New Age | Govt investigates sugar in Nestle baby food

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The Bangladesh food regulator has launched an investigation into the Nestlé over traces of sugar and honey in baby milk and cereal products sold in low- and middle- income countries, including Bangladesh, which violates international guidelines.

The Bangladesh Food Safety Authority has begun its probe over the effect of added sugar in baby milk products from the world’s largest packaged food company.

BFSA chairman Zakaria told New Age on Sunday, ‘We started our investigation led by a member of BFSA to scrutinise the effect of added sugar in Nestlé›s baby food products.’

He said, ‘We will take action against Nestlé if we find through scientific investigation that the sugar is causing harm to children.’

Zakaria also vowed stringent action against the brand if fault is found in its products.

Meanwhile, Nestlé Bangladesh PLC company secretary Debabrata Roy Chowdhury said, ‘We ensure that our products manufactured in Bangladesh are in full and strict compliance with local standards (BSTI and others) and international CODEX standards (a commission established by WHO and FAO), pertaining to the requirements of all nutrients, including added sugars.’

He said, ‘We would like to assure that our infant cereal products are manufactured to ensure the appropriate delivery of nutritional requirements for early childhood.’

‘We will never compromise on the nutritional quality of our products. We constantly leverage our extensive global research and development network to enhance the nutritional profile of our products,’ he added.

Nestlé, a Swiss multinational food and drink processing company, is facing criticism after Public Eye, a Swiss NGO, revealed a report on Wednesday claiming that Nestlé uses harmful added sugar in baby foods.

The report said that traces of sugar and honey have been found in baby milk and cereal products Nestlé sells in poorer countries, but the same was not the case in Europe, where there was no added sugar.

In Bangladesh, the added sugar per serving [in grammes] of Cerelac was found to be 3.3g. The added sugar content is declared on the packaging, but the associated risks are glossed over, according to the report. 

The case was similar for Nido, another popular brand from Nestlé. In India and Pakistan, the added sugar was 2.7g, although no declaration was found on the packaging tested for the latter. 

The highest of 6.8g was found in Nigeria, followed by Senegal and Vietnam.

In Nestlé’s main European markets, including the UK, there is no added sugar in formulas for young children. While some cereals aimed at older toddlers contain added sugar, there is none in products targeted at babies between six months and one year.

Public Eye sent samples of Nestlé›s baby food products sold in Asia, Africa, and Latin America to a Belgian laboratory for testing. 

The tests revealed the presence of added sugar in the form of sucrose or honey in samples of Nido, a follow-up milk formula brand intended for use for infants aged one and above, and Cerelac, a cereal aimed at children aged between six months and two years.

Nigel Rollins, a scientist at the World Health Organisation, said that while speaking to the Public Eye that there is a double standard here that cannot be justified.

He said that Nestlé not adding sugar to the products in Switzerland but doing so in lower-resource settings is ‘problematic both from a public health and ethical perspective.’

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