming empire from illegally confiscated farms, which led to an international boycott, as well as EU and US sanctions. She is known for her ridiculously lavish lifestyle, which includes overseeing the construction of two luxuriant castles. In 2014, she was given a doctorate diploma only three months after signing up for the program. Nestle went forward with the deal though, even as the country’s agriculture-based economy was collapsing and inflation was reaching unheard of levels.

Price Fixing

In Canada, the Competition Bureau raided the offices of Nestlé Canada (along with those of Hershey Canada Inc. and Mars Canada Inc) in an investigation on price fixing. Nestlé and the other companies were subject to class-action lawsuits and ultimately settled for $9 million, without actually admitting liability. Furthermore, former president and chief executive officer of Nestle Canada is facing criminal charges.

In the US, another, larger trial was rejected, because even though it was plausible that the same thing happened in the US, there was no clear evidence of any foul play. The suspicion remained however and still lingers with the company.

Promoting Unhealthy Food and Mislabeling

That Nestle is promoting unhealthy food should come as no surprise, but the level at which they operate it is simply staggering. A recent report by the UK Consumers Association claims that 7 out of the 15 breakfast cereals with the highest levels of sugar, fat, and salt were Nestle products.

“Nestlé claims to be ‘the world’s leading nutrition, health, and wellness company’, but when it comes to food marketing to kids, Nestlé is a laggard, not a leader,” said CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan.

Nestle dismissed all responsibility in promoting healthy food. To pour even more salt in the foods wound, mister Brabeck came out with a dismissive interview in the Telegraph, claiming that he is not obese yet ‘every morning I have a tablet of dark chocolate as my breakfast’ and that it is the perfect balance and contains everything he needs for the day. Hey, after all, who would actually think that Nestle’s cereals are healthy, right?

But while Nestle’s labels aren’t simply misleading, they have also been downright false. In November 2002, police ordered Nestle Colombia to decommission 200 tons of imported powdered milk, because they were falsely relabeled, not only as a different, local brand, but also with a different production date. A month later another 120 tons suffered the same fate, causing uproar among the Colombian population.

Nestle bringing old powdered milk from a different country and labeling as local and new is not only unethical and illegal, but it poses health hazards for consumers.

Drawing the Line

All major companies have incidents, accidents and scandals. When you have so many people working for you, it’s virtually impossible to maintain a clean sheet. Someone will eventually screw up, someone will eventually do something they should. As I was preparing to write this article, a friend actually asked me if other companies don’t have a similar record, and advised me to look at Mars, for example. What I found was that Mars and other big companies have indeed had their share of scandals (sometimes the same ones as Nestle), but not nearly on the same scale. Nestle has shown, time and time again, that they have few ethics and little interest in a real social responsibility. From promoting their formula to uneducated African mothers to lying about production dates, to using water without a permit to dealing with ruthless dictators, they have often gone the extra mile to make an extra profit – even when the extra mile meant hurting people, directly or indirectly.

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Federal prosecutors snare 3rd generics exec in price-fixing investigation

In a long-running price-fixing probe into some of the generics industry's biggest players, federal prosecutors have seen modest returns so far for their efforts. But now, a third generics exec is facing charges, and more could be on the way as a massive lawsuit moves through the courts.

Pennsylvania federal prosecutors on Tuesday charged Ara Aprahamian, a former sales executive at Taro Pharma, on three counts of conspiring to fix prices for the company's generic drugs and lying to investigators, the Department of Justice said in a statement.

Aprahamian was targeted for his stints as VP of marketing and VP of sales and marketing between 2013 and 2016, during which he spearheaded two separate price-fixing campaigns with unnamed drugmakers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania then later lied about his role in the schemes, prosecutors said.

The conspiracy charges come with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and $1 million in fines, prosecutors said. The third count of lying to investigators carries a penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Aprahamian is now the third generics executive charged in connection with the wide-ranging price-fixing probe, which netted a settlement with two generics execs in 2017. In January of that year, Jeffrey Glazer and Jason Malek, the former CEO and president of Heritage Pharmaceuticals, respectively, inked deals to settle federal price-fixing charges leveled the month before.

In exchange for their guilty pleas, Glazer and Malek agreed to turn state's witnesses in Connecticut federal court.

Prosecutors have also brought cases against two New Jersey-based drugmakers—including Heritage—for their roles in price-fixing schemes, U.S. Attorney William McSwain said in a statement.

In those cases, Rising Pharmaceuticals agreed in December to pay $3 million in exchange for a guilty plea in a scheme to set prices for hypertension med Benazepril HCTZ. Heritage reached a deal in March to pay $7 million to cooperate with the feds in their probe.

