“It’s time to tighten the rules on baby food packaging claims – it’s confusing parents” – Miriam Stoppard

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Dr Miriam Stoppard argues stricter regulation is needed on claims made on baby food packaging as it leaves parents confused

Promoting sugary baby foods with high amounts of sugar could be harmful

Promotional claims on baby food (CBF) packaging are ubiquitous and, in part, unregulated. They can also have “healthy halo” connotations which imply

indirect health benefits for babies that might confuse parents.

Researchers Ada Lizbeth Garcia and colleagues at the University of Glasgow point to a total of 6,265 promotional claims on 724 selected CBF products across seven supermarkets.

Almost all products carried marketing claims (99%) on the packaging, followed by composition claims (97%) and nutrition claims (85%). Only 6% of products (41) carried direct health claims.

Obviously, in the absence of strict regulations, there is a kind of free-for-all. Moreover, it can’t be good for babies or parents. This should be seen in the context of the World Health Organization (WHO) advocacy for exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months.

The average number of claims on each product was nine, of which about five were marketing in nature. But there were examples of up to 17 promotional claims on a single product.

Marketing claims mainly referred to texture (84%) and taste (70%). The top composition claim was organic (63%) while nutrition claims were mostly for ‘no added’ or ‘less’ sugar (58%) and salt (57%).

The WHO has called for the establishment of standards for the promotion of commercial baby foods to align with best practice recommendations for infant feeding – and this is clearly needed.

There are some practices in my opinion that are downright dangerous, for example the claims of baby-directed weaning on 72% of snacks. There is no justification for snacking as early as 6 months, given the potential to encourage overeating and obesity.

Dr Garcia says: “Because food preferences are formed early in life and infants have an innate preference for sweet and salty foods, the promotion of sweet [baby foods] containing a large amount of sugar could be detrimental.

“In addition, it can contribute to high energy consumption and tooth decay. [tooth decay].

“Dietary goals for fruit and vegetable consumption (five servings a day) are given to children from the age of two, hence the opportunity to promote claims such as ‘contributes to your 2 out of 5’ or ‘ contains 1 of 5”. ‘remains debatable,’ she adds.

“Endorsements such as ‘Nutritionist Approved’ or ‘Dietitian Approved’ are widely used, but what these endorsements mean in terms of nutrient quality or the veracity of health claims is not entirely clear and requires consideration. further examination.”

My main concern is that promotional claims about CBFs might mislead parents and not be in the best interests of babies. At the very least, policymakers and stakeholders should update guidelines, legislation and policies to protect mothers and babies so that infant feeding recommendations are not compromised.

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