Nestlé has violated Indian law after sponsoring a clinical trial to observe and record the outcomes of substitutes for breast milk on infants.

The violation comes under the Infant Milk Substitutes (IMS) Act that stipulates that manufacturers are prohibited from sponsoring or funding medical research or financing any part of the Indian health care system.

The Multicentric Observational Study to Observe Growth in Preterm Hospitalized Infants’ research trial was implemented in five major India hospitals. Bangalore’s Cloud Nine Hospital and Manipal Hospitals, the Institute of Child Health in Kolkata, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi, and the Calcutta Medical Research Institute in Kolkata are all said to have taken part with the illegal funding.

The clinical trials documented the effects of milk substitutes on 75 premature babies in the above mentioned hospitals.

According to the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India’s (BPNI) central coordinator Dr Arun Grupta, Nestlé’s conduct is in gross violation of the law.

“This is a gross and blatant violation of the IMS Act, and attracts the section 9.2, demanding strict action by the authorities.

“The hospital receiving such monetary or material Support need to be aware that violation of the IMS Act is a criminal offence; cognisable under IPC.”

BPNI has contacted the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare informing them of the violation. Since then, the health ministry has ordered an investigation into the complaint, as well as recommending that all future trials are screened for any future infringements of the IMS Act.

Nestlé has since denied that any violation occurred, and published their statement outlining the company’s ethics and responsibility to India.