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Sugar horror in baby bikkies

31st January 2000

Biscuits specially designed for babies and toddlers are sweeter than jam tarts and doughnuts, according to a report from the watchdog Food Commission today. Sweet biscuits are the number one cause of tooth decay in infants aged 1 - 2 years.

A new generation of highly-sugared biscuits, snacks and cereal bars are coming onto the market -- despite government warnings to avoid giving sweet snacks to children. The Food Commission survey found 50% sugar in Nestlé Fruit Stick and 37% in Boots Teddy Bear biscuits, compared with 36% in a jam tart. Traditional Farley's Rusks (29%) have more sugar than a chocolate digestive (27%).

Nestlé Banana-Apple stick is aimed at 'juniors' aged 12 months or older. It contains 50% sugar, and is described as 'an ideal children's snack'.

And so-called 'reduced sugar' products from Farleys (21%) and Hipp (21%) had more sugar than a jam doughnut (19% sugar). Government advice tells parents to cut back on sweet foods between meals -- yet Nestlé describes its sweetest products as 'ideal snacks' and 'fun snacks'.

Only five out of the 22 products examined were virtually sugar free. But one of these products -- Nestle Sesame Sticks -- contained sesame seeds, an ingredient which is second only to nuts as a cause of severe allergic reactions.

'The baby food regulations are very weak,' said the report's author, Dr Tim Lobstein. 'Manufacturers exploit this in order to label highly sweetened products as specially suitable for infants. Parents should look carefully at the small print and put the highly sweetened brands back on the shelf.'

Boots Teddy Bear Biscuits have been 'specially developed to provide toddlers with fun and tasty food' but boast a whopping 37% sugar content.

Biscuits are children's most commonly-eaten sweet food, with more than twice as many 2-year olds eating biscuits daily as drinking sweetened juices or fruit drinks. And biscuits are strongly linked to an increased risk of tooth damage, with 11% of frequent biscuit eaters getting damaged teeth before they are 30 months old, compared with 1% of infants who eat biscuits less than once a day.

The Food Commission is calling for tighter limits on the amount of sugar allowed in foods sold specially for babies and infants.

Farley's Original packs a whopping 29% sugar, but even their reduced sugar version (21%) and an organic version from Hipp (21%) have more sugar than a jam doughnut (19% sugar).

Only four products were considered acceptable to the Food Commission: rice cakes from Cow & Gate and Boots, Breadsticks from Baby Organix and Bickiepegs.