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Sugar levels in baby food should match World Health Organisation recommendations

Article By: Ellie Spanswick, News Editor

The European Parliament has scrapped draft plans that would allow baby food to contain more than three times more sugar than recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The plans were vetoed, following a ruling which indicated that they would fail to protect young children against obesity. MEPs instead stated that EU sugar content limits should match the current WHO recommendations.

Prior to the vote, Green party MEP for South East England, Keith Taylor called for fellow MEPs to support a call to reduce the amount of sugar allowed in baby food under EU Law.

Speaking after the ruling Mr Taylor said: “The vote is an important step in helping to ensure that EU rules on baby food are designed with their health as the utmost priority. The proposal by the EU Commission would have allowed baby foods to contain far higher levels of sugar than those recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“The introduction of such high levels of sugar to foods – especially so early – would have contributed to the rising levels of childhood obesity and may affect the developing taste preferences of children. For infants and young children in particular, added sugar levels should be kept to a minimum.”

Current WHO guidelines recommend limiting the intake of free sugars to less than ten per cent of a person’s total energy intake. However under the European Commission’s proposal, sugars could provide up to 30 per cent of the energy intake from baby foods.

MEPs raised concerns about the implications of a poor diet, stating: “poor diet is now by far the biggest underlying cause of disease and death globally – bigger than tobacco, alcohol and physical inactivity combined…the allowed maximum sugar level should be substantially lowered in line with WHO recommendations”.

They also recommended that the use of emerging technologies, including GMOs, should be limited in baby food products as the long-term risks are currently unknown.

MEPs expressed that labelling and marketing of processed baby foods should be clear and highlight that products are not appropriate for infants less than six-months-old and not undermine the current six-month breastfeeding recommendation for new babies.

The objection was approved by 393 votes to 305, with 12 abstentions, requiring the legislative Act to be redrafted for consideration in future.


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