Nestlé accused of putting sugar in baby foodNestlé baby food-Image Source@Zoomsouthafrica

Nestlé, a global titan in the food and beverage industry, faces allegations of marketing baby food with heightened sugar levels in developing regions, such as South Africa.

Nestlé’s Discrepancy in Baby Food Sugar Content Across Regions

An investigation jointly conducted by Public Eye and the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) has shed light on this disparity. The probe analyzed 150 Nestlé baby food items distributed in these areas.

The findings, unveiled just ahead of Nestlé’s yearly shareholders’ meeting, indicate a notable contrast in sugar content among popular brands like Nido and Cerelac. While these products boast zero grams of added sugar per serving in Switzerland, Nestlé’s home country, counterparts in other territories contain an average of four grams per serving of Cerelac and two grams per serving of Nido.

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Sugar-Rich Offerings in South Africa, a Cause for Concern

In South Africa, a key market for Nestlé on the African continent, every variant of Cerelac examined contained added sugar, averaging approximately 4.2 grams per serving. Similarly, Nido products tailored for children aged one to three in South Africa exhibited 0.9 grams of sugar per serving.

In contrast, guidelines from US health authorities advise against processed sugar for children under two, citing its association with childhood obesity and future health complications like heart disease. In 2022, the World Health Organization advocated for the prohibition of added sugar in products intended for babies and toddlers under three.

Karen Hofman, a public health expert at the University of Witwatersrand and a qualified paediatrician, condemned the sugar content discrepancy, labelling it a form of “colonization.” She questioned the rationale behind altering products sold in South Africa compared to affluent settings, stressing that there’s no justification for adding sugar to baby food.

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Nestlé’s Response: “Recipe Variations”

Addressing the allegations, Nestlé’s spokesperson for East and Southern Africa, Mota Mota, defended the company’s position to News24:

“Slight recipe variations may exist across countries due to factors such as regulations, consumer preferences, and ingredient availability.”

Mota reiterated Nestlé’s commitment to reducing sugar content across its product portfolio, including eliminating added sugars from growing-up milk for children aged above 12 months. He affirmed that Nestlé adheres to both local and international regulatory standards and meticulously formulates its products for children.

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