Nestle accused of adding sugar to baby food in poorer countries

GENEVA – A Swiss NGO (non government organization) has concluded a study that found Nestle is adding sugar to its baby food in poorer countries.

According to analysis by Public Eye and the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) published Tuesday on the organization's website, samples of certain follow-on milk products for infants from Germany, France, Great Britain and the home market of Switzerland that were tested in a Belgian laboratory contained no added sugar.

Samples from countries like Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Ethiopia and Thailand were found to contain between 1.6 (0.05 ounces) and 6 grams (0.21 ounces) of added sugar per portion.

The report said the sample of cereal porridge from South Africa contained 6 grams of sugar per portion -- the equivalent of one and a half cubes of sugar per meal.

In Switzerland, however, the packaging of the same product states "no added sugar."

Public Eye wrote on its website that developing and emerging countries are particularly affected, while Western countries are not.

The NGO said "double standards" exist at Nestle and accuses the company of "making babies and young children in low-income countries addicted to sugar."

"By adding sugar to these products, Nestle -- and other manufacturers -- are aiming solely to create an addiction or dependency in children because they like the sweet taste," Laurent Gabrell, co-author of the study, told Swiss public broadcaster SFR, on Wednesday.

"So if the products are very sweet, they will want more of them in the future," he said.

The study was published one day before a Nestle shareholders' meeting in Lausanne.

Nestle told SFR in a statement: "All our formulations comply with international and local laws, including labeling regulations."

It added that "minor variations in formulations from country to country depend on various factors, including legislation, without affecting the quality of our products," according to the broadcaster.

Nestle said it is "evolving its infant cereal products to further reduce added sugars without compromising on quality, safety and taste."

Nestle is the world's largest food company and the largest industrial company in Switzerland, with its head office in Vevey.

With a turnover of USD104.48 billion and a profit of USD10.29 billion in 2022, Nestle is the 47th largest company in the world, according to Forbes Global 2000. (Anadolu)