PARENTS weaning their babies have been warned over high levels of sugar in popular food pouches.
Health campaigners found that some products contained close to four teaspoons of sugar.
The NHS states that your baby does not need sugar, and while there is no guidance for children under the age of four, it’s recommended they avoid sugar-sweetened drinks and food with sugar added to it.
Experts at Action on Sugar analysed almost 100 baby and toddler breakfast products.
These included products from Ella’s Kitchen, Heinz, Babease and HiPP.
All products in the survey included nutrition or health claims on their packaging.
Around 86 per cent used a “no added sugar” or “only naturally occurring sugars” claim, despite many adding sugar in the form of fruit or vegetable juices, concentrates, purees and powders.
The experts found that Ella’s Kitchen Banana, Apple & Blueberry Baby Rice contained 14.5g of sugar per pouch, the equivalent of four teaspoons.
This was followed by Ella’s Kitchen Banana Baby Brekkie, containing 13.6g of sugar per serving, and Ella’s Kitchen Bananas, Apricots and Baby Rice, with 13.5g.
Heinz By Nature Creamed Porridge contained plain sugar but carried the claims “only natural ingredients” as well as the non-permitted “sugar from a natural source”, Action on Sugar found.
Babease Simply Smooth Avocado Breakfast with Yogurt, Spinach and Oats, containing 3.5g of sugar per serving, was the only product surveyed to use vegetables rather than fruit as a flavouring.
HiPP Organic Banana Yogurt Breakfast, containing 6.9g of sugar per 100g, used around 40 per cent less banana than Ella’s Kitchen Banana Baby Brekkie, containing 13.6g of sugar per 100g.
A spokesperson for HiPP said the brand takes its ‘responsibility in feeding the youngest and most vulnerable in our society very seriously’.
“As such are committed to providing high quality, safe and nutritious foods. We believe that commercial infant foods can be part of the solution to help enable positive health outcomes in early life.
“We have actively reduced the sugar content of our recipes over the last few years to ensure that our foods continue to offer optimal nutrition for babies,” they added.
In 2016, the Government challenged the food industry to reduce the overall sugar content of certain food categories by 20 per cent by 2020 but did not include baby and toddler products.
Now Action on Sugar is calling on brands to remove ‘misleading’ health claims.
They are also urging the health secretary Steve Barclay to publish and mandate “overdue” commercial baby food and drink guidelines.
Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chairman of Action on Sugar said it’s a ‘scandal’ that food companies are being allowed to ‘pedal’ high sugar products to parents with young children.
This is despite them being aware that babies and toddlers shouldn’t be having any added sugar at all, he added.
“An unhealthy diet high in saturated fat, salt and sugar and low in fruit and vegetables is the biggest cause of death and disability globally and costs the UK alone more than £100 billion annually,” Prof MacGregor said.
“Our children should not have to suffer unnecessarily from this.
“Manufacturers should act responsibly and commit to reducing sugar, salt and calories instead of foisting unhealthy products with misleading nutrition claims upon well-meaning parents.”
‘WALKED DOWN THE GARDEN PATH’
Following the research of over 1,000 parents, 87 per cent said they would find it useful to see added sugar in baby and infant food – including that from processed fruit – displayed on packaging.
The chairman of the British Dental Association (BDA), Eddie Crouch, said parents are being ‘walked down the garden path’ by companies pushing sugar-laden products as healthy options.
“Claims of ‘no added sugar’ are utterly meaningless when toddlers are receiving four teaspoons over breakfast.
“Tooth decay is the number one reason for hospital admission among young children, and government can’t remain bystanders. Action here is a prerequisite if we’re ever going to turn the tables on wholly preventable diseases,” he said.
In July the BDA studied 109 baby pouches aimed at children aged under 12 months.
It found more than a quarter contained more sugar by volume than Coca-Cola, with parents of infants as young as four months being marketed pouches that contained the equivalent of up to 150 per cent of the sugar levels found in the soft drink.
Parents had previously been warned against using food in the pouches, due to the fact they could be a choking hazard.
The NHS says that jars and pouches of baby food can be useful when you don’t have much time or you’re out and about with your child.
But they state if you are going to use pouches, then you should always squeeze the contents onto a spoon.
“Do not let your baby suck straight from the pouch, as it may contribute to tooth decay”, guidance states.
In a statement, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We have challenged businesses to improve the nutritional content of baby food and drink, as our review in 2019 found inconsistencies between national recommendations and the ingredients and nutritional content of these products.”
The Sun has contacted the food brands mentioned above.