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Nestle's '3 Grams Of Sugar' Row: A Danger For Babies Born In Developing Countries? | Know What Research Says

According to research conducted by the Public Eye, Nestle's baby formula manufacturing method for several Asian, African, and Latin American countries includes the addition of extra sugar and honey to infant milk and cereal products. This is considered a direct violation of standard international guidelines adopted to prevent obesity and other chronic diseases.

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Cerelac, Nestle's one of the highest selling baby-food products in India | Photo: PTI
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A recent investigation by Public Eye stirred up a major controversy involving the world's largest consumer goods company Nestle. As per the findings of the research, two of the best-selling baby-formula brands by Nestle in India, Cerelac and Nido, allegedly contain high levels of added sugar.

What makes the allegation even more critical is the claim that discrepancies were found in the sugar content between the products sold in the developing and developed nations.

About the research findings: Are infants' health compromised?

According to the report, Nestle's baby formula manufacturing method for several Asian, African, and Latin American countries includes the addition of extra sugar and honey to infant milk and cereal products. This is considered a direct violation of standard international guidelines adopted to prevent obesity and other chronic diseases.

The findings of the report suggested that in India, all 15 Cerelac baby products contain an average of nearly 3 grams of sugar per serving. In Ethiopia it is 5 grams and in Thailand and Senegal, the amount of added sugar per serving is nearly 6 grams while a similar product is being sold with zero added sugar in the developed countries including Germany, UK and Switzerland.

"While Nestle prominently highlights the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients contained in its products using idealizing imagery, it's not transparent when it comes to added sugar," the report said.

The experts' take on consumption of added sugar

Highlighting the detrimental effects of consuming added sugar from an early age, several health experts have termed the practice addictive, dangerous and unnecessary.

As per the Public Eye report, Rodrigo Vianna, epidemiologist and Professor at the Department of Nutrition of the Federal University of Paraiba in Brazil, said "This is a big concern. Sugar should not be added to foods offered to babies and young children because it is unnecessary and highly addictive."

"Children get used to the sweet taste and start looking for more sugary foods, starting a negative cycle that increases the risk of nutrition-based disorders in adult life. These include obesity and other chronic non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes or high blood pressure," he added.

The report also included a strong criticism from World Health Organization (WHO) scientist Nigel Rollins against the double standard maintained in sugar content of the baby formula sold in high-income and medium or low-income countries.

“There is a double standard here that can’t be justified,” Rollins said, adding that the practice “is problematic both from a public health and ethical perspective.”

How did Nestle defend itself?

As the controversy surfaced, the Nestle India spokesperson however maintained that being a global brand, Nestle completely acts in compliance with all local regulations and international standards, and has already taken a step towards cutting down added sugars across its infant cereal range by up to 30% in the last five years.

"Over the past five years, Nestlé India has reduced added sugars by up to 30%, depending on the variant, in our infant cereals portfolio (milk cereal-based complementary food)," the spokesperson told NDTV.

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