PHE warns infant diets have too high sugar content

PHE warns infant diets have too high sugar content

Public Health England has found evidence that children under three are being turned into “heavy snackers” by crisps, biscuits and dried fruit aimed at babies and young children. It said misleading labelling meant that baby snacks marketed as healthy may contain as much sugar as sweets. It has called on the Government to take action to how such products are marketed.

The Sunday Times  has reported that supermarkets and food brands, including Heinz and Cow & Gate, are selling products containing more sugar than Coco Pops for babies only four months old. Sainsbury’s sells Aptamil Creamed Porridge, manufactured by the French food group Danone, which has 9.4g of sugar in a standard 24g serving. A standard 30g serving of Kellogg’s Coco Pops contains 5.1g of sugar.

Farley’s Rusks Original, manufactured by Heinz, contain 4.9g of sugar in each 17g rusk and are promoted for four-month-old babies. Cow & Gate Fruity Porridge, also produced by Danone, has one of the highest sugar contents: 39.8g per 100g. By comparison, standard Quaker Oats contain 1.1g of sugar per 100g.

Tam Fry, an adviser to Action on Sugar and chairman of the National Obesity Forum, told the newspaper: “This is unbelievable. The baby food companies are ignoring government advice, and their products will give babies a sweet tooth from the earliest age. It will cause damage from obesity and dental decay for years to come.”

Public Health England says that diets in infancy in the UK are not, on average, in line with national recommendations, with excess calorie and sugar intake being common. The consequences of this, they say, are likely to have an effect across the life course -affecting diets, body weights, and disease risk throughout childhood and into adult life.

PHE concludes: “Our children are starting off on the wrong trajectory for their future wellbeing. Society, including the food and drink industry, should support parents to make the best possible choices for their infants’ health now and into the future.”

PHE recommends that the following action should be considered by the Government and food industry:

  • Ensure product marketing is consistent with scientific advice to introduce solid foods at around 6 months of age
  • Ensure honest labelling so that product names are not misleading and are aligned with the primary ingredients
  • Restrict use of nutrition and implied health claims and health halo statements
  • Ensure that clear feeding instructions (use a spoon/do not suck) are present on the front of pack of products packaged in pouches with a nozzle
  • Ensure that products high in sugars are labelled as not being suitable for eating between meals
  • Improve the nutrient composition of commercial baby foods and drinks, reducing sugar in these products, particularly snacks and drinks.

Link to PHE report:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/812204/Foods_and_drinks_aimed_at_infants_and_young_children_June_2019.pdf

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