Nestle Allegedly Pumps Sugar Into Baby Products in Poor Nations

The food giant is being accused of a 'harmful double standard' that could lead to obesity
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 23, 2024 9:45 AM CDT
Nestle Accused of 'Harmful Double Standard' on Baby Food
Nestle's headquarters are pictured in Vevey, Switzerland, on February 27, 2003.   (AP Photo/KEYSTONE - Fabrice Coffrini)

The Nestle brand may be associated with comfort food and drink, but its infant eats are getting an uncomfortable amount of scrutiny over sugar content. Per a new report from the nonprofit Public Eye and the International Baby Food Action Network, the Swiss food conglomerate adds more sugar to its baby products sold in lower- to middle-income nations than in products sold in more affluent ones—up to 7.3 grams of added sugar per serving, while the same products in Europe have no added sugar.

  • Findings: The report looked most closely at sugar content in Cerelac instant cereal and Nido powdered milk, two big sellers that brought in more than $2.5 billion in sales in 2022 in poorer countries. Public Eye found Cerelac in Thailand, Ethiopia, South Africa, Pakistan, and India had up to 6 grams of added sugar, while the same brand sold in the UK and Germany had zero. In some nations, including Nigeria, Senegal, and the Philippines, added sugar content wasn't listed at all. Nido products also had added sugar in poorer nations, though to a "lesser degree," per the Post.

  • CDC, WHO takes: Both health agencies recommend children under 2 avoid consuming products with added sugar.
  • Public Eye's take: The nonprofit calls the findings a "harmful double standard" that "leads children to develop a lifelong preference for sugary products" and, possibly, to obesity.
  • Nestle's take: The food giant notes some countries will see different sugar content due to "regulations and availability of local ingredients." It assures, however, that "this does not compromise the nutritional value of our products for infants and young children" and adds that "everywhere our products are sold, their nutritional profile complies with all applicable local or regional regulations." It says it "has reduced by 11% the total amount of added sugars in [its] infant cereal portfolio worldwide," per the Public Eye.
  • Probes: After Public Eye's report, both Bangladesh and India announced they'd launch investigations, per the Business Standard and Economic Times. A spokesperson for Nestle India adds that the company has reduced added sugar in its products there by up to 30% over the past five years, "depending on the variant." The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India says it will take "stringent action" against Nestle if the accusations are found to be true.
More here, including Nestle's alleged "controversial marketing practices." (More Nestle stories.)

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