Pension funds invest nearly £600m in controversial baby milk producers

Vitamin D guidancePension funds investing on behalf of thousands of doctors, nurses and midwifes are pouring vast sums into companies producing baby milk products which it is claimed are being aggressively marketed abroad “without clear scientific rationale”, an Ecostorm investigation with the i newspaper has found.

The findings come as a new report has accused the four largest manufacturers of baby milk substitutes (BMS) – Swiss-based Nestle, France’s Danone, and American companies Mead Johnson Nutrition and Abbott Laboratories – of differentiating their products across markets based on consumer research rather than hard science.

The Milking It study, led by British-based campaign group the Changing Markets Foundation, found that families in some parts of the world are paying huge premiums compared to parents in places such as the UK in a global market now worth some £36bn a year. In Britain, feeding a two to three-month-old baby with BMS costs up to three per cent of the average salary.

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Dirty fashion: uncovering pollution in the textile supply chain


Ecostorm has contributed to a major new investigation into the production of viscose, a man-made fibre widely used in the textile supply chain, that has uncovered evidence of the impact of dangerous chemicals and noxious gases being generated by polluting factories across Asia.

Evidence gathered by the Changing Markets Foundation at locations in Indonesia, China and India found that viscose factories are dumping highly toxic wastewater into local waterways, destroying marine life and exposing workers and local populations to harmful chemicals.

The report, titled ‘Dirty Fashion: How pollution in the global textiles supply chain is making viscose toxic’, reveals links between the polluting factories and major European and North American fashion brands.

The viscose staple fibre market – which is projected to grow from $13.45 billion in 2016 to $16.78 billion per year by 2021 – is highly concentrated, with 11 companies controlling 75 per cent of global viscose production, so a concerted effort on the part of retailers could achieve dramatic change.

The report also highlights that new viscose production methods already exist, which do not rely on the abundant use of toxic chemicals and bring manufacturing into a ‘closed loop’ so that the chemicals which are used do not escape into the environment.


Dead Zone: the hidden cost of industrial farming on the world’s wildlife

elephantstmactionpageEcostorm has again worked with Compassion in World Farming during its major two year investigation that resulted in the publication of the brand new book  Dead Zone: Where the Wild Things Were  and campaign which explores the hidden impact of industrialised farming on the world’s wildlife, and takes readers on a journey around the world, travelling from the rainforests of the Amazon to the Midwest plains of America; the palm plantations of Sumatra to the volcanic diversity of Galapagos; the grasslands of England to the Malaysian jungle.

As with 2014’s Farmageddon project  Ecostorm co-ordinated and carried out extensive field investigations across the globe and co-produced a series of films documenting many of the issues covered in the book.

More information on the Stop the Machine Campaign here

Watch some of the films here 




New report reveals “greenwash” in European carpet industry

Less than 3 per cent of carpets sold in Europe are recycled, despite high-profile sustainability initiatives within the industry, claim new reports published today in France and Germany. Journalists and researchers from the Ecostorm network contributed to the investigation, coordinated by Changing Markets. 

The reports, published by Zero Waste France, Deutsche Umwelthilfe and Changing Markets, show that in a time, when European countries are considering ambitious recycling targets in the framework of the circular economy package, the carpet sector is lagging behind. Reuse and recycling are still virtually non-existent in the carpet sector, despite environmental claims of some of the industry’s biggest players.


For here for more information

The secret deforestation behind global meat production

Soy is an important base ingredient of the world’s meat. Approximately three quarters of the world’s soy goes into animal feed.

But this soy production has left an enormous scar on the Earth’s surface. More than one million square kilometers of the planet – equivalent to the total combined area of France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands – are dedicated to growing soy according to some estimates.

In South America, soy and cattle interests have converted vast areas of the Amazon rainforest, Brazil’s Cerrado, the Argentine Chaco, Bolivian lowland forests and the Atlantic Forest in Paraguay from diverse native ecosystems into soy monocultures. From 2001-2010, an average of approximately four million hectares of forests were destroyed each year, mostly for soy and cattle.

Ecostorm contributed information, videos and photography to a major investigative project launched in February 2017 by US-based non-profit Mighty Earth. The New York Times published a major report on the investigation simultaneously.

Ecostorm has previously investigated the intensive livestock feed sector globally, including major reports on fishmeal in Peru and Thailand.

Antibiotic factories “spreading superbugs” – investigation

  • New tests reveal lethal drug-resistant bacteria in water found near multiple production sites in India
  • ‘Dirty’ factories supply U.S. and European healthcare providers including UK NHS

A new report by campaigning organisation Changing Markets published today reveals, for the first time, the presence of drug-resistant bacteria at pharmaceutical manufacturing sites in India. The report also casts light on the supply chain that links the factories investigated to companies, public health services and hospitals in the United States and Europe.

On-the-ground research by investigative agency Ecostorm, and subsequent analysis of water samples under the supervision of Dr. Mark Holmes from the University of Cambridge, found high levels of drug-resistant bacteria at sites in three Indian cities: Hyderabad, New Delhi and Chennai.

Out of 34 sites tested, 16 were found to be harbouring bacteria resistant to antibiotics. At four of the sites, resistance to three major classes of antibiotics was detected, including antibiotics of ‘last resort’, those used to treat infections that fail to respond to all other medicines.

Detailed examination of publicly available supply chain data, and evidence obtained through Freedom of Information requests, has uncovered how antibiotics manufactured at or near these sites are being exported to foreign purchasers, including the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), French hospitals, and major pharma companies.

