Nestlé Adds Sugar To Infant Milk Sold In Poorer Nations, According To New Report

A new report has found that Nestlé, the largest consumer goods company in the world, adds sugar and honey to infant milk and cereal products that are sold in poorer nations. This directly contradicts international guidelines that are implemented to prevent childhood obesity and chronic diseases, according to The Guardian

The report itself came from Public Eye, a Swiss investigative organization. The organization sent samples of Nestlé’s baby-food products sold in Asia, Latin America, and Africa to a Belgian laboratory for testing. 

After testing the products and examining the packaging, the report revealed the presence of sugar in the form of sucrose, or honey in samples of Nido, one of Nestlé’s milk formula brands intended for infants aged one and up. They also found it in Cerelac, a cereal that is aimed for kids aged six months and two years. 

In the main European markets for Nestlé, there are no added sugars in formulas for young children. Some cereals that are advertised for older toddlers have added sugar, but none in any product targeted at babies between six-months-old to a year. 

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“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,” said Laurent Gaberell, the agriculture and nutrition expert for Public Eye

Obesity in general is an ongoing and growing problem in lower and middle income countries. According to the World Health Organization, in Africa specifically the number of overweight children under five has increased by nearly 23% since 2000. 

The Guardian reported that worldwide, more than 1 billion people are living with obesity. 

In many countries it can be difficult for consumers to tell whether or not a certain product contains added sugar or how much is present due to how the nutritional information is printed. The labels also often have natural sugars found in milk and fruit under the same heading as any added sugars.

For European regions, the World Health Organization has guidelines that says no added sugars or sweetening agents should be permitted in any food for children under three. 

The UK recommends that children under four should also avoid food with added sugars, because of their risk of gaining weight and developing tooth decay. The US government has guidelines that simply recommend children under two avoid food and drinks with added sugars. 

The Public Eye report was written alongside the International Baby Food Action Network. Public Eye stated that data from Euromonitor International, a market-research company, showed that global retail sales for Cerelac exceeded $1 billion. The highest of those figures came from low and middle income nations; 40% of sales were within just Brazil and India. 

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Dr. Nigel Rollins, a medical officer at the World Health Organization, said this new report shows “a double standard that can’t be justified.”

Researchers found that biscuit-flavored cereals for babies six months and older contained 6 grams of added sugar for every serving sold in Senegal and South Africa. The same exact product sold in Switzerland has no added sugars. 

In India, tests performed on Cerelac products had, on average, more than 2.7 grams of added sugar for every serving. In Brazil, two out of eight products were found to have no added sugar, but the remaining six products had about 4 grams in each serving, according to The Guardian. In Nigeria, one product had up to 6.8 grams.  

Additionally, tests on Nido brand products showed a significant variation in sugar levels, much like with Cerelac. Worldwide retail sales for Nido products have grossed more than $1 billion. 

In the Philippines, no added sugars are in products aimed for toddler consumption, however, in Indonesia, Nido baby-food products all contain around 2 grams of added sugar per 100 gram of product in the form of honey. 

“We believe in the nutritional quality of our products for early childhood and prioritize using high-quality ingredients adapted to the growth and development of children,” a Nestlé spokesperson stated. 

“[Within the] highly regulated category of baby food, Nestlé always complied with local regulations or international standards, including labeling requirements and thresholds on carbohydrate content that encompasses sugars and declared total sugars in its products, including those coming from honey,” The Guardian reported

“Variations in recipes depended on factors including regulation and availability of local ingredients,” the spokesperson said.