Coalition demands clearer labels to lower baby food sugar levels

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By Aderogba George

The National Action on Sugar Reduction (NASR) Coalition has called for clear nutritional label on infant formulas to support its campaign on excess sugar intake.

The coalition made the call in a statement signed by its Spokesperson, Omei Bongos-Ikwue in Abuja.

Bongos-Ikwue said that a recent investigative report by a UK newspaper (The UK Guardian) revealed that baby formulas now contain sugar.

According to her, the UK Guardian has revealed that Nestlé, a notable consumer goods company, allegedly adds sugar into baby formula and cereals placed in African markets.

She said that the report further disclosed that a Cerelac variety sold in Nigeria contains up to 6.8g of sugar per serving.

The spokesperson stated that “the situation is in contrast to the varieties sold in Europe, including the UK, where baby formulas contain no added sugar at all.”

She quoted Gloria Okwu, a member of the coalition, who is also the Programme Manager of Project Pink Blue (PPB), a cancer advocacy organisation, as describing such act as “criminal.”

Okwu also said “endangering the lives of children and exposing them to life-threatening illnesses is profiteering and criminal.”

She said that having different standards for producing baby formula for different populations is deceptive and discriminatory.

“In Nigeria, 29 per cent of deaths are caused by Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). Countries like Nigeria still face double burden of malnutrition, with undernutrition and obesity often existing side by side.

“Exposing children to high-sugar foods can encourage early formation of dietary patterns that increase the risk of childhood obesity, without resolving issues of poor nutrition.

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“The lives of children all over the world matter, and it our collective responsibility to protect them from diseases and situations that could negatively alter their lives now or in the future.

“No wonder, an increasing number of children develop diabetes and cancer early in life.”

The coalition urged government to ensure that infant formula and cereals distributed in Nigeria contain no added sugar.

It also urged government to ensure the introduction of mandatory, clear warning labels to inform consumers of how much sugar, nutrients and other agents are in Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) and ultra-processed food products in Nigeria.

The coalition said government must ensure an increase in SSB tax in line with global health recommendations and best practices to reduce consumption of harmful food products.

It said that government must also ensure that SSB tax revenue is invested in public health, especially the prevention and treatment of people living with non-communicable diseases such as diabetes.

NASR is also asking the government to immediately strengthen regulations in line with these demands. (NAN)(www.nannews.ng)

Edited by Hadiza Aliyu Mohammed

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