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Sunday, May 26, 2024
HomeNewsCerevita Makers Nestlé Faces Criticism Over Discrepancies in Baby Food Sugar Content

Cerevita Makers Nestlé Faces Criticism Over Discrepancies in Baby Food Sugar Content

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Multinational food and beverage giant Nestlé has come under fire for allegedly violating health guidelines by selling baby food containing added sugar in low- and middle-income countries like South Africa, while marketing sugar-free alternatives under the same branding in Western markets.

A collaborative investigation by Public Eye and the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) examined 150 Nestlé baby food products sold in lower- and middle-income countries. The analysis scrutinized the nutrient values listed on the packaging, and products with unclear labelling were subjected to laboratory testing.

The findings, released just ahead of Nestlé’s annual general meeting, revealed stark differences in sugar content between regions. Popular brands like Nido and Cerelac, sold by Nestlé, exhibited higher sugar content in lower- and middle-income regions compared to wealthier countries, despite being marketed under identical branding and packaging.

Cerelac, for instance, averaged four grams of added sugar per serving in these regions, while Nido had an average of two grams of added sugar per serving. Interestingly, these same products boasted zero grams of added sugar per serving in Switzerland, where Nestlé is headquartered.

According to the report, all varieties of Cerelac sold in South Africa contained four or more grams of sugar per serving, making it the largest market for the product on the continent. Similarly, Nido products aimed at children aged one to three contained an average of 0.9 grams of sugar per serving in South Africa.

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Responding to these allegations, Nestlé spokesperson for East and Southern Africa, Mota Mota, defended the company’s practices, arguing that regional recipe adjustments aim to cater to local regulations, consumer preferences, and ingredient availability without compromising nutritional integrity.

However, health authorities caution against the addition of sugar to baby food products. US federal guidelines recommend zero processed sugar consumption for children under two years old, citing research linking sugar intake to childhood obesity and future health issues like heart disease.

The World Health Organization has also called for a ban on added sugar in products intended for babies and young children under three since 2022.

Karen Hofman, a professor of public health at the University of Witwatersrand, condemned the sugar level disparities as a form of “colonization,” questioning why products sold in South Africa should differ from those in high-income settings.

“I do not understand why products for sale in South Africa should be different from those that are sold in high-income settings.

She added: “It is a form of colonisation and should not be tolerated.

“There is no valid reason to add sugar to baby food anywhere.”

In response to growing concerns, Nestlé assured that it has been actively reducing sugar content across its product range, including the phased removal of added sugars from growing-up milks for children above 12 months worldwide, while ensuring compliance with local and international regulations.

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