Kids are sweet enough

All children deserve the best start in life, ensuring they can grow and develop in the healthiest way possible.

For many children, ready-made baby and toddler foods make up a significant portion of what they eat every day. These foods should support good health and wellbeing, but the processed food industry uses harmful sugar ingredients in these ready-made foods and promotes them with claims and product names to make them appear healthy.

The Australian Government must set higher standards for the composition, labelling and promotion of baby and toddler foods to protect our youngest consumers.

Use and consumption of baby and toddler foods

A recent Royal Children’s Hospital National Child Health Poll found that 45% of children between 4 and <36 months of age are eating ready-made baby and toddler foods at least two to three times a week. For two in five children, ready-made baby and toddler foods make up at least half or more of their meals and snacks, and for 15% of children these foods make up most or all of their dietary intake.

Harmful sugars in baby and toddler foods

58% of toddler foods contain harmful sugars

A recent CHOICE survey found that over half of all toddler snack foods contained sugars that are harmful to health, including fruit juice concentrate, fruit paste and fruit powder, sugar and syrups.

Nine in 10 Australian parents agree there should be laws to limit harmful sugars in baby and toddler foods, but there is currently no regulation to ensure this.

Don't be sweet-talked

Real fruit or really sugar? Shows the process of fruit being sieved, boiled, dried and nutrients removed to create a fruit bar

'Made with real fruit' – it has to be healthy, doesn’t it?

Not necessarily.

Processed food companies know that when people see the word 'fruit' they think 'health'. So they plaster it all over the packaging, especially on kids’ food, and it works. In fact, three-quarters of Australian parents say they are more likely to choose kids' food with a fruit image on the pack.

But the issue is that the ‘fruit’ that is in many of these products is nothing like real, whole fruit. Instead, they actually contain a sticky, sugary paste or concentrate, extracted from fruit but without all the same goodness. This is done by sieving it, boiling it, and removing all its water, until it is barely more than a pile of sugar. See how this is done to a simple wholesome apple.

 

Confusing labelling of baby and toddler foods

Savoury or sweet? Pouch of baby food showing 70% apple

One in four baby and toddler products have names that do not accurately reflect the ingredients. These product names often include fruits or vegetables, yet in many cases only contain flavouring or powder and no beneficial vegetable or fruit ingredients. With two in three parents reporting that the name of a product guides their choices, it is important that product names are accurate and do not mislead or confuse them about the actual health and nutritional benefits of the product.

 

Promotion of baby and toddler foods

Masking the truth

All baby and toddler food products carry claims, with up to 17 different claims on a single product. The use of many claims on the packaging of a single baby and toddler food, even if individual claims are true, can take away from its less favourable qualities, imply that the product is better than family foods and create an overall impression that a product is beneficial for the health of a child.

Nine in 10 parents agree there should be laws on the images and claims allowed on baby and toddler foods.

What we’re advocating for

To protect our youngest Australians, we want the government to raise the bar when it comes to the standards set for the composition, labelling and promotion of baby and toddler foods. This means regulation to ensure:

  • Harmful sugars are easily identified by consumers – that is:
    • an accurate definition of ‘added sugar’ that includes all sugars that are harmful to health (free sugars); and
    • ‘added sugar’ as a separate line item on the nutrition information panel.

  • There are no harmful sugars in ready-made foods for babies and toddlers (with limited exceptions).

  • Sweet snacks and confectionary are not marketed as suitable for babies and toddlers.

  • Front-of-pack product names for ready-made baby and toddler foods accurately reflect ingredients.

  • Claims and promotional statements cannot be made on ready-made baby and toddler foods.

See our short briefs for more details:

#kidsaresweetenough

Are you sick of the sweet-talk and want to help us advocate to protect the health of our kids now and into the future? Download the assets below to use and share these messages amongst your networks.

Real fruit or really sugar? Processing of strawberries to fruit bars 58% of toddler foods contain harmful sugars
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Healthy snack? Masking the truth
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