WHO warns of too sugary baby foods

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COPENHAGEN, July 15, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Commercial baby foods often contain
too much sugar and display confusing ingredient lists, according to a UN
report that proposed new guidelines Monday to improve infant diets.

The World Health Organization (WHO) examined nearly 8,000 products from
more than 500 stores in Austria, Bulgaria, Israel and Hungary between
November 2017 and January 2018.

“In around half of products examined… more than 30 percent of calories
were from total sugars and around a third of products contained added sugar
or other sweetening agents,” the European branch of the WHO stated.

The WHO noted that while foods that naturally contain sugars, such as
fruits and vegetables, can be appropriate in young child diets, “the very
high levels of sugars present in commercial products is a cause for concern”.

A high sugar intake can increase the risk of overweight and dental
cavities, the organisation warned.

And early exposure to overly sweet products can create a potentially
harmful lifelong preference for sugary foods.

“Good nutrition in infancy and early childhood remains key to ensuring
optimal child growth and development, and to better health outcomes later in
life,” WHO Regional Director for Europe Zsuzsanna Jakab said in a statement.

Up to 60 percent of inspected food products were labelled as suitable for
infants under six months old, contrary to WHO recommendations “that infants
receive exclusively breast milk for the first six months of life”, said the
report.

The WHO said it was updating its guidelines to help member countries adopt
new legislation to curb high sugar intake.

The WHO wants the promotion of breast milk substitutes to end, and
recommends that children between six months and two years be fed nutrient-
rich foods prepared at home.

The organisation called for the banning of added sugars and sweeteners in
baby foods, and said labels on candies and sweetened beverages — including
fruit juices and condensed milk — should state the products are not suitable
for children under three.

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