CLICK HERE for WHO comment on sugar and baby foods

CLICK here for Mike Brady’s Blog with extra links.


MEPs call for sugar levels in baby foods to be reduced

14th January 2016

The vote in the European Parliament Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee took place this morning with MEPs voting for one of the three Objections tabled by European Parliament by Green MEP Keith Taylor. The vote that was won called for reductions in pesticide and sugar levels in baby foods and that the recommended  age of use be not less than 6months.  The matter will now go to the European Parliament Plenary in Strasbourg for a vote on 20th January.

Poor diet is now the biggest underlying cause of disease and death globally – bigger than tobacco, alcohol and physical inactivity – and  early child feeding plays a key role in building and reinforcing healthy and unhealthy food preferences so its crucial that sugar levels are lowered. The EU’s weak  legislation on baby foods has certainly exacerbated the problem of child obesity – not only within the EU but  globally –  so this move is well overdue.

Disappointingly,  the other two objections on the  marketing of  formula tabled by Keith Taylor did not get sufficient support.   Baby formula marketing is seriously misleading parents.  In response to a request from Mr Taylor,  the World Health Organisation provided evidence on the importance of reducing added sugars and also on marketing, explaining that all products that function as breastmilk substitutes, including any milk products (liquid or powdered) that are marketed for young children (including follow-up formula and growing-up milks) are covered by the International Code.  CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE

With the fall of these objections, european babies will continue to be born without the minimum  protection that is their RIGHT.  The European Parliament has been calling for such protection since 1981 when the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes was first adopted.

Although the new regulations will not now be brought into line with the International Code and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly,  Baby Milk Action, IBFAN, the Baby Feeding Law Group, WHO and UNICEF  and all  our partners did manage to secure some important changes during earlier consultation stages.  For example we got:

  • almost a ban on  promotional claims on infant formula. Almost because a statement about DHA will be permitted;
  • Stricter (though not strict enough)rules on the marketing of Foods for Special Medical Purposes;
  • specific wording requiring all products exported to third countries to provide food information in a language easily understood by parents and caregivers;
  • three new opening paragraphs referring to the International Code, the risks of advertising and  concerns about obesity;
  • tougher wording on cross promotion of infant formula brands through other products

While these improvements are all welcome –  the Commission failed to address our key demands:

  • that Member States should be specifically allowed to ban follow-on formula promotion including advertising, claims and sponsorship in line with the obligations under the International Code and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly;
  • that optional ingredients added to formula (including those for vulnerable infants who require specialist feeds) should be kept to an absolute minimum and independently checked for efficacy and safety.  Optional ingredients fuel the industry’s demand for promotional claims.

Soon to be published EU-Funded research found that over 70% of baby foods and formulas carry health claims.    In addition 17 new highly promotional claims relating to ‘children’s development and health’  may soon be passed.   Many of these claims relate to mandatory ingredients that EFSA has stated “can be easily consumed as part of a balanced diet.”

Meanwhile baby food companies  continue to  flout all health advice –  targeting parents with totally misleading TV adverts that suggest that unnecessary and unproven ingredients in follow-on formula will turn  children into geniuses or ballerinas. Attention will now turn to Member States to go ahead and control marketing in line with their international and human rights obligations.


WHO Guidelines on Sugar for adults and children
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