Nutrition plays a vital role in shaping healthy lives, particularly for the youngest generation. The first years of a child’s life are crucial for establishing healthy eating habits. Introducing a balanced, varied and nutritious diet from the start sets the foundation for a lifetime of good health.
It is recommended that infants should avoid sugar-sweetened drinks and foods with added sugars. Additionally, after the age of two, their daily intake of free sugars should not exceed 5% of their energy intake, which equates to approximately 14g.
Unfortunately, alarming statistics reveal by the time children reach 18 months old, they are consuming nearly 30g of free sugars per day – a level equivalent to the recommended maximum intake for adults.
While we appreciate some of this may be coming from foods designed for older children and adults, data shows the main contributor of sugars in infants aged four to nine months is coming from commercial babyfoods – in particular fruit-based and cereal-based foods, which is setting them up to prefer and pester parents for sweeter foods.
Furthermore, our analysis reveals a staggering difference of up to 64g in total sugars between similar products in various babyfood categories. In this case, you can find a brand selling a processed fruit snack with 70g sugars per 100g versus a similar product with 6.4g per 100g.
Yet despite this, we continue to not have clear guidance for the babyfood industry on, for instance, the level of sugars that shouldn’t be exceeded in certain commercial babyfoods. These disparities emphasise the need for clear guidelines that can help reduce sugar content and promote healthier options for our little ones.
While some babyfood companies have made strides in reducing sugar content, there are clearly still products on the market with unsuitably high sugar levels.
Recognising the urgent need to address this issue, Action on Sugar, in collaboration with leading infant, child and health organisations, is urging health secretary Steve Barclay to release the Commercial Baby Food and Drink Guidelines. These guidelines should be ready for release, having gone through a consultation process in 2020, and are needed now to ensure unsuitable products do not continue to be marketed to parents as suitable for babies.
A second letter has been co-signed by three babyfood companies – Babease, Little Dish and Little Freddie – who together represent a significant proportion of the babyfood market.
The release of the Commercial Baby Food and Drink Guidelines is a crucial step towards providing our infants with a healthier start in life. By reducing excessive sugar content and promoting nutritionally appropriate options, these guidelines will help shape the future of babyfood.