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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Nestlé scandal: Your baby’s infant formula may be sweeter than soft drinks!

Many mothers simply trust advertisements, packaging, brand labels or country of origin when making the choice about the infant formula to feed their babies with.

Yet, over the years, research findings have shown that when it comes to infant formula, especially in Third World countries such as Nigeria, what you see is not always what you get.

The main problem is because, though you may not be feeding your infant or under-two baby with soft drinks, some infant formula are actually sweeter than any soft drink you can think of!

So, while you’re not giving your baby a soft drink, the infant formula you give him might contain double the quantity of sugar found in popular soft drinks.

Warning against sugar in baby foods
Experts warn that children who are fed diets high in added sugars are more likely than children with lower sugar intakes to have a number of negative health consequences as they develop.

Such health consequences, scientists warn, include childhood obesity, cardiovascular disease and tooth decay.

This is because diet from birth to 24 months shapes long-term food preferences, researchers say.

Also, according to Gemma Bridge, a Research Evidence Impact Officer at Leeds Business School, Leeds Beckett University, high consumption of added sugars may contribute to tooth decay, poor diet and lead to obesity in children.

Children have no room in their diet for foods with added sugars, which would likely displace foods with healthy fats, protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber–foods they need to be eating -USDA

Bridge warns that some formula milks have double the sugar per serving than a glass of soft drinks.

“That was the key finding of our global investigation into the sugar content of infant formula and follow-on milks,” she said.

Indeed, the United States Department of Agriculture [USDA] states that children under two have high nutrient requirements for their fast-growing, tiny bodies and bellies.

However, “They simply do not have any room in their diet for foods with added sugars, which would likely displace foods with healthy fats, protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber–foods they need to be eating,” the USDA warns.

Explaining the need for mothers to beware, Bridge said, “Breast milk is the recommended source of nutrition for infants, especially during the first six months of life.

high consumption of added sugars may contribute to tooth decay, poor diet and lead to obesity in children

“Although it is sweet and high in energy, the sugar is mainly lactose and the content is specific to the needs of the growing infant.

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“Conversely, infant formula milks have a standardised make-up and contain added sugars such as corn syrup which are added during production and are not found in breast milk.

“This is bad for babies because high consumption of added sugars may contribute to tooth decay, poor diet and lead to obesity in children.”

The warnings are coming against the backdrop of a scandal involving the global food giant, Nestlé, as contained in an investigation carried out by the Public Eye, a Swiss investigative organisation, in collaboration with the International Baby Food Action Network, a coalition focused on improving maternal and infant health.

The findings, published last Wednesday, show that Nestlé, the global food company based in Switzerland, adds sugar and honey to infant milk and cereal products sold to Nigeria and other countries such as India, Brazil, and the Philippines, contrary to international guidelines.

Public Eye and IBFAN had sent samples of Nestle’s baby food products sold in Asia, Africa, and Latin America were sent to Belgium for laboratory testing.

The laboratory tests revealed added sugar, such as sucrose or honey, in samples of Cerelac, a cereal for children between six months and two years old; and Nido, a follow-up milk formula brand intended for infants of at least one year old.

According to the report, while baby formulas sold in Europe for children 12 – 36 months contained no sugar, formulas sold to lower-income countries such as Nigeria contained a significant amount of sugar.

Nestlé vehemently denies the report, despite lab findings.

In response to the allegations, Nestlé issued a statement reaffirming its commitment to stringent regulatory standards and nutritional guidelines.

The company emphasized that its products adhere to labeling requirements and carbohydrate content thresholds, reiterating that sugars are not added to infant formulas for children aged 0-12 months in Nigeria.

Breast milk is the recommended source of nutrition for infants, especially during the first six months of life

Meanwhile, paediatricians and child nutrition experts denounce “a double standard that is unjustifiable and problematic from an ethical and public health perspective,” particularly in view of the obesity epidemic affecting low-income countries.

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This is even as the World Health Organisation warns that exposure to sugar early in life can create a life-long preference for sugary products that increases the risk of developing obesity and other chronic illnesses.

Since 2022, the UN agency has been calling for a ban on added sugar in products for babies and young children under three years of age, citing potential health risks such as chronic diseases, obesity and addiction to such additives.

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), responsible for regulating such products in Nigeria, expressed concern over the findings, while it denied prior knowledge of added sugars in Nestle’s infant products.

Findings show that this is not the first time Nestle has faced scrutiny over its operations in Nigeria. In 2019, the company came under fire for its water factory which was accused of contaminating the community’s water source in Manderegi, an agrarian community in Abaji Local Government Area of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The incident led to a lack of potable water for residents and environmental degradation, prompting intervention from regulatory authorities.

Gracie Brown
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