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Sugar content in savoury baby foods increases – study

By Ella Pickover, PA Health Correspondent

Savoury baby foods have more sugar content than they did seven years ago, a study has suggested.

Researchers found that while the sugar content in sweet “spoonable” baby foods had reduced by 6% since 2013, the amount in spoonable savoury foods had increased by 16%.

The proportion of “snacks” marketed at babies increased markedly between 2013 and 2019, according to academics from the University of Glasgow.

Researchers identified 185 snack foods for babies in 2019, up from 42 in 2013.

The study, published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, aimed to assess differences between food marketed for babies between 2013 and 2019.

In 2013, there were a large number of products advertised to babies aged four months and over, but in line with guidance that babies should not be weaned until they are around six months old, there has been a reduction in foods marketed for those at four months.

Of the 865 products studied, the researchers found that concentrated juice was added to 253.

About 18% of savoury products were made up of more than 50% sweet vegetables or fruit.

The authors wrote: “The increase in snack foods and the sweetness of savoury foods is a concern.”

They said that babies under the age of 12 months “do not need snacks” but consumer research has highlighted that parents are willing to give them.

The authors said manufacturers “are tending to market snacks as beneficial to feeding skills and helpful for baby-led complementary feeding”.

“The rise of baby food snacks is a worrying development as it is well established that repeated exposure shapes eating behaviour in early years,” they continued.

“Thus, if infants habitually eat ‘crisp’-like foods at an early stage, this behaviour is likely to persist.

“Snacks in the baby food aisle are visually appealing, and appear to be ‘healthy foods’ as they consist of dried fruit or dry cereals flavoured with fruit or vegetables. Similar confusing ‘healthy halo’ marketing strategies are used in commercial snack foods aimed at toddlers.

“Although clinical evidence is not currently available, the health consequences of snacking for baby feeding skills, liquid/milk intake and continued exposure to sugars in the oral cavity are likely to have implications for healthy eating guidelines.”

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