NIGERIA – Global food giant Nestle has refuted allegations of adding sugar to its infant food products in low and middle-income countries, following revelations from a recent investigation by Swiss organization Public Eye in collaboration with the International Baby Food Action Network.

The probe uncovered added sugars in Nestle’s baby food products sold in regions like Nigeria, contradicting the company’s assertions.

In response to the allegations, Nestle reiterated its adherence to stringent regulatory standards and nutritional guidelines.

The company emphasized its commitment to labeling requirements and carbohydrate content thresholds, stating that sugars are not added to infant formulas for children aged 0-12 months in Nigeria.

“Slight variations in recipes across countries depend on several factors, including regulations and availability of local ingredients, which can result in offerings with lower or no-added sugars. This does not compromise the nutritional value of our products for infants and young children. Our range of cereals in Europe comes with and without added sugars,” said Nestle.

However, laboratory tests conducted on Nestle’s baby food products in Asia, Africa, and Latin America revealed the presence of added sugars. Conversely, products aimed at older children in Europe were found to be free of added sugars, as per the test results.

The investigation found striking differences in the sugar content of Nestlé’s baby formula, with examples such as Cerelac, a wheat cereal intended for six-month-old babies.

While versions of Cerelac sold in countries like Germany and the UK were reported to have no added sugar, counterparts in countries like Thailand were found to contain significant amounts of sugar, equivalent to a cube and a half per serving.

“In Nigeria, one product tested had up to 6.8g, but in Nestlé’s main European markets, including the UK, there is no added sugar in formulas for young children,” the report partly read.

According to Nigel Rollins, a scientist at the World Health Organization (WHO), such double standards raises concerns regarding the company’s marketing practices and adherence to global health standards.

Rollins emphasized that while natural sugars from sources like fruits are deemed safe for infants and children, added sugars can contribute to health issues such as obesity and cardiovascular diseases, posing a serious threat to public health.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has cautioned against the addition of sugar to baby foods, citing potential health risks such as chronic diseases, obesity, and addiction to such additives.

The publication of the investigation has prompted action from affected countries, with Indian authorities launching their own investigation into Nestlé’s baby food products.

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in Nigeria, responsible for regulating such products, expressed concern over the findings. NAFDAC denied prior knowledge of added sugars in Nestle’s infant products, signaling a gap in regulatory

Additionally, authors of the investigation have launched a petition calling for Nestlé to address the alleged double standards in its baby food products.

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