“It’s time to tighten the rules for labeling baby food packaging – this confuses parents” – Miriam Stoppard

dr Miriam Stoppard argues that stricter regulation of baby food labeling is needed as it confuses parents

Advertising sweet baby food with a high sugar content could be harmful

Advertising statements on baby food packaging (CBF) are ubiquitous and sometimes unregulated. They can also have connotations of “healthy halo” implying

indirect health benefits for babies that might confuse parents.

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

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

In the absence of strict regulation, there is clearly some sort of free-for-all. In addition, this can not be good for babies or parents. This should be seen against the World Health Organization (WHO) endorsement of exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months.

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

Marketing claims related primarily to texture (84%) and taste (70%). The main compositional claim was organic (63%), while nutritional claims were primarily related to “no added sugar” or “less” sugar (58%) and salt (57%).

WHO has called for the adoption of standards for the promotion of commercial infant formula to align with best practice recommendations for infant feeding – and this is clearly urgently needed.

In my opinion there are some practices that are frankly dangerous, for example claims of baby-led weaning in 72% of snacks. There is no justification for snacking as young as 6 months due to the potential to promote 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, sweetness is encouraged [baby foods] High sugar levels can be harmful.

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

“Nutritional goals for fruit and vegetable consumption (five servings daily) are given for children two years and older, so the suitability of claims such as ‘contributes to your 2 out of 5’ or ‘contains 1 out of 5’ ‘ remains questionable,” she adds added.

“Statements such as ‘nutritionist approved’ or ‘nutritionist approved’ are common, but the meaning of these statements in relation to nutritional quality or the accuracy of health claims is not entirely clear and requires further study.”

My main concern is that advertising claims about CBF’s may mislead parents and are not in the best interests of babies. At a minimum, policymakers and advocacy groups should update policies, laws, and policies to protect mothers and babies so that infant feeding recommendations are not undermined.

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