WHO: Baby food has too much sugar, is marketed wrongly

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Baby food often contains too much sugar and is incorrectly advertised as suitable for infants under 6 months of age, according to a new World Health Organization report.

At least half of products analyzed in three of four cities provided more than 30 percent of their calories from sugars, according to the study. About a third of them listed sugar, concentrated fruit juice or other sweeteners as an ingredient.

That raises the risk for obesity and diabetes later because it can wire young children to a lifelong preference for sweet foods. The WHO recommends babies be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their lives, advice the world's biggest baby-food makers like Nestle SA and Danone echo. The industry still faces criticism from groups like Baby Milk Action, which says companies often violate international marketing standards.

In addition, the WHO study showed that as much as 60 percent of baby food products were being advertised as suitable for infants. While permitted under European Union law, it does break WHO's guidance that food products to supplement breast milk or formula should not be marketed as suitable for babies under 6 months of age.

The WHO collected data on 7,955 food or drink products marketed for infants and young children from 516 stores in Vienna, Sofia, Budapest and Haifa, Israel between November 2017 and January 2018. The study didn't mention any company or brand names.

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