UK child health experts want the Government to enforce sugar limits in baby food
As the UK awaits the release of the Federal Government’s Prevention is Better than Cure green paper, due to be released next week, peak medical body, the Royal College of Paediatrics (RCPCH) has published a series of recommendations, forming part of a broader strategy designed to drive better health and wellbeing outcomes for children and young people.
One of the core recommendations from RCPCH is that the Government should intervene to enforce mandatory limits on the amounts of free sugar present in commercially prepared baby food.
Free sugars are any sugars that are added to food or drink, or the sugars which exist naturally in honey, syrup and fruit juice. The term “free” refers to the fact that the sugar is not contained inside the cells of the food being consumed.
Sugars found naturally in fruit, vegetables and milk come with extra nutrients, such as fibre. When the sugars are extracted from their source, as is the case with fruit juice, the sugars come out from their cells, and additional nutritional benefits are lost.
As the RCPCH recommendations note, pureed or liquid baby foods packaged in pouches often have a high energy density and contain a lot of sugar, which risks babies developing a sweet tooth early on.
Excess sugar was nominated by RCPCH as one of the leading causes of tooth decay, which is the most common oral disease in children, affecting nearly a quarter of five-year-olds. Sugar intake also contributes to obesity.
Speaking with Nursery World Professor Mary Fewtrell, assistant officer for Health Improvement and Nutrition Lead for RCPCH, said, “Part of the problem is that baby weaning products often contain a high proportion of fruit or sweeter tasting vegetables – and parents also often use fruit or sweet tasting vegetables as first foods at home.”
“If food is sucked from a pouch, a baby also misses out on the opportunity to learn about eating from a spoon or feeding himself. 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”
Professor Fewtrell told Nursery World that it was important for babies to have a variety of flavours and textures, including more bitter tasting foods such as broccoli and spinach from a young age.