Growing antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which is a matter of particular concern in the case of antibiotics, is one of the gravest threats to human health. Global deaths as a result of drug-resistant infections are projected to reach 10 million per year by 2050, with cumulative economic losses of $100 trillion. Medical experts warn that in the near future, drug resistant infections could once again make common illnesses, minor surgery, and routine operations such as hip replacements a life-or-death gamble.

Natasha Hurley, Campaign Manager at Changing Markets said:

“The dumping of antibiotic manufacturing residues poses a grave threat to human health in light of the growing AMR crisis. The discovery of drug-resistant bacteria at Indian factories supplying European and U.S. markets also raises serious questions about pharmaceutical supply chains.

“Major buyers of antibiotics, such as the NHS, must immediately blacklist suppliers that are contributing to the spread of AMR through industrial pollution and ensure that all drug companies take action to clean up their supply chains. NHS doctors and nurses are working around the clock to tackle AMR; it is shocking that the pharmaceutical industry is undermining their lifesaving efforts through shoddy and dangerous practices.”


Reacting to the report, Nina Renshaw, Secretary-General of the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) said:“This report is the latest in a series of studies showing that the pharmaceutical industry is contributing to the rise of antimicrobial resistance. We expect European governments and the European Commission to take this very seriously.

“A first step should be incorporating measures to address environmental pollution, including from the antibiotics manufacturing process, in the European Commission’s AMR action plan, which is currently under review. Unless we address all three causes of AMR – human, animal and industrial – in parallel, we risk losing the fight completely. That would be an unparalleled catastrophe for public health.”

Read the report: “Superbugs in the supply chain: How pollution from antibiotics factories in India and China is fuelling the global rise of drug-resistant infections” by Changing Markets.

Antibiotics film shortlisted for major Guild of Food Writers award

Our 18 month investigation with The Guardian into how antibiotic use on intensive pig farms has put a variation of the superbug MRSA in supermarket pork has been shortlisted for this year’s Guild of Food Writers “Investigative and Campaigning” award. Ecostorm and the Guardian won the prize in last year’s awards for our earlier undercover investigation into hygiene failings in the poultry sector.

Investigation into salad & fruit farm exploitation wins top TV award

Ecostorm’s major undercover investigations with Channel 4 News into the “terrible” working and living conditions for migrants in both UK fruit packing factories and on Spanish salad farms has won the Harold Wincott Award for Television Journalism of the Year.

The four part investigation, broadcast last year, prompted the judges to comment: “Channel 4 News took on a story about labour conditions in the supermarket fruit and vegetable packing supply chain, where an undercover reporter worked with Business Editor Siobhan Kennedy to lay out a charge sheet of appalling working conditions which resulted in an immediate response from the supermarkets involved.”

Watch the two lead films here:

More info here

Chicken farms “risk workers and food safety” – investigation

Britain’s poultry sector is in the midst of its annual Christmas bonanza as consumers splash out on festive supplies. But as people rush to get their meat they may be unaware of a dark side to this industry. Previous investigations by the Guardian and ecostorm uncovered a catalogue of alleged hygiene failings in the poultry industry. And now there are also concerns about working conditions…

Read our special report in The Guardian here

Mega-dairy UK: stealth rise in factory farming

An investigation published with The Independent newspaper today revealed how large US-style factory dairies and confinement units are spreading across the UK countryside. The findings come as the UK dairy sector continues to grapple with the consequences of the low price paid to dairy farmers, leading to soem farmers to exist the industry altogether. You can read the full investigation coverage here:

Plummeting milk price prompts ‘stealth’ rise of 2,000-cow ‘mega-dairies’ in UK

The controversial ‘mega-dairies’ that alarm campaigners and divide a struggling sector of British agriculture

Consumers would pay a premium to avoid the cruelty and environmental costs of factory-produced milk

Investigation uncovers ‘rampant’ illegal logging in Romania

Romania is home to Europe’s last remaining virgin forests and some of the continent’s largest populations of bears, wolves, and lynx. But these forests are under serious threat due to ‘rampant’ illegal logging, according to campaigners. During a major investigation spanning several years, to which Ecostorm contributed information and photographic evidence, the US-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) documented this illegal logging and examined the involvement of a leading Austrian-based timber and wood processing company. Read the report and other background.

Bad apples: the hidden cost of supermarket fruit


We’ve been undercover with Channel 4 News investigating conditions for some those picking and packing supermarket fruit at a major facility in Kent. What we found was shocking and has provoked an immediate outcry. Our undercover reporter experienced first hand the highly-pressured environment at the Mansfields packhouse at Chartham, with managers breathing down workers’ necks to meet strict targets.

Some of them live in appalling conditions that they say are supplied by the agency they work for – and that some say aren’t fit for animals. The packhouse supplies fruit to top retailers, and after our evidence was broadcast Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer have all told Channel 4 News they have launched investigations. And one supermarket, Aldi, has suspended its orders. The Gangmasters Licensing Authority has also launched an investigation into our findings.

You can watch part 1 of our exclusive investigation, and read the background here. Part 2 of the story follows tonight (Tuesday, 20th October). The investigation follows our reporting earlier this year which highlighted the plight of migrants harvesting salad on farms in Spain, much of destined for UK supermarkets, and earlier investigations into the hard labour behind Italy’s orange trade.


Revealed: livestock MRSA found in supermarket pork

A special Ecostorm / Guardian investigation has today revealed how a new pig superbug – LA-MRSA CC398 – is spreading onto our plates and into our bodies. Watch the disturbing results of our food tests in four of Britain’s biggest supermarkets, where the superbug has been found in pork. It’s not deadly – but factory pigs overdosing on antibiotics is the latest twist on the long road that, microbiologists warn, will make antibiotics so useless that more of us will be die from antibiotic-resistant drugs than from cancer by 2050