The recent controversies regarding the addition of unhealthy amounts of sugar to baby products highlight significant regulatory gaps in the food market. This issue necessitates a thorough examination of existing regulations and a push for stricter oversight to ensure the health and well-being of infants.

Advertisement and Market Practices

  • Regional Discrepancies: A recent report revealed that Nestlé’s baby products in Asia, Africa, and Latin America contained added sugars, whereas the same products in Europe did not.
  • Guideline Ambiguities: While sugar is generally not recommended for infants, guidelines in several developing countries do not explicitly prohibit it.
  • Nutritional Needs of Infants: The first two years are critical for a child’s growth and development. Breastfed infants receive sugar naturally from lactose in their mother’s milk.
  • Health Risks: Studies indicate that children on a sugar-heavy diet are more prone to obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and tooth decay compared to those consuming balanced meals.

Examples from the Indian Context

  • Childhood Diabetes: India has the highest number of childhood diabetes cases globally. A Lancet study in March revealed that over 12 million Indian children between the ages of 5 and 19 are significantly overweight.
  • Market Influence: Low and middle-income countries like India are increasingly exposed to free sugars due to rising incomes and the spread of global food brands that mass-produce sugary products.
  • UNICEF Study: A 2023 UNICEF-supported study found that nearly 44% of infant cereals, snacks, and ready-to-eat meals marketed to young children in Southeast Asia contained added sugars and sweeteners.

Understanding the Harm of Added Sugars

  • Natural vs. Added Sugars: Natural sugars are found in milk (lactose) and fruit (fructose). Added sugars include white sugar, brown sugar, honey, and chemically manufactured sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup.
  • Health Implications: Excessive sugar consumption increases the risk of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and heart ailments.
  • Regulatory Gaps: Public Eye reported that despite WHO guidelines, national legislation in some countries permits added sugars in baby foods.


Allegations and Defense: The International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) and Public Eye alleged that Nestlé added 2.7 grams of sugar per serving to its Cerelac brand in developing countries, including India. Nestlé defended itself by stating it has reduced added sugar in its

Indian baby food products by over 30% in the past five years.

Regulatory Response: As the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights has demanded, the Food Safety and Standards

Authority of India (FSSAI) should conduct a comprehensive probe covering all baby food manufacturers to ensure stringent adherence to health guidelines.

Legacy Editor Changed status to publish June 22, 2024