A major health conference in Scotland was cancelled last week following complaints about it being sponsored by a controversial multinational company.

Organiser P3 Media axed the event after senior NHS figures urged a boycott over the presence of Nestlé, whose promotion of baby milk products over breast milk in the developing world has been the subject of decades of controversy.

Campaigners have claimed Switzerland-based Nestlé tactics contributed to health problems and infant mortality among the world's poorest children.

The Building A Healthier, Fairer Scotland conference was scheduled to take place at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh last Tuesday.

Sixteen renowned speakers, including NHS directors and charity chief executives, were to address delegates on issues spanning obesity, tobacco control, hepatitis C and child nutrition.

However, divisions emerged after it emerged that Nestlé was the event's "gold" sponsor.

After the conference agenda was circulated, objections were raised and nine members of the Scottish Public Health Network, which brings together senior health service figures, also complained.

In a letter, they wrote: "In view of your decision (some would suggest error) in accepting sponsorship from a transnational confectionery and breast milk substitute manufacturer, we will be recommending to colleagues that they should not attend or participate in your conference."

The event was then axed at the 11th hour.

According to P3 Media documents, "gold" sponsorship would have given Nestlé "exclusive benefits and high impact branding".

Its representatives were to be allowed to stand alongside morning keynote speakers and deliver a presentation.

Nestlé would also have been acknowledged during the opening address and given exhibition space in a "prime location" in the "networking surgery".

P3 Media is based in Manchester and specialises in "public sector conferences and networking".

Jane-Claire Judson, the national director of Diabetes Scotland, explained why she had pulled out of chairing the event: "Diabetes Scotland asked the organisation responsible for running the conference to confirm that Nestlé would not be a sponsor. This did not happen within a reasonable timescale and so Diabetes Scotland took the decision to withdraw from the conference."

Patti Rundall, the policy director of Baby Milk Action, a campaign group to protect infant health, said: "I think the conference company was naive and misguided in taking Nestlé as a sponsor."

A spokesperson for Nestlé said: "We were very disappointed to learn that the conference was cancelled."

P3 Media did not respond to a request for comment.