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Public Eye Report Shows Added Sugar in Nestlé Products in Poor Countries

by Violet Dawson
0 comment

Public Eye’s agriculture and nutrition expert, Laurent Gaberell, emphasised the need for Nestle to adopt consistent standards and refrain from adding sugar to products for children below three years old worldwide.

The world’s largest consumer goods company, Nestle, is currently under scrutiny for adding sugar and honey to infant milk and cereal products in many poorer countries. This is in clear violation of international guidelines aimed at preventing obesity and chronic diseases, according to a report.

A Swiss investigative organization, Public Eye, conducted tests on Nestle’s baby food products sold in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, sending them to a Belgian laboratory for analysis. The results, coupled with an examination of product packaging, revealed the presence of added sugar in the form of sucrose or honey in samples of Nido, a follow-up milk formula brand for infants aged one and above, and Cerelac, a cereal targeted at children aged six months and two years.

On the other hand, Nestle’s main European markets, including the UK, do not include added sugar in formulas for young children. Products intended for babies between six months and one year are free from added sugar, while some cereals aimed at older toddlers may contain added sugar.

Public Eye’s agriculture and nutrition expert, Laurent Gaberell, emphasised the need for Nestle to adopt consistent standards and refrain from adding sugar to products for children below three years old worldwide.

Rampant obesity is a growing concern in low and middle-income countries, with the number of overweight children under five in Africa alone increasing by nearly 23% since 2000, according to the World Health Organization. Globally, more than 1 billion people are living with obesity.

Consumers often face challenges in noticing the sugar content of products, as nutritional information on the packaging usually combines naturally occurring sugars with added sugars. WHO guidelines for the European region recommend prohibiting added sugars or sweetening agents in any food for children under three, a standard that researchers argue should apply globally.

The UK instructs children under the age of four to avoid foods with added sugars due to the associated risks such as weight gain and tooth decay. Similarly, the US government guidelines recommend avoiding foods and drinks with added sugars for those younger than two.

The report, a collaboration between the International Baby Food Action Network and Public Eye, shows data from Euromonitor International that revealed Cerelac’s global sales success, which exceeded $1 billion. The highest sales figures were concentrated in low and middle-income countries, with Brazil and India having 40% of sales.

Dr. Nigel Rollins, a medical officer at the WHO, criticised the double standard evident in Nestle’s product offerings.

Researchers in Senegal and South Africa found that biscuit-flavoured cereals for babies six months and older had 6g of added sugar for every serving. The same product in Switzerland did not contain any sugar.

In India, Cerelac products were tested. The tests showed that, on average, more than 2.7g of added sugar for every 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.

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