News / Children's Food Campaign

High sugar in baby and toddler snacks exposed during Sugar Awareness Week

It's Sugar Awareness Week from 8-14 November, and research by Action on Sugar reveals that over a third of baby and toddler snacks carrying healthy claims should have a red nutrition label for sugar.

Credit: Action on Sugar

Credit: Action on Sugar

A new product survey by Action on Sugar (based at Queen Mary University of London) has exposed the alarming amounts of sugars found in many baby & toddler sweet snacks such as biscuits, rusks, oat bars and puffs. With some products containing a massive two teaspoons of sugar per serve, this is of deep concern considering babies and toddlers should not be eating any free sugars at all. In fact, children aged between the ages of 1.5 and 3 years are exceeding 27.9g (equivalent of 7 teaspoons) of free sugars per day, according to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey.

To mark Sugar Awareness Week (8-14 November), the group of experts is calling for misleading on-pack marketing claims to be removed – especially around ‘no added sugar/refined sugar’ when such ingredients are replaced by fruit concentrates (which are still a type of free sugars and should be limited).

The product survey, which analysed 73 baby and toddler sweet snacks sold in stores, found Heinz Farley's Mini Rusks Original to be the worst offender with 8.7g of sugars per serve – that’s the equivalent of 2 teaspoons of sugar! Despite the health claims about added vitamins and minerals on pack, this product also contains added sugar. This was followed by Organix Banana Soft Oaty Bars at 8.1g of sugars per serve which are sweetened with apple juice concentrate (a type of free sugars).

When it comes to sugars per 100g – a third (27 of the 73) of the products surveyed would receive a red (high) label for sugars if baby and toddler foods carried traffic light labelling on front of pack. Only 6 products (8%) would get a green (low) label for sugar content.

The Children's Food Campaign has previously called for mandatory front-of-pack nutritional labelling for all products, as well as an end to misleading health claims and use of child-friendly characters on products high in sugar or salt, that divert attention from their actual nutritional content.

Children's Food Campaign Co-ordinator Barbara Crowther says:

“We all want our children to have the healthiest possible start in life. The high levels of sugar exposed by Action on Sugar’s research shows how much parents are being misled by the food industry into believing products are healthier than they really are, and it’s time for clear and honest packaging. That includes mandatory front-of-pack traffic light labels, no misleading health claims, and no cute child-friendly characters suggesting products full of sugar are suitable for young children.”

Action on Sugar is also urging the Government to finally publish its long-awaited composition guidelines for baby & toddler products which will guide manufacturers on how much sugars should be used – making them mandatory in order to create a level-playing field across the sector.

Dr Kawther Hashem, Campaign Lead at Action on Sugar and Research Fellow at Queen Mary University of London  says:

“It’s ludicrous that certain food companies are being allowed to promote their high sugar sweet snacks to parents with very young children, despite them being aware that babies and toddlers shouldn’t be having any free sugars.

“Babies can have a preference for sweet foods, due to milk being ever so slightly sweet, but liking sugary foods is something they only learn by eating sugary foods. Some companies choose to encourage this preference further by providing lots of very sweet products from an early age. What we need is companies to make products with minimal amount of sugars, so young children can grow up enjoying less sweet foods.”

Find out how to support and get involved in Sugar Awareness Week.

Read Children's Food Campaign Pester Power or Parent Power report on use of child-friendly characters on food and drink.

Read our blog calling for more industry levies on junk food and snacks.

Published 10 Nov 2021

Children's Food Campaign: Better food and food teaching for children in schools, and protection of children from junk food marketing are the aims of Sustain's high-profile Children's Food Campaign. We also want clear food labelling that can be understood by everyone, including children.

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