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The BBC's Nicola Carslaw
"The report highlights the need to read the packaging and check ingredients"
 real 28k

Thalia Thomas and Heather Paine
Spokeswomen from Which? and the food industry debate the issue
 real 28k

Wednesday, 3 May, 2000, 07:09 GMT 08:09 UK
Concern over 'too sweet' baby food

Are babies developing unhealthy eating habits?
By BBC Consumer Affairs Correspondent Nicola Carslaw

Many shop-bought baby foods contain sugar or fruit juice, which can encourage babies to like sweet things and potentially damage teeth, according to a report published on Wednesday

The industry has dismissed the findings in Consumer Association magazine Which? as misguided.

There is a bewildering array of baby foods on the market - jars, cans, packets of dried products, containing a wide variety of ranges and recipes.

Not including formula milks, the baby food market is worth a hundred and sixty five million pounds a year

Researchers from Which? checked 420 baby foods for babies from four months old.

They found that nearly 40% of the foods contained sugar or fruit juice, With 60% of infant breakfasts contained added sugars.

Diet 'risk'

Forty per cent contained starch additives, which can bulk out food so that there's less room for what Which calls "real food".

Many of the products carried "meaningless" wording, such as "specially formulated" and "wholesome" on labels, Which said.

For example, one fruit yoghurt contained more sugar than fruit, and a banana rice pudding had no fruit - just banana flavour.

Liz Edwards, Which?'s assistant editor, said: "There is a risk babies could be being encouraged to develop a sweet tooth because many shop-bought baby foods contain sugar or fruit juice."

But, Heather Paine, who represents the baby food industry, dismisses today's report as misguided.

She assured parents that all foods prepared for this most vulnerable age group are strictly regulated and contain a balance of the finest, most appropriate ingredients.

Praise for some

"Where there is sugar or starch this is essential to the recipe - to make it palatable, for example," she says.

The report did single out some organic brands for praise, for having clear labelling and being free from sugars and starch - though it is noted that they tend to be more expensive.

Lizzie Vann, the founder of Baby Organix, the UK's biggest organic brand manufacturer, says it is not difficult to produce nutritious baby food that is without sugars and starches and she hopes the whole industry will take heed.

Meanwhile, the Which researchers' advice to parents is to check ingredients carefully and use shop-bought products as part of a mixed diet that includes home-made food.

The British Dental Assoication said too many sweetened foods and drinks can encourage a sweet tooth.

It called for stronger rules governing food labelling, and for products to carry advice on how to avoid dental problems.

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See also:

15 Sep 99 | Health
Baby food toxic chemical alert
30 Jan 00 | Health
Baby food 'too sugary'
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