With the dominoes starting to fall in the feds' yearslong collusion probe, even bigger players––including Pfizer, Mylan and Teva––could find themselves in the firing line with a massive state-driven lawsuit moving through the courts.

In May, 44 states launched a mammoth case against 20 generic drugmakers that Connecticut Attorney General William Tong called "the largest cartel case in the history of the United States."

At industry dinners, cocktail parties and outings—and in follow-up phone calls and texts—the companies divvied up markets and agreed on prices, the 524-page complaint alleges. And though Teva played a starring role, each of the other defendants “willingly participated” and “reaped substantial monetary rewards,” the suit (PDF) claimed.

The suit directly named Maureen Cavanaugh, Teva's former senior vice president and chief commercial officer in North America, and three lower-level executives who no longer work at the company. Aside from Teva, the lawsuit implicates Novartis’ Sandoz unit, Mylan, Pfizer and several other leading generic drug makers. It names current and former executives from Lupin, Glenmark and other companies.

After five years of investigating, the states identified more than 100 drugs for which they allege defendants illegally divided up markets and fixed prices. In some cases, price hikes that stemmed from backroom conversations were more than 1,000%, Tong said. The scheme covered a wide array of drug types and classes, including treatments for multiple sclerosis, HIV, ADHD and cancer.


3 Sentenced in Price-Fixing Plot at Archer Daniels

Three former Archer Daniels Midland Co. executives, including the son of former longtime Chairman Dwayne Andreas, were sentenced to prison for their roles in a global conspiracy to fix the price of lysine, an animal feed additive.

Michael Andreas, 50, and Terrance Wilson, 61, a former ADM division chief, received identical sentences of 24 months in prison and $350,000 fines.

Michael Andreas is a former ADM vice chairman and had been considered likely to succeed his father as head of the big Decatur, Ill., grain and soybean processor.

Mark Whitacre, 42, a former ADM division chief who became an FBI mole, was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

Whitacre already is serving a nine-year prison term for stealing millions of dollars from ADM and has been ordered to pay $11.4 million in restitution.

U.S. District Judge Blanche Manning ordered Whitacre to serve 10 of the months concurrently with his present sentence and 20 months in addition to it.

The former executives faced a maximum of three years in prison and $350,000 fines each. Last month, Manning ruled that prosecutors did not provide enough information about the defendants’ criminal activities to warrant stiffer penalties.

The convictions of the former executives by a federal jury in September capped a three-year FBI investigation of ADM and its foreign rivals in the $600-million world lysine market. As part of the probe, Whitacre secretly taped meetings of ADM and rival executives for 2 1/2 years.

ADM itself pleaded guilty in October 1996 to fixing the price of lysine and citric acid, which is used in soft drinks and other products, and paid a then-record $100-million fine.

In a phone call from prison that was broadcast in open court, Whitacre said before his sentencing that “the Justice Department would have had no case” without his cooperation. “I risked my life and career for them,” he said.

Judge Manning acknowledged Whitacre’s cooperation but nonetheless tacked more time onto his current sentence.

During the seven-week trial last year, prosecutors portrayed Wilson as the conspiracy’s mastermind. Michael Andreas gave final approval to the price-fixing plan, they said. Whitacre headed the division that made the lysine.

In arguing for less than the maximum sentences, Andreas’ attorney, Jack Bray, and Wilson’s attorney, Reid Weingarten, tried to paint a picture of a government investigation that had gone out of control and was manipulated by Whitacre.

Bray suggested that prosecutors went after Andreas because of his famous name.

Dwayne Andreas, 81, known for his political connections both domestically and abroad, served as ADM’s chairman for 28 years before stepping down in January in favor of his nephew, Allen Andreas. He had turned the position of chief executive over to Allen in April 1997.

However, the judge said she believed Michael Andreas and Wilson’s participation in the conspiracy was as great as anyone’s.

Attorneys for Andreas and Wilson said they plan to appeal the sentences. Bill Walker, Whitacre’s attorney, also said he may appeal the added jail time.


‘The facts were unknown, concealed and covered up’

Veolia signed a $40,000 contract with Flint on 10 February 2015 for a “top-down assessment” of Flint water, and its proposal said it would review and evaluate the city’s water treatment process and distribution system.

But Veolia has said it was only hired by the city to assess bacteria and harmful chlorine compounds (trihalomethanes) in Flint’s water supply, not lead.

Veolia said it nonetheless warned city officials about the possibility of lead contamination, and that the city resisted discussions of changing its water supply. Veolia said it warned the then mayor, Dayne Walling, about how the corrosive water could cause lead to leach from the pipes and raised corrosion in a final public report to the city on 18 March 2015. But that report did not disclose the possibility for lead contamination, focusing instead on how corrosion could be causing water discoloration.

