A young child eats a piece of watermelon.

New research identifies some toddler food products that do not meet WHO guidelines for sugar content

Of more than 70 ready-to-eat toddler food products, more than 75% do not meet the proposed sugar guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO), research that will soon be published for l ‘Obesity Policy Coalition found.

Take Kiddylicious’ Raspberry Crispy Tiddlers – researchers have found that 70% of its total energy comes from sugar. Meanwhile, raspberries in their natural state contain less than 10% sugar.

“It’s really devastating to see that foods for our youngest Australians are so high in these processed sugars from fruit,” said Jane Martin, executive director of the Obesity Policy Coalition.

“We have to see limits when we have such high proportions of obesity in these young age groups.”

Other foods at the top of the list include:

  • Kiddylicious’ Smoothie Melts Strawberry and Banana (67% total energy from sugar)
  • Rafferty’s Garden 12 Months+ Strawberry Yogurt Buttons (59% of total energy from sugar)
  • Heinz Little Kids Yogurt Muesli Fingers Fruit salad flavor (45% of total energy from sugar)
  • Aldi’s Mamia Fruit Oat Bars Strawberry 12+ Months (41 percent of total energy from sugar)

Many companies did not respond at 7:30 a.m. when asked why the foods were for toddlers, why they were so high in sugar, and if there was a fruit that was naturally high in sugar.

Aldi, the maker of the Mamia Fruit Oat Bars, said at 7:30 a.m. in a statement that “the main characteristic ingredient of these bars is fruit paste, comprising 62% of the bar and made from fruit puree concentrate.”

“This paste contains consistent apples, raisins and raisins in all flavors, but this product contains no added sugar outside of what occurs naturally in the fruit paste.

“This product does not claim to be nutritionally complete…nor is it intended to be a complete meal. ALDI makes no nutritional claims on this product.”

A young child reaches for a plate of berries.
Obesity is a growing concern among young Australians.(ABC News: Chris Gillette)

Federal Health Minister Mark Butler said he found the research “shocking”.

“As Minister of Health, for all of us as parents, having these products in supermarkets, often labeled quite opaquely, is I think one of the most serious challenges we have,” he said. -he declares.

“Enabling parents and children to make healthy choices is really difficult.”

But the Food and Grocery Council’s deputy chief executive, Dr Geoffrey Annison, said the industry was “not overly concerned” about the results.

“These products are just part of the kids’ diet. It’s not what they eat completely, and they’re meant to fill a certain need,” he told 7:30 a.m.

“People have ultimate control over what they eat.”

What role does sugar play in Australia’s obesity epidemic?

Obesity is a complex issue that has been talked about in Australia for decades – and the official figures show that obesity levels are getting worse.

Some 18 million Australians are predicted to be overweight or obese by 2030.

an obese man
Experts say obesity is probably the biggest health challenge facing Australia. (david hunt)

The focus has shifted from high-fat foods to high-sugar ones, with many public health experts believing that’s where the problem lies.

But Dr Annison, who has been a food scientist for 40 years, rejects the hypothesis that a nutrient like sugar is to blame for the obesity crisis.

“We haven’t seen any strong evidence that foods that are either particularly high in fat, or particularly high in protein, or particularly high in sugar, or other carbohydrates, are addictive,” he said. declared.

The Beverage Council, which represents soft drink manufacturers, agrees.

Student holding a bottle of a sports drink and a cup containing sugar.
The Beverage Council says members are committed to reducing sugar in their beverages.(ABC News: Chris Gillette)

“I personally don’t think sugar is addictive,” said Beverages Council CEO Geoff Parker.

“We are, you know, evolutionarily predisposed to want sweet tasting foods and drinks.”

Mr Parker said council members agreed to reduce sugar levels in their overall beverage portfolio by 25% by 2025 due to consumer demands and not other concerns.

But scientists studying alcohol and nicotine addiction have found that sugar has the same effect on the brains of animals.

Professor Selena Bartlett is Group Leader in Neuroscience at Queensland University of Technology. She studies the link between excessive sugar consumption in humans and obesity, and says the solution is not as simple as telling people to eat less and exercise more.

Woman with long blond hair wearing a blue top.
Professor Selena Bartlett studies the link between sugar and obesity.(ABC News: Chris Gillette)

“So the same pathway that nicotine binds to has been activated by excessive sugar consumption. And that’s quite shocking if you sit down and think about it,” Professor Bartlett said.

“And that explains why it’s so hard to give up.”

Two people sitting around a computer are watching a brain scan.
Scientists studying alcohol and nicotine addiction have found that sugar has the same effect on the brains of animals.(ABC News: Chris Gillette)

The dial has not been moved on obesity

Obesity is linked to conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, and it ranks only second after tobacco use for preventable health problems.

Yet Australia’s waistline is widening – and to date no side of politics, whether policy, educational campaign or industry reform, has been able to change the nation’s trajectory. .

“This is, I think, perhaps the most significant health challenge we have as a country,” Butler said at 7:30 a.m.

“Five decades ago, only 10% of adults were obese.

“Now it’s around 30 per cent. And if you hit retirement age in the 60s and 70s, it’s 40 per cent of older Australians [who] are obese.”

A man wearing a suit and tie with a neutral expression
Health Minister Mark Butler said ‘making healthy choices is really difficult’ for parents and children.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

A National Obesity Strategy was launched by the previous Morrison government earlier this year, but its only target was a 5% reduction in childhood obesity by 2030.

Proposed solutions like a tax on sugary drinks – which has been introduced in several other countries, including the UK – have been rejected by the minister.

“We need to work with industry to reduce the salt and sugar content of their products, as well as the portion sizes,” Mr Butler told 7.30am.

Mr Butler says he also wants to look at information on packaging, as well as better support for obese people in medical settings.

The Food and Grocery Council believes it already offers a range of healthy options for people to choose from.

“Every part of the community has a role to play here,” Dr. Annison said.

“Thus, the food industry promotes its products, especially those with low energy content (sugar), to people concerned about their weight gain and wishing to control their weight.”

But the Obesity Policy Coalition, which represents health groups across the country, said at 7:30 a.m. that the time for industry regulation has come.

“Now is the time [for the government] to intervene; we basically tried everything else,” Jane Martin said.

“We haven’t moved the dial. If we’re going to reduce childhood obesity, we have to do those things that the industry has pushed against.”

Watch 7:30 p.m., Monday-Thursday 7:30 p.m. on ABC iview and ABC TV

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