Snack or Starve: The Debate Surrounding Nestlé Selling Processed Food in Brazil

To learn more about food security among people living in poverty in rural countries, check out Poverty, Food Security, and the Right to Health, by Robert S. Lawrence, Iris Chan, and Emily Goodman, available on Westlaw and LexisNexis.

by Zachary Karlan

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Image available here

Nestlé is by far the largest food and beverage company in the world.[1] In September of 2017, the New York Times published “How Big Business Got Brazil Hooked on Junk Food,” in which it explains how Nestlé employs Brazilian citizens to deliver its products right to the front door of approximately 250,000 households.[2] Nestlé and other companies have aggressively adopted a presence in developing countries like Brazil to combat declining sales in more economically developed nations.[3] This door-to-door delivery model makes it simple for the poorest Brazilians to access food, especially those who do not live near a supermarket.[4] Although not currently in service, Nestlé used to have a floating barge that would deliver food to villages in the Amazon.[5] According to the company, Nestlé serves 700,000 “lower income consumers” who benefit from “products enriched with vitamin A, iron and zinc—the three major nutritional deficiencies in Brazil.”[6] On its face, Nestlé and other multinational companies who employ a similar model for global expansion appear to provide an objectively good service: Providing poor individuals with food that might not otherwise be accessible and at a price they can afford. However, studies show that Brazil is facing a serious obesity problem due to the abundance of processed foods from companies like Nestlé.[7] This should force us to question whether this program is truly helping the poor.

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