Nestlé Under Fire for Sugar Addition in Infant Products Sold in Developing Nations

Nestlé Under Fire for Sugar Addition in Infant Products Sold in Developing Nations

Nestlé Under Fire for Sugar Addition in Infant Products Sold in Developing Nations (Source: Depositphotos)

Nestle’s products in European markets did not have any sugar added, and where baby cereals for under-a-year-olds have no added sugar at all

Nestlé, the world’s largest consumer goods company, is at the center of criticisms over its inclusion of sugar and honey in cereal products and infant milk sold in poor countries. Adding sweeteners like sugar and honey to infant food products is against international guidelines aimed at preventing chronic diseases and obesity among the young population.

Reports revealed by Public Eye, a Swiss investigating organization, have sent samples of Nestle’s baby-food products sold in Latin America, Africa, and Asia to a Belgian laboratory for testing. The results showed inconsistencies between Nestle’s practices in different regions.

They found added sugars in products like Nido, a milk formula for infants aged one and above. Sweetening agents were also found in Cerelac a cereal targeting children between six months and two years old. Nestle’s products in European markets, however, did not have any sugar added, and where baby cereals for under-a-year-olds have no added sugar at all.

Laurent Gaberell, Public Eye’s agricultural and nutrition expert, stated “Nestlé must put an end to these dangerous double standards and stop adding sugar in all products for children under three years old, in every part of the world.” These revelations coincide with the global obesity problem that is on the rise. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that the percentage of overweight children under five has increased by about 23% since 2000, especially in low and middle-income countries.    

Consumers on the other hand have another challenge, i.e. to find out the presence and quantity of added sugars in the products. This becomes even more challenging when the nutritional label fails to differentiate between naturally occurring sugars and added sugars. The World Health Organisation has guidelines that recommend against the inclusion of added sugars in the food of children under three years in the European region. Many other countries lack such decrees and experts mention that principles outlined in the European guidelines remain applicable globally.    

The governments of the US and the UK advise against allowing young children to eat foods with added sugars because of the potential dangers, which include tooth damage and weight gain. Despite these cautions, Cerelac is nevertheless sold in significant quantities at retail around the world, according to data from Euromonitor International. Low- and middle-income nations like Brazil and India account for approximately 40% of total sales.

Nestlé’s actions were denounced by Dr. Nigel Rollins of the WHO as a blatant example of a double standard that cannot be justified. There were differences in the amount of sugar in biscuit-flavored cereals for babies six months and older; items sold in Senegal and South Africa had far more sugar than those sold in Switzerland.

Testing of Cerelac products in India, Nigeria, and Brazil showed varying levels of added sugar. Some products even contained as much as 6.8 grams per serving.  

Nestlé’s global operations have been questioned about uniformity and transparency, as seen by the considerable variances in sugar content observed in Nido products across different territories.

A Nestlé spokeswoman addressed the claims by highlighting the company’s dedication to offering nutrient-dense products that support the growth of young children. Nestlé confirmed that it complies with all local, national, and international laws and standards, including strict labeling guidelines, even if it acknowledges that recipes may vary depending on requirements and ingredient availability.

The spokesman emphasized Nestlé’s continuous efforts to lower the amount of added sugar in its line of baby cereals, citing a noteworthy 11% decrease over the previous ten years as proof of this. The company is taking a proactive stance in addressing these concerns, as seen by the global phase-out of sugar and glucose syrup from growing-up milk for toddlers.

The report, however, shows the need for transparency and consistency in the manufacturing of infant products. This is especially required for regions where obesity rates are on the rise. The discussion around the issue is continuing and the welfare of children around the world remains of utmost importance. Stricter regulations and heightened accountability in the infant food industry are required to maintain the health and well-being of children.

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