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Latest news articles Dentists call for drastic action on baby pouches

July 8, 2022

We are calling for action on the obscene levels of sugar in many popular brands of baby food pouches to protect children’s oral health.

These pouches have gained popularity with parents, due to their convenience. As well as encouraging a preference for sweet tastes – which carry lifelong health risks – we warn that they carry oral health risks compared to foods available in jars. The contents are often sucked directly from the pocket, which ensures that the food spends more time in contact with the baby teeth, just as they erupt and put the teeth at risk of erosion and decay.

We believe there is a lack of clear messages from manufacturers not to consume products straight from the pocket in packaging and their wider marketing materials, with brands such as Annabel Karmel explicitly stating “eat straight from the pocket”.

Our research of 109 sachets intended for children under 12 months revealed:

  • More than a quarter contained more sugar by volume than Coca Cola, parents of infants as young as four months old were marketing packets containing the equivalent of up to 150% of the sugar levels of the soft drink. These sachets are without exception fruit-based mixtures.

  • “Boutique” brands seem to have higher sugar levels than traditional baby food brands or own brand alternatives, with market leaders Ella’s Kitchen and Annabel Karmel facing criticism. While high levels of “natural” sugar have been described by manufacturers as unavoidable with fruit-based pouches, some brands offer products made with similar ingredients that contain around half the sugar levels of the worst offenders.

  • Some products reviewed for four months and older contain up to two-thirds of an adult’s recommended daily allowance (RDA) in sugar. Neither the World Health Organization (WHO) nor the UK government’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) cites an RDA for children, simply stressing that it should be consumed as little as possible.

  • UK and WHO guidelines recommend weaning from six months, so no product should be allowed to be marketed as “four months and over”.‘. Nearly 40% of the products examined were marketed in this age group.

  • The industry has consistently adopted misleading language highlighting the presence of only “natural sugars” or the absence of “added sugars”, others making opaque claims that the products are “nutritionally approved” or meet the “nutritional and developmental needs” of infants. All high sugar products adopt “halo labeling” principles, focusing on “organic”, “high fiber” or “containing 1 of your 5 per day” status, misleading parents into pretending they are making healthy choices.

  • More than two thirds of the products examined exceeded the threshold of 5 g of sugar per 100 ml set for the sugar levy applied to drinks. The dentists point out that the expansion of tax measures would probably have favorable results in terms of encouraging reformulation.
“These products unfortunately risk hooking the next generation before they can even walk.” said BDA Chairman Eddie Crouch.

“The claims of ‘no added sugar’ make no sense when mums and dads end up delivering the lion’s share of a can of Coke to their babies. Ministers must break the UK dependency. They must ensuring that sugar becomes the new tobacco, especially when it comes to our youngest patients.

The Department of Health and Social Care is expected to carry out an upcoming consultation on the marketing and labeling of infant foods, to which we will respond.

We will continue to call for action, including confronting the tactics used by sales teams, the implementation of a clearer “traffic light” style for labeling and possibly the expansion of tax measures such as than the sugar tax to encourage reformulation.