Months prior, in 2014, Flint had switched its water supply from the Detroit water system to the Flint River. But the Flint River water was not properly treated to reduce its corrosive properties on old pipes. So in addition to the bacteria and trihalomethanes, lead from the pipes began to flow into local taps.

In a 20-page response to questions from the Guardian and MLive, Veolia argued that city and state officials caused the crisis and are now “trying to create a corporate villain where one does not exist”.

The national guard supplied bottled water to residents on 7 February 2016 in Flint, Michigan. Photograph: Sarah Rice/Getty Images

“It is critical when analyzing what happened in Flint to remember the context of the situation at the time it occurred we now know in 2019 the myriad of ways that the government officials behaved badly, but as the Flint water crisis unfolded many of those facts were unknown, concealed and covered up by the government perpetrators,” Veolia said.

Nayyirah Shariff, director of the local activism group Flint Rising, recalls presentations Veolia executives made to city officials and the public at the time, in a news conference on 10 February and public meetings on 18 February and 19 March.

She remembers feeling the company downplayed the concerns of residents.

“They were like, ‘everything is fine,” Shariff said. To her, Veolia’s assessment at the time “raised more questions and didn’t add up to what we were beginning to see”.

Veolia’s interim water quality report, presented on 18 February, said: “Safe = Compliance with state and federal standards and required testing. Latest tests show water is in compliance with drinking water standards.”

An MLive article on that presentation was headlined: “Despite quality problems, ‘Your water is safe,’ says Flint consultant.”

Downtown Flint, Michigan, on 21 January 2016. Photograph: Paul Sancya/AP


Water Producer to Pay $5M Over Illegal Waste

The maker of Crystal Geyser was accused of discharging wastewater with high levels of arsenic.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A California company that produces Crystal Geyser bottled water pleaded guilty Thursday to illegally storing and transporting hazardous waste and agreed to a $5 million fine, federal prosecutors said.

The waste was produced by filtering arsenic out of Sierra Nevada spring water at CG Roxane LLC's facility in Owens Valley, authorities said.

The company entered the pleas to one count of unlawful storage of hazardous waste and one count of unlawful transportation of hazardous material, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

The office said the $5 million fine was included in a recently filed plea agreement.

The U.S. Attorney's Office statement noted that the investigation focused on handling, storage and transportation of CG Roxane’s wastewater, “not the safety or quality of CG Roxane’s bottled water."

U.S. District Judge S. James Otero scheduled a sentencing hearing for Feb. 24. A call to a telephone listing for the company facility was not answered Thursday.

Prosecutors say the company used sand filters to reduce the concentration of naturally occurring arsenic in the spring water to meet federal drinking water standards.

“To maintain the effectiveness of the sand filters, CG Roxane back-flushed the filters with a sodium hydroxide solution, which generated thousands of gallons of arsenic-contaminated wastewater," the office said.

CG Roxane was accused of discharging the wastewater into a manmade pond for about 15 years.

Pond sampling by local water quality officials in 2013 found arsenic concentrations above the hazardous waste limit, as did subsequent sampling by state authorities and the company, prosecutors said.

State officials instructed the company to remove the pond but that was done by two hired companies without identifying the wastewater as hazardous material, resulting in 23,000 gallons (87,064 liters) being discharged into a sewer without proper treatment, prosecutors said.

The two companies were charged along with CG Roxane in 2018 and await a trial set for April.


Samsung fixed chip prices / Korean manufacturer to pay $300 million fine for its role in scam

Samsung Electronics has agreed to plead guilty to federal charges that it took part in an international conspiracy to fix prices on memory chips sold to computer-makers such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Apple.

The Korean manufacturer and its U.S. subsidiary, Samsung Semiconductor, will pay a $300 million fine for its role in the scheme, which ran from April 1999 to June 2002.

The fine is the second-largest criminal antitrust fine in U.S. history, said Phillip Warren, chief of the San Francisco office of the Justice Department's antitrust division.

The largest was a $500 million fine imposed in 1999 against a Swiss company charged with price fixing in vitamins, he added.

"This is important because this has been a prosecution of huge criminal cartel that affected billions of dollars in the sale of a critical component used in personal computers and servers," Warren said.

"The direct victims involve the largest personal computer manufacturers in the world and include firms based in the Silicon Valley," he said.

Thomas Barnett, acting assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's antitrust division, said the case "illustrates the worldwide scope of our criminal investigations and exemplifies the need to prosecute and deter cartels that target American businesses and consumers."

The plea agreement must be approved by a federal district court, he said.

Samsung also faces multiple civil cases in connection with the price-fixing allegations, Warren said.

Apple said it did not have a comment on the fine.

HP spokesman Ryan Donovan said the Palo Alto technology company and Samsung have agreed to a separate settlement in connection with the price-fixing case. Terms of the agreement were confidential, he said.

