Britain’s most sugar-laden baby foods and drinks were today named and shamed.
Some products — including ones sold by Ella’s Kitchen — contain up to four teaspoons of it.
Government guidance states no added sugars, including those from fruit which have been pureed, should be consumed by children under two.
But an audit of baby breakfast products sold in UK supermarkets found nearly 90 per cent marketed as having none are actually packed full of it.
Experts today labelled it a ‘scandal’, arguing that ‘no added sugar’ statements on packaging may make parents think the products are healthier than they are.
Doctors, dentists and other experts want ministers to ban products being sold with ‘misleading nutrition or health claims’.
The Action on Sugar survey found Ella’s Kitchen’s Banana, Apple & Blueberry Baby Rice had the highest sugar per serve, with 14.5g sugars per pouch
HOW MUCH SUGAR CAN MY CHILD HAVE?
The government recommends that free sugars – sugars added to food or drinks, and sugars found naturally in honey, syrups, and unsweetened fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies and purées – should not make up more than 5 per cent of the energy (calories) you get from food and drink each day.
- Adults should have no more than 30g of free sugars a day, (roughly equivalent to 7 sugar cubes).
- Children aged 7 to 10 should have no more than 24g of free sugars a day (6 sugar cubes).
- Children aged 4 to 6 should have no more than 19g of free sugars a day (5 sugar cubes).
- There’s no guideline limit for children under the age of 4, but it’s recommended they avoid sugar-sweetened drinks and food with sugar added to it.
Professor Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chairman of Action on Sugar — which carried out the review, said: ‘It’s a scandal that certain food companies are being allowed to peddle their high sugar products to parents with very young children — despite being aware that babies and toddlers shouldn’t be having any added at all.
‘An unhealthy diet, high in saturated fat, salt and sugar, and low in fruit and vegetables, is the biggest cause of death and disability globally and costs the UK alone more than £100billion annually.
‘Our children should not have to suffer unnecessarily from this.
‘Manufacturers should act responsibly and commit to reducing sugar, salt and calories instead of foisting unhealthy products with misleading nutrition claims upon well meaning parents.’
The review of around 100 products found Ella’s Kitchen’s Banana, Apple & Blueberry Baby Rice had the most sugar on sale, with 14.5g per pouch.
The manufacturer insists that the products, marketed to children as young as four months, is pureed, with a dash of lemon water and ‘nothing else added’.
The research did not distinguish between overall sugar levels and added sugar in products.
But paediatricians say all sugar has the same effect, regardless of whether it is added or not.
Ella’s Kitchen also had the second- and third-most sugary foods with its Banana Baby Brekkie (13.6g per serving) and Overnight Oats with Apple Pieces Banana + Poppy Seeds Dairy Free (12g).
Of the brands reviewed, only Little Freddie did not claim its products had ‘no added sugar’ or ‘only naturally occurring sugars’ on its packaging.
In response to the research, the British Dental Association has said the Government must stamp out misleading marketing claims by children’s food manufacturers.
Earlier this year a British Dental Association study of 109 baby pouches aimed at children aged under 12 months found over a quarter contained more sugar by volume than Coca Cola.
BDA Chairman Eddie Crouch said: ‘The food industry is walking parents down the garden path, pushing sugar-laden products as “healthy options”.
‘Claims of “no added sugar” are utterly meaningless when toddlers are receiving four teaspoons over breakfast.
‘Tooth decay is the number one reason for hospital admission among young children, and Ministers can’t remain bystanders.
‘Action here is a prerequisite if we’re ever going to turn the tables on wholly preventable diseases.’
A separate survey by Action on Sugar of more than 1,000 parents of children aged under 36 months found 65 per cent are concerned about the levels of sugar in ready-made baby and toddler breakfasts.
Some 87 per cent surveyed said they thought it would be useful if the sugars added to baby and infant food, including that of processed fruit, was displayed on front of pack.
Hattie Burt, policy and communications officer at Action on Sugar added: ‘Without clear guidance and regulation, the baby and infant food industry remains a Wild West, putting the health of our future generations at risk.
‘It’s clear the food industry can do more to support parents in making the best food choices for their children, but they won’t do this without government leadership.
‘We urge the Health Minister Steve Barclay to publish and mandate the Commercial baby food and drink guidelines without further delay.’
Ella’s Kitchen was approached for comment.