So-called “healthy” baby and toddler snacks can contain as much as two teaspoons of unnecessary sugar, despite being sold as a weaning food, a study has found.
Action on Sugar analysed 73 baby sweet snacks that all featured “healthy sounding” claims on the packaging.
They found more than a third (37 per cent) could receive a red traffic light-style label for sugar content.
Just six products (eight per cent) would have received a green (low) label for sugars.
Currently, baby and children’s food and drink is not required to display traffic light labelling on the front of packs.
It means parents are being tricked into thinking they are buying nutritious snacks – unless they study the packaging closely.
Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chairman of Action on Sugar, said: “Consuming too much sugar on a regular basis means we’re eating too many calories.
“If we don’t use those calories as fuel, our body will store them as fat.
“This can lead to weight gain and, if this happens to our children, it’s likely they will carry the weight into their adolescent and adult years, potentially leading to overweight or obesity, as well as suffering from agonising tooth decay.”
Action on Sugar pointed out brands use the claim “no added sugar”, despite using fruit concentrates which are still a type of free sugar and should be limited.
Organix bars, which have “no junk, promise” written on the box, are sweetened with apple juice concentrate which is classed as “free sugars”.
Free sugars are those that are added to food and drinks to make them sweeter. It includes fruit juices, despite them being made of fruit.
Adults are advised to limit themselves to only 30g of free sugar a day, meaning thse products would be almost a third of their daily allowance.
The NHS advises against giving children under four sugar.
When looking at sugars per 100g, five Kiddylicious products scored the worst, including Banana Crispy Tiddlers (59g), Pineapple, Coconut and Mango Juicy Fruit Bars (30.7g).
Each bag/serving is 12g.
Products that contained a low amount of sugar per serving included Tesco Pear & Berries Rice Cakes (0.1g), Nestle Cerelac Wheat, Raspberry & Banana Cereal Snack and Little Freddie Pineapple, Raspberry Wheatgerm & Quinoa Puffs (both 0.2g).
A poll for Action on Sugar found 84 per cent of parents of young children said they buy these sweet snacks for their children.
Some and 60 per cent said a “no added sugar” claim would be the reason for choosing a particular product.
And 92 per cent said they were more inclined to buy products containing “natural sources” of sugars; for example, fruit.
Action on Sugar described the findings as of “deep concern”.
The group has called for the removal of “misleading” nutrition and health claims.
It is also urging the Government to finally publish its composition guidelines for baby and toddler products, which will guide manufacturers on how much sugar should be used.
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.”
Heinz said in a statement: “Sugar reduction is a key focus for Heinz for Baby and we are looking into ways to improve the products we make. Alongside the original rusks, Farley’s offer a range of reduced-sugar rusks with 30% less sugar.
“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.”
A Kiddylicious spokeswoman said: “The Kiddylicious products highlighted in this report are sweetened by fruit, which naturally does contain sugar.
“We pack all of our snacks in portion-controlled bags for tinier tummies. This helps parents to moderate consumption and also ensures that the nutritionals are of appropriate levels for children.”
Emily Day, Head of Food Development at Organix, said: “The majority of the sugar content within Organix Soft Oaty Bars comes from dried fruit which contains naturally occurring sugars. The fruit juice concentrate used is to hold all the ingredients together, provide flavour and to give a suitable texture for a child.
“Organix believes in using natural ingredients such as dried fruit which has the nutritional benefits of fibre, vitamins and minerals rather than using artificial sweeteners or table sugar.
“We share our full recipe and nutritional content per portion and per 100g on back of pack.
“As a brand we are constantly looking at natural ways to reduce sugar and are excited to share new news on this in 2022.”
The Sun has contacted Aldi for comment.