The group is calling for misleading on-pack marketing claims to be removed, especially around ‘no added sugar/refined sugar’ when such ingredients are replaced by fruit concentrates, which it said are still a type of free sugars and should be limited.
It has also called for the Government to publish and mandate its long-awaited commercial baby food and drink guidelines.
The move comes as the group published the results of its latest research which it said “exposed the alarming amounts of sugars found in many baby & toddler sweet snacks” such as biscuits, rusks, oat bars and puffs.
The product survey, which analysed 73 baby and toddler sweet snacks sold in stores, found Heinz Farley's Mini Rusks Original to be the worst offender with 8.7g of sugars per serve. Action on Sugar said despite the health claims about added vitamins and minerals on pack, this product also contains added sugar.
When it comes to sugars per 100g – a third (27 of the 73) of the products surveyed would receive a red (high) label for sugars if baby and toddler foods carried traffic light labelling on front of pack.
Five Kiddylicious products scored the worst for sugars per 100g according to its research. These included Kiddylicious Banana Crispy Tiddlers at 59g per 100g, and Kiddylicious Pineapple, Coconut & Mango Juicy Fruit Bars which were highlighted as having nearly a third sugars at 30.7g per 100g.
Only six products out of 73 (8%) would get a green (low) label for sugars, the research said.
Promoting to children
Dr Kawther Hashem, Campaign Lead at Action on Sugar and Research Fellow at Queen Mary University of London said: “It’s ludicrous that certain food companies are being allowed to promote their high sugar sweet snacks to parents with very young children, despite them being aware that babies and toddlers shouldn’t be having any free sugars.
“Babies can have a preference for sweet foods, due to milk being ever so slightly sweet, but liking sugary foods is something they only learn by eating sugary foods. Some companies choose to encourage this preference further by providing lots of very sweet products from an early age. What we need is companies to make products with minimal amount of sugars, so young children can grow up enjoying less sweet foods.”
A spokesman for Heinz said sugar reduction was a key focus for Heinz for Baby and that it was looking into ways to improve the products it made.
"Alongside the original rusks Farley’s offer a range of reduced sugar rusks with 30% less sugar," the spokesman added. The level of added sugars in these recipes is kept to a minimum consistent with the need to provide a texture which dissolves easily to avoid the risk of choking. Farley’s Rusks are very different from typical biscuits, containing very little fat and no added salt.”