Calls for sugar in baby foods to be restricted

The amount of sugar in baby food should be restricted, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) says.

It is also calling on parents to offer children more vegetables to stop them developing a ‘sweet tooth’.

The RCPCH is also recommending parents offer bitter flavours too.

‘Part of the problem is that baby weaning products often contain a high proportion of fruit or sweeter tasting vegetables,’ Professor Mary Fewtrell, assistant officer for health improvement and nutrition lead for RCPCH, said.

‘Parents also often use fruit or sweet tasting vegetables as first foods at home.

‘Pureed baby foods packaged in pouches also often have a high energy density and a high proportion of sugar.

‘If sucked from the pouch, the baby also misses out on the opportunity to learn about eating from a spoon.

‘Baby foods can be labelled “no added sugar” if the sugar comes from fruit.
‘But all sugars have the same effects on the teeth and on metabolism.’

Key recommendations
The RCPCH is calling on the government to introduce limits on the amount of free sugar in baby foods.

Other key recommendations from the RCPCH include:

  • Government to introduce mandatory guidelines on the free sugar content of baby food
  • Government to place a ‘moratorium’ on public health funding cuts
  • Smoking to be prohibited in playgrounds, sports fields, and on NHS premises
  • Graduated driving licences to be introduced for all new drivers
  • Advertising to be banned for all formula milks for babies under one year
  • Bespoke child health workforce strategy to be developed across the UK to address worrying staff shortages
  • National mental health survey to be carried out every three years to identify the prevalence of mental health problems in young people
  • All forms of marketing of e-cigarettes for non-medicinal use to be prohibited

‘It’s important to recognise that babies have an innate preference for sweet tastes,’ Professor Fewtrell continues.

‘The key is not to reinforce that preference and to expose them to a variety of different flavours and food textures.

‘Babies are very willing to try different flavours if they’re given the chance.
‘It’s important they’re introduced to a variety of flavours, including more bitter tasting foods such as broccoli and spinach, from a young age.’

Too much sugar
Children are exceeding the recommended sugar intake of an 18-year-old by the time they reach 10, Public Health England (PHE) said earlier this year.

Figures show children are consuming around eight more sugar cubes every day than is recommended.

This is despite children’s sugar intake levels declining slightly in recent years.

‘Children are consuming too much sugar,’ Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said.

‘But parents can take action now to prevent this building up over the years.
‘To make this easier for busy families, Change4life is offering a straightforward solution.

‘By making simple swaps each day, children can have healthier versions of everyday foods and drinks, while significantly reducing their sugar intake.’