Action on Sugar, the expert group based at Queen Mary University of London, along with 16 NGOs are calling for the Health Secretary, Steve Barclay, to release the much-awaited Commercial Baby Food and Drink Guidelines, as data shows the main contributor of sugars in infants, aged four to nine months, is coming from shop brought baby foods – in particular fruit-based and cereal-based foods.
Introducing good nutrition early on is essential in developing a healthy relationship to, and preference for, healthy foods, and in supporting a baby’s future health. It is recommended infants (before the age of two) should avoid sugar sweetened drinks and food with added sugar, and, after this, free sugars should provide no more than 5% of their daily energy intake (approximately 14g). However, shockingly, by the time children are 18 months, they are reportedly already consuming nearly 30g free sugars (7tsp) a day – the recommended maximum for an adult. Although many baby food brands are already reducing sugars, there are still products marketed as suitable for infants and young children with unsuitably high levels of sugars.
To improve the nutritional content of shop brought baby foods, releasing the guidelines is therefore essential. The consequences of an unhealthy diet in early years has a life-long impact on a person’s diet and health, which is why the commercial baby food and drink industry should do more to encourage a healthy diet.
In a Censuswide survey of 1,000 UK parents with children aged six to 36 months old, 91% said they support the Government in taking action to ensure all food and drinks available in the baby aisle are nutritionally appropriate according to NHS recommendations. Three leading baby food companies have also signed an open letter to the Health Minister to call for the release of commercial baby food and drink guidelines, in order to create a level-playing field.
Dr Kawther Hashem, Campaign Lead at Action on Sugar and Research Fellow at Queen Mary University of London adds: “An unhealthy diet high in saturated fat, salt and sugar and low in fruit and vegetables is the biggest cause of preventable ill health globally. Given this, all food and drink companies should act responsibly and commit to improving their products as part of Government and NHS guidance and provide peace of mind for parents when buying foods for their young children.”
You can read more about the research that Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary’s Wolfson Institute of Population Health, has done here Keeping everyone sweet − sugar, childhood obesity and the food industry - Wolfson Institute of Population Health (qmul.ac.uk)
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