The recent controversies surrounding the addition of unhealthy amounts of sugar to baby products have sparked a crucial debate about the need for stricter regulations and addressing regulatory gaps in the food market. The importance of ensuring the health and well-being of infants and young children cannot be overstated, as early dietary habits significantly impact their long-term health outcomes.


Advertisement Practices

  • Global Discrepancies: According to a recent report, Nestlé’s baby products in Asia, Africa, and Latin America were found to contain added sugars, while the same products sold in Europe did not.
  • Lack of Explicit Prohibition: Although sugar is generally not recommended for infants, guidelines in several developing countries do not explicitly prohibit its addition to baby food products.
  • Critical Development Period: The first two years are crucial for the growth and development of children. Breastfed infants receive necessary sugars from lactose in their mother’s milk.
  • Health Implications: Studies indicate that children fed a sugar-heavy diet are more likely to develop obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and tooth decay compared to those who consume balanced meals.

Impact on India

Childhood Diabetes Prevalence: India has the highest number of childhood diabetes cases globally. A Lancet study in March revealed that over 12 million children in India between the ages of five and 19 are grossly overweight.

Harmful Effects of Added Sugars

  • Distinction Between Sugars: According to the American Heart Association (AHA), natural sugars are found in milk (lactose) and fruit (fructose), while free sugars or added sugars are introduced during food preparation or processing.
  • Health Risks: Consumption of free sugars is associated with an increased risk of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and heart-related ailments.
  • Proliferation in Low and Middle-Income Countries: Growing incomes and the proliferation of global food brands have increased exposure to free sugars in low and middle-income countries.
  • UNICEF Study Findings: A UNICEF-supported study from December 2023 found that nearly half of the 1,600 infant cereals, snacks, and ready-to-eat meals marketed at young children in Southeast Asia included added sugars and sweeteners.

Regulatory Concerns

Violation of WHO Guidelines: Public Eye reported that Nestlé’s baby food products with added sugars are permitted under national legislation in some countries, despite contravening World Health Organisation guidelines.


  • IBFAN and Public Eye Allegations: The International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) and Public Eye have alleged that Nestlé added 2.7 grams of sugar per serving to its baby food brand, Cerelac, intended for developing countries, including India.
  • Nestlé’s Defense: Nestlé has stated that it has reduced added sugar in its baby food products in India by over 30% in the past five years.
  • Regulatory Action Needed: As demanded by the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, the Food Safety and Standards
  • Authority of India (FSSAI) should probe all baby food manufacturers to ensure compliance with health guidelines and safeguard children’s health.
Legacy Editor Changed status to publish July 1, 2024