Public Eye, a Swiss investigative organization, conducted a study revealing that Nestlé, the largest consumer goods company globally, includes sugar and honey in infant milk and cereal products sold in various developing nations, going against international recommendations to combat obesity and chronic illnesses.

Samples of Nestlé’s baby-food items from Asia, Africa, and Latin America were sent to a Belgian laboratory for analysis.

In Nestlé’s primary European markets, such as the UK, formulas for young children do not contain added sugar.

Although certain cereals designed for older toddlers do have added sugar, products intended for babies between six months and one year are sugar-free.

Laurent Gaberell, an agriculture and nutrition expert at Public Eye, emphasized the need for Nestlé to eliminate these risky double standards by discontinuing the addition of sugar in all products for children under three years old worldwide.

Obesity poses a growing concern in low- and middle-income countries.

In Africa, the percentage of overweight children under five has risen by almost 23% since 2000, as reported by the World Health Organization. On a global scale, over 1 billion individuals are affected by obesity.

It can be challenging for consumers worldwide to determine if a product contains added sugar and the quantity present solely based on the nutritional information provided on packaging.

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Labels often combine naturally occurring sugars in milk and fruit with any added sugars under the same category.

According to WHO guidelines for the European region, no added sugars or sweetening agents should be allowed in any food intended for children under three.

Although specific guidance has not been developed for other regions, experts suggest that the European recommendations are applicable to other parts of the world.

The UK advises that children under four should steer clear of foods containing added sugars due to potential risks such as weight gain and tooth decay.

In contrast, US government recommendations suggest avoiding foods and beverages with added sugars for children under the age of two.

According to a report by Public Eye in collaboration with the International Baby Food Action Network, Euromonitor International data revealed that Cerelac had global retail sales exceeding $1bn (£800m).

Nestlé Adds 6.8g Of Sugar To Infant Milk Sold In Nigeria Contrary To International Guidelines

The majority of these sales were in low- and middle-income countries, with Brazil and India alone accounting for 40% of the total sales.

Dr Nigel Rollins, a medical officer at the WHO, expressed concern over these findings, stating that they reflect a “double standard” that cannot be justified.

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Researchers discovered that biscuit-flavoured cereals for babies aged six months and older contained 6g of added sugar per serving in Senegal and South Africa.

However, the same product sold in Switzerland had no added sugar.

Tests conducted on Cerelac products sold in India revealed an average of more than 2.7g of added sugar per serving.

In Brazil, where Cerelac is known as Mucilon, two out of eight products were found to have no added sugar, while the remaining six contained nearly 4g per serving.

In Nigeria, one tested product contained up to 6.8g of added sugar.

Tests conducted on Nido brand products, with global retail sales exceeding $1 billion, showed significant discrepancies in sugar levels.

In the Philippines, toddler-targeted products are sugar-free.

However, in Indonesia, Nido baby food products, marketed as Dancow, all had approximately 2g of added sugar per 100g of product in the form of honey, or 0.8g per serving. In Mexico, two out of three Nido products for toddlers had no added sugar, while the third had 1.7g per serving.

Nido Kinder 1+ products in South Africa, Nigeria, and Senegal all contained nearly 1g per serving, according to the report.

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A representative from Nestlé expressed their confidence in the nutritional value of their products for young children and emphasized their commitment to using top-notch ingredients that are tailored to support their growth and development.

The speaker emphasized that Nestlé consistently adheres to local regulations and international standards within the highly regulated category of baby food, ensuring compliance with labeling requirements and carbohydrate content thresholds, which include sugars.

Total sugars, including those from honey, are declared in their products.

Variations in recipes are influenced by factors such as regulation and the availability of local ingredients.

The company has successfully reduced the total added sugars in its infant cereals portfolio by 11% globally over the last decade.

They are committed to further reformulating products to decrease sugar content. Additionally, sucrose and glucose syrup are being phased out of growing-up milks designed for toddlers worldwide.

Please note that on 17 April 2024, this article was updated to correct sales figures provided by Public Eye. Nido has worldwide sales exceeding $1bn, not $4.1bn, and Cerelac has sales of $1bn, not $1.2bn as previously stated.

Credit: The Guardian International

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