Baby and toddler snacks including Heinz Farley's rusks and Kiddylicious Banana Crispy Tiddlers contain high levels of sugar reveals Action on Sugar study
So called 'healthy' snacks for babies and toddlers can contain up to two teaspoons of sugar, a study has found.
Action on Sugar says it has uncovered 'alarming' amount of sugar in many sweet snacks designed for youngsters such as biscuits, rusks, oat bars and puffs, with many sold as weaning foods.
Researchers based at Queen Mary University of London have delved into the ingredients of 73 products sold in shops with what they say are 'healthy-sounding' features on their packets – however it warns more than one third would receive a high label for sugars based on what is inside.
The product survey found Heinz Farley's Mini Rusks Original to contain one of the highest levels of sugar with 8.7g per serving – the equivalent of two teaspoons.
This was followed by Organix Banana Soft Oaty Bars with 8.1g of sugars per portion, with these bars sweetened with apple juice concentrate which is a type of sugar known as 'free sugar'.
When looking at the amount of sugar in each product per 100g, 27 of the 73 snacks investigated would receive a high red label for sugar contents if baby and toddler foods carried the same traffic light labelling on the front of their packets that is applicable to other food types, say those who worked on the study.
Among those with very high sugar levels were two Kiddylicious products including Banana Crispy Tiddlers, which had 59g of sugar per 100g and Pineapple, Coconut and Mango Juicy Fruit Bars with almost a third of sugar – 30.7g per 100g.
As a result of the research Action on Sugar is calling for the removal of what it says can be 'misleading' information on children's snacks, particularly connected to those which say no added sugar or refined sugar, when such ingredients are replaced by fruit concentrates which are still a type of free sugar and so should still be strictly limited in children's diets.
Action on Sugar is also urging the government to publish its long-awaited guidelines for baby and toddler products, which will guide manufacturers on how much sugars should be used .
Dr Kawther Hashem, campaign lead at Action on Sugar and research fellow at Queen Mary University of London explained: "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."
In response to the study Organix said: "The majority of the sugar content within Organix Soft Oaty Bars comes from dried fruit which contains naturally occurring sugars, rather than the fruit juice concentrate which is used to hold all the ingredients together 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, flavours or table sugar, and clearly label the front of our packs to be transparent to parents. This is part of our No Junk Promise. As a brand we are constantly looking at natural ways to reduce sugar and are excited to share new news on this in 2022".
While Heinz said sugar reduction is a 'key focus' for Heinz for Baby and it is always looking at ways to improve products.
It added: "Alongside the original rusks Farley’s offer a range of reduced sugar rusks with 30 per cent 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.”
Kiddylicious has been contacted for a comment.