HP and Samsung continue to have a business relationship, Donovan said.

Including the Samsung fine, the Justice Department has imposed fines totaling more than $646 million against three companies and five individuals in the market for a widely used computer chip called dynamic random-access memory, or DRAM.


Slumping sales led to new flavors of Diet Coke

By the mid-2010s, sales of Diet Coke were on a decidedly downward trajectory. By 2017, reported Beverage Marketing, sales of bottled water had, for the first time ever, surpassed soda to become America's top beverage category. The growing popularity of bottled water was bad news for Diet Coke and other sugar-free sodas, as it was cutting directly into the category's market share.

In response to Diet Coke's slumping sales, Coca-Cola made a big move. According to a 2018 press release, the Diet Coke can underwent a redesign to arrive at a slim new look. In addition, four new flavors were introduced targeting millennials, with original Diet Coke joined by Twisted Mango, Ginger Lime, Zesty Blood Orange and Feisty Cherry varieties.

"Diet Coke is one of the most iconic brands loved by millions of fans in North America," said Rafael Acevedo, Coca-Cola North America's group director for Diet Coke. As Acevedo explained, the company's goal was to "be bold, think differently and be innovative." The ultimate intention, he explained, was to ensure that the company "stay true to the essence of Diet Coke" while "recasting the brand" in hopes of reeling in a new generation of Diet Coke drinkers.


Exubera

AP Photo

Exubera, launched by Pfizer in 2006, stumbled with consumers and doctors alike when the inhalable form of insulin was found to be no more effective that injectable insulin while being nearly twice as expensive. [The New York Times reported in 2007 that Merck's diabetes pill, Januvia, was being prescribed about 25 times as often as Exubera.]

Pfizer took a reported $2.8 billion write-off on Exubera.

YouTube

Sometimes a product failure is due to circumstances seemingly beyond the company's control. Originally marketed in the 1930s, the appetite suppressant candy Ayds suffered in the 1980s as consumers gained awareness of a fatal epidemic bearing an uncomfortably similar name.

The company responded by changing the product's name - to Diet Ayds.


The Heart of The Cocktail Plus 20 Recipes

It isn’t just for ad execs on Madison Avenue, cocktails have always been a part of popular culture.  Until recently, I had only ever tried the basics, Martini (not my thing, Bond can keep it), Gin and Tonic, Screwdrivers, Margaritas and Mojitos.  Once I started to really enjoy wine I਍idn’t even consider cocktails except on vacation to a tropical destination.  Over the years, friends and Shabbat guests would enjoy single malt scotch and bourbon, but straight liquor was never that appealing to me. Maybe I owe a debt of gratitude to Don Draper, but we are now living during a renaissance of the cocktail culture and my rocks glass will never be the same.

Taking center stage alongside the food at any fine new restaurant, are creative cocktails featuring fresh fruit, herbs, artisanal liquors and savvy combinations from thoughtful bartenders.  The most interesting menu in town, more often than not, is the cocktail menu.

Craft distilleries, small producers making their own whiskeys, rum, gin and liqueurs, are leading the way and encouraging wine drinkers to put aside preconceived notions of mixed drinks and try something new. ꂺrtenders are shaking things up with new flavors, from savory to sweet and spicy.

For kosher consumers, we have it pretty easy for a change.  Most spirits, including Rum, Tequila, Scotch, and Bourbon are considered kosher by most authorities, even without a hechsher.  Liquors, bitters and other mix-ins raise a number of kosher issues and you should seek out a kosher symbol on the bottle or consult your local Rabbi for guidance.  ਏor unique specialty flavored kosher certified liqueurs check out Koval, Binyamina, and Morad. 

The trick to a good cocktail after the main alcohol is the mixers. In addition to flavored liqueurs, a flavored simple syrup goes a long way to make a cocktail great.  Simply heat equal parts sugar and water until sugar is dissolved along with your flavor of choice.  Mint simple syrup is perfect for mojitos, daiquiris, or juleps and Ginger syrup is ideal for Moscow mules.  Plus simple syrup is an invaluable ingredient to have around the kitchen as it can be used to sweeten cookies, baked goods, teas, and coffees, and it is the perfect addition to start your own bar.  

As you start building your bar, buy some bitters.  Say that three times fast!  Bitters add a lot of flavor to drinks and Angostura, found near the soda aisle in most grocery stores is certified kosher.  The next level is to try making your own, but until then get a small bottle and start experimenting.

Cocktails don’t have to be overly complicated or require a lot of ingredients, all you really need is some fresh lemon or lime juice, simple syrup, some craft whiskey or rye and a few dashes of bitters and you can make it a Mad Men night.

Here are some cocktail recipes we have created to help inspire you, but don&apost let these hold you back from riffing on them and getting creative on your own.