baby food

Children are consuming more sugar than is recommended and their health is paying the price. Nearly 45,000 hospital operations were performed in August 2020 to remove rotting teeth in children, and the prevalence of children living with obesity doubles from reception to year six.

It is therefore vital we do what is necessary to ensure all children have access to a healthy diet as early as possible. Unfortunately, our latest report on commercial baby products found many companies are exposing children to harmful sugars – with the highest containing 14.5g sugars per serve, equivalent to four teaspoons.

What’s more, despite many companies using processed fruit and vegetables as an ingredient, most manufacturers choose to use legally permitted yet somewhat deceiving claims of ‘no added sugar’ or ‘only naturally occurring sugars’ on their products. This is highly misleading considering guidelines state children under the age of two years should not be consuming any added sugars, which includes free sugars from processed fruit and vegetables.

We know for a fact parents are concerned about the level of sugars found in food and drink marketed for babies and toddlers, and are in favour of government action to make sure all food stocked in the baby aisle is nutritionally appropriate. Yet sadly, this sector is in a black hole when it comes to policies designed to protect children’s health, despite being a key contributor of sugars in infants.

In 2017, the government committed to expanding its work on sugar reduction to this market with a review detailing the misalignment of commercial babyfood and drinks against dietary advice for children up to the age of three. Initial steps were taken to produce nutrition guidelines for the infant food and drink sector but, following a consultation in 2020, these measures have not been implemented – seemingly collecting dust on policy-makers’ desks.

It is now clear there is an urgent need for robust measures to be introduced to incentivise the food industry to reduce sugar across a wide range of products, including those marketed for babies and toddlers.

Furthermore, the long-overdue government guidelines for baby and toddler products must be published to guide manufacturers on how much sugars should be used. This way, they can act responsibly and commit to reformulation, instead of foisting unhealthy products with misleading nutrition claims upon well-meaning parents.