The processed food industry uses ingredients high in sugar in foods for babies and toddlers.
There is a growing concern that some ready-made baby and toddler foods are undermining work to promote optimal nutrition.
Survey data released by CHOICE in August 2021 showed that 58 per cent of ready-made toddler foods contain sugars that they should be limiting or avaoiding in their diet, 45 per cent of which contain sugar in high amounts. This is consistent with Food for Health Alliance research from 2019. The study looked at both baby and toddler foods and found that 75 per cent of products reviewed contained sugars that are harmful to health, with concentrated fruit sugars like fruit juice concentrate, fruit paste and fruit powder featuring in 47 per cent of products and pure sugar or syrups in 31 per cent of products.
Comprehensive regulation of the composition of baby and toddler foods will protect our youngest Australians.
The food regulatory system must ensure that all foods marketed for babies and toddlers are of high nutritional quality and meet strong, evidence-based standards on composition.
Strong standards already exist in some areas, for example in limiting sodium in foods for babies. This mandatory protection can, and should, be expanded to protect both babies and toddlers, and to include strong limits to stop manufacturers adding sugars that babies and toddlers should be avoiding or limiting in their diets. Parents agree. Nine out of ten parents surveyed in the RCH Poll think there should be laws to limit the amount of sugars in baby and toddler foods.
The government must take responsibility for protecting babies and toddlers from ready-made foods that do not promote good health and good dietary habits.
Reforms must be led and developed by government, and not voluntary bodies dominated by industry representatives, like the Healthy Food Partnership.
Regulation to improve the composition of baby and toddler foods should ensure that:
- Sugars that babies should be limiting or avoiding in their diets should not be used in baby and toddler foods
- Sweet snacks and confectionary should not be marketed as suitable for babies and toddlers
In addition to the compositional elements, labelling regulation should ensure that all sugars that should be limited or avoided in the diet are easily identified.