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Nestle Faces Scrutiny Over High Sugar Baby Products in India

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A recent investigation by Swiss NGO Public Eye and the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) has revealed concerning findings about Nestle‘s baby products in different global markets.

The report, highlighted by The Guardian, pointed out discrepancies in sugar content across various nations, with significantly higher levels found in Nestle’s products in South Asian, African, and Latin American markets compared to Europe.

Of particular concern was Nestle’s wheat-based baby product, Cerelac, designed for six-month-old infants. While the UK and Germany versions had no added sugars, the Indian variant contained 2.7 grams of added sugar per serving, and the Thailand version had the highest at 6 grams.

In India, 15 Cerelac products were analyzed, showing an average of 2.7 grams of added sugar per serving. The report also unveiled oversights in the Philippines, where five out of eight samples had 7.3 grams of sugar per serving without any mention on the packaging.

Responding to the allegations, Nestle India stated their commitment to product quality and ingredient standards, highlighting a reduction of added sugars by up to 30% in their infant cereals portfolio over the last five years.

Dr. Arun Gupta from the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI) raised concerns about the impact of added sugars in baby food, emphasizing the risks of promoting sweet tastes at an early age due to regulatory loopholes.

Added sugars, unlike naturally occurring sugars, are sweetening agents added to processed foods and beverages, posing health risks as per the World Health Organisation‘s guidelines that advise against introducing added sugars before age two to avoid addictive eating habits and health issues.

In 2015, WHO recommended limiting free sugar intake to 10% of total energy intake, with a further reduction to 5% or 25 grams/day, excluding natural sugars. However, Indian regulations lack specific upper limits for added sugars in infant nutrition standards.

Nestle’s history includes controversies like the Maggi noodles ban in India in 2015, allegations of discouraging breastfeeding in the past, as well as legal challenges over child labor in cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast. Environmental concerns over Nestle’s packaging practices and water management in Pakistan have also been raised.

Rachel Adams

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