Calls for urgent guidelines to improve ‘unjust’ sugar consumption among children

Health experts are calling for the release of new baby food and drink guidelines, adding that mandatory rules are crucial to improve nutritional content.

Action on Sugar, alongside 16 NGOs – including those in dentistry – are today calling for the Health Secretary, Steve Barclay, to release the the Commercial Baby Food and Drink Guidelines.

The group argues that data shows the majority of sugars in the diets of infants, aged four to nine months, are coming from shop brought baby foods – in particular, fruit-based and cereal-based foods.

The letter reads: ‘The overconsumption of sugar is linked to an increase in calories, and therefore weight gain. One in three children are obese or overweight by the time they leave primary school.

‘Health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension are now increasingly appearing in children, having previously been conditions that affected adults exclusively. Excess sugar intake is also the main cause of tooth decay in children. The most common reason for hospital admissions in children aged six and 10 years.

‘It is unjust that a child should be diagnosed with and also experience the pain associated with a wholly preventable dental disease.’

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Avoid misleading parents

The letter adds: ‘We know from previous policies, such as the Sugar Reformulation Programme, that voluntary measures are not enough to create enough change. The Commercial Baby Food and Drink Guidelines are needed to improve the nutritional content and also marketing of products to avoid misleading parents.

‘We urge you to make these guidelines mandatory to incentivise companies to comply.’

Associations and groups that signed the letter include:

  • Professor Graham McGregor, chairman, Action on Sugar
  • The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
  • Eddie Crouch, chair, British Dental Association
  • Nigel Carter, Oral Health Foundation
  • Nigel Shattock, director of communications & engagement, World Cancer Research Fund
  • Diabetes UK
  • Dr Greenwall, The Dental Wellness Trust.

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