Baby foods are high in sugar and inappropriately marked as suitably for infants under the age of six months, according to recent studies.
Two new studies by WHO/Europe also recommend that that children should be breastfed, exclusively, for the first 6 months.
In its 2016 global ‘Guidance on Ending the Inappropriate Promotion of Foods for Infants and Young Children’, the organisation explicitly states that commercial complementary foods should not be advertised for infants under 6 months of age.
“Good nutrition in infancy and early childhood remains key to ensuring optimal child growth and development, and to better health outcomes later in life – including the prevention of overweight, obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) – there by making United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3 to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages much more achievable,” said WHO Regional Director for Europe, Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab.
WHO developed a draft Nutrient Profile Model (NPM) for children aged 6–36 months to guide decisions about which foods are inappropriate for promotion for this age group.
This was put forward to Member States and stakeholders for consideration and further discussion.
WHO/Europe also developed a methodology for identifying commercial baby foods available in retail settings, and for collecting nutritional content data on labels as well as other information from packaging, labelling and promotion (including claims).
This methodology was used to collect data on 7,955 food or drink products marketed for infants and young children from 516 stores in 4 cities in the WHO European Region (Vienna, Sofia. Budapest, and Haifa) between November 2017 and January 2018.
“Foods for infants and young children are expected to comply with various established nutrition and compositional recommendations. Nonetheless, there are concerns that many products may still be too high in sugars,” says Dr João Breda, Head of the WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases.
Although foods such as fruits and vegetables that naturally contain sugars are appropriate for infants and young children, the very high level of free sugars in puréed commercial products is also cause for concern.
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