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A report has discovered that Nestlé incorporates sugars into baby food in low-income nations

Experts caution that babies and infants who consume excessive sugar at a young age may face long-term health repercussions

Nestlé’s Cerelac baby cereal in Switzerland claims “no added sugar” on its label. However, the same product sold in Senegal and South Africa contains 6 grams of added sugar per serving, while in the Philippines, a variant for babies 1 to 6 months old packs a staggering 7.3 grams of added sugar per serving, nearly two teaspoons’ worth, as revealed by a recent investigation by Public Eye and the International Baby Food Action Network.

This apparent “double standard” in Nestlé’s creation and marketing of its baby food brands globally was alleged in a report published in the BMJ in April, raising concerns among health experts worldwide. The report accuses Nestlé of adding sugars and honey to some of its baby cereal and formula in lower-income countries while advertising products in Europe and elsewhere as “no added sugars.”

Nestlé responded on its website, acknowledging efforts to reduce sugar in infant cereals but also stating the provision of options without added sugar. However, Public Eye’s investigation, which involved testing 115 baby food products under the Cerelac and Nido brands across Africa, Asia, and Latin America, found that 94% contained added sugar, averaging almost 4 grams per serving.

The investigation faced challenges in finding labs for testing, with Swiss labs declining participation due to concerns over potential repercussions. Nestlé, parent company of Cerelac and Nido, reported significant growth in its infant nutrition products in 2023, contributing to substantial profits.

Critics argue that the levels of added sugar in Nestlé’s baby foods contradict international nutritional guidelines for children and infants. While the World Health Organization advises against added sugar in foods for infants under 3 in the European Region, India’s Food Safety and Standards Authority launched an independent investigation into Nestlé following the report’s publication.

Nestlé asserts compliance with regulations, stating its commitment to providing nutritionally balanced products and reducing added sugars worldwide. However, critics, including WHO scientists, deem such a double standard unjustifiable.

Experts warn of long-term health consequences for babies and infants consuming excessive sugar, emphasizing the importance of establishing healthy eating habits from a young age. Pediatricians urge parents to prioritize reading ingredients and modeling healthy behavior, while advocating for global education on traditional infant nutrition methods and urging Nestlé to cease production of all infant products with added sugar.

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