PRESS RELEASE: Nestle USA’s Relocation to Arlington Not So Sweet

Arlington County Board Candidate Audrey Clement welcomed the news that 1812 N. Moore Street, Arlington’s tallest office building–which has been vacant since construction in 2013–will soon have a new tenant.

“Finding a tenant was a major coup for the owner, Monday Properties, and for the County itself, which is struggling with a 20% office vacancy rate,” said Clement. “But the choice of tenant–Nestle USA–leaves a lot to be desired.”

With a market capitalization of $235 billion and $9.4 billion in annual profits, Nestle is the world’s largest food corporation. But there is a dark side to Nestle – and it’s not chocolate.

Nestle gained international notoriety in the seventies and eighties for marketing breast milk substitutes in impoverished countries, causing widespread malnutrition and even death to infants hooked on formula prepared with unsafe drinking water.

In 2008 the Chinese government accused Nestle of marketing melamine laced milk products.

More recently Nestle has been accused of exploiting child labor to harvest cocoa in the Ivory Coast and adult slave labor on fishing boats in Thailand.

In 2016 the pro-business U.S. Supreme Court rebuffed Nestle’s attempt to dismiss a case brought by former child slaves from Mali, upholding an appeals court decision that the children have standing to sue Nestle in federal court.

Nestle’s tarnished public image isn’t limited to allegations of predatory practices overseas. Outgoing Nestle Chairman Peter Brabeck claims that water that is not needed for hydration or sanitation is not a right but a commodity that should be priced.

But Nestle is paying little to nothing for the bottled water it markets. As recently as 2015, residents of then drought stricken Sacramento revealed that Nestle was purchasing tens of millions of gallons of water from Sacramento aquifers at residential rates, bottling the water and selling it for a huge profit.

It was also revealed that Nestle had been drawing water from San Bernardino National Forest without a permit from U.S. Forest service since 1988.

In 2016 Democracy Now revealed that Nestle has been pumping water for decades from aquifers that feed Lake Michigan free of charge. Nestle’s bottled water was used to supply residents of Flint, Michigan, who were themselves billed for the water piped to their homes from the polluted Flint River.

Arlington County Board is clearly unconcerned about Nestle’s less than stellar corporate reputation. But Nestle would be unhappy to learn that County Board Chairman Jay Fisette, opposes bottled water use. In fact in 2013 Fisette launched a campaign to discourage bottled water in Arlington County at a forum he hosted at George Mason University called “Just Say No to Bottled H20.”

In 2013 Fisette argued that bottled water is expensive, wasteful and polluting. His mantra was: “Think outside the bottle.”

Now County Board under Fisette’s leadership not only welcomes the world’s largest producer of bottled water, it actually forked over $6 million in local funds to induce Nestle USA to make the move. Governor McAuliffe chipped in another $10 million of state funds. That’s a little hard to swallow when you consider how Nestle makes its money.

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