Urgent warning over baby food with “more sugar than Coca-Cola”

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Baby food bags are “more sugary than Coca-Cola,” dentists warn.

Parents are warned that many popular baby food pouches actually contain more sugar than Coca-Cola.

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Dentists have issued the warning amid an “epidemic” of tooth decay in young children.

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A British Dental Association (BDA) survey of 109 sachets for children under 12 months found that more than a quarter contained more sugar than Coca-Cola.

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Fruit-based pouches marketed for infants as young as four months of age contained sugar levels equivalent to up to 150 percent of the soft drink, the results said.

Almost 40 per cent of the products surveyed were marketed for babies four months or older, despite guidance from both the UK and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommending weaning from the age of six months.

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The BDA said the results also contradicted marketing claims that the products contained only “naturally occurring sugars” or “no added sugars,” or that they were “nutritionally approved” or met the “nutritional and developmental needs” of infants.

Baby food with a high sugar content

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Any products that were high in sugar took on the so-called “halo” label, which focused on their “organic” status or that they were “high in fiber” or contained “one of your five a day” what Parents could potentially be misled into believing this is making healthy choices, the report warned.

The BDA singled out “boutique” brands, including market leaders Ella’s Kitchen and Annabel Karmel, because they appear to have higher sugar levels than traditional baby food brands or private label alternatives.

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The NHS Healthy Start Card allows families to buy groceries and milk for children. Photo: Adobe Stock

A spokeswoman for Ella’s Kitchen said: “At Ella’s Kitchen we take infant nutrition very seriously and since 2016, building on Public Health England recommendations, we have been reducing the use of higher sugar fruits such as bananas in our recipes introducing low sugar fruit and 100% vegetable pouches , reducing sugar by an average of 20 percent across the range.

“All new products aim to contain 10 per cent less sugar than the range average as a commitment to continued sugar reduction in the first tier recipes.”

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A spokesperson for Annabel Karmel explained: “Annabel Karmel’s organic purees are inspired by her popular homemade recipes.

“They are specially developed for babies and contain 100 percent fruit with no added salt or sugar. The limited sugar content comes from naturally occurring sugars found in the fruit used.”

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Manufacturers said high levels of natural or included sugars are unavoidable in fruit-based sachets, but some brands managed to offer similar products containing about half the sugars of the worst offenders, the survey found.

BDA warns parents about infants eating directly from pouches

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The BDA also warned that infants often suckled directly from the pouches to provide greater convenience for caregivers on the go. This ensured food stayed in contact with baby teeth longer and increased the risk of erosion and tooth decay.

The BDA found a lack of clear messages from manufacturers advising that infants should not consume the products straight from the pouch, with Annabel Karmel’s packaging and the brand’s website specifically stating to “eat straight from the pouch”. “.

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The spokeswoman for Ella’s Kitchen added: “We discourage little ones from consuming our purees straight from the pouch, but encourage consuming them with a spoon and eating them as part of a varied diet with lots of homemade food.”

calls for changes in the labeling of infant formula

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The Department of Health and Social Care is expected to shortly discuss the marketing and labeling of infant formula.

Leading dentists said the excessive sugar content in many infant pouches warrants action, including clearer “traffic light” labeling and a possible expansion of sugar dispensing to encourage reformulation.

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An analysis of 73 sweet snacks for babies and toddlers, such as rusks, cookies, oat bars and puffs, conducted by Action on Sugar last year found that only six products (eight percent) would receive a green (low) label for sugar.

BDA Chairman Eddie Crouch said: “Fake advertisers give parents the impression that these bags are a healthy choice. Nothing is further from the truth.

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“Claims of ‘no added sugar’ mean nothing when mothers and fathers are giving their children the lion’s share of a can of Coke.

“Tooth decay is the number one reason for hospitalizations in young children and sugar is driving this epidemic. Unfortunately, these products run the risk of catching the next generation before they can even walk.

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“Ministers must break Britain’s addiction. They must ensure that sugar becomes the new tobacco, especially when it comes to our youngest patients.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care added: “We have urged companies to improve the nutritional content of baby food and drink because our 2019 review found inconsistencies between national recommendations and the ingredients and nutritional content of these products.”

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