Health Medical Pharma

Not all children are born equal; some need more sugar according to Nestle

HQ Team

May 7, 2024: Nestle, the Switzerland-based food giant, is facing flak for its baby product formulations, which carry added sugar in some African and Asian countries, according to a new report.

Public Eye, a Swiss NGO, and the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), released a report on Nestlé baby products in April. The report found significant differences in the products the company sells in markets like Switzerland, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom with the rest of the world.

“… For Nestlé, not all babies are equal when it comes to added sugar,” the report stated. “While in Switzerland, where the company is headquartered, the main brands of infant cereals and growing-up milks sold by the food giant are free of added sugar, most Cerelac and Nido products marketed in lower-income countries contain it, often at high levels.”

Double standards

For example, the research found that some cereals meant for 6-month-olds that are sold in Switzerland come with “no added sugar” on the label. However, in Ethiopia, Senegal, Thailand, and South Africa, the same Cerelac cereals contain up to six grams of added sugar per serving.

Nigel Rollins, a scientist at WHO told Public Eye and IBFAN: “There is a double standard here that can’t be justified.” He added that the fact that Nestle doesn’t add sugar to these products in Switzerland but is quite happy to do it in lower resources settings “is problematic both from a public health & ethical perspective.”

Nestlé prominently highlights the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients contained in its products using idealizing imagery, but it’s not transparent when it comes to added sugar.

Regulations in lower-income group countries are not strict, hence Nestle is able to circumvent restrictions with cleverly worded advertisements and claims.

Lab test

The task of testing for sugars in Nestle products was not easy. Several laboratories in Switzerland refused to conduct the test. One lab even wrote that it could not take part in the project because the results “could potentially have a negative impact” on its existing customers, according to Public Eye.  They then used a lab based in Belgium.

The lab examined 115 products sold in Nestlé’s main markets in Africa, Asia and Latin America. 108 of them (94 percent) contained added sugar. For 67 of these products, the lab could determine the amount of added sugar.

In India, where sales surpassed $250 million in 2022, all Cerelac baby cereals contain on average nearly 3 grams per serving. In South Africa, the main market on the African continent, all Cerelac baby cereals contain four grams or more of added sugar per serving. In Brazil, Nestle’s second-largest market with sales of around $150 million in 2022, three-quarters of Cerelac baby cereals were found to contain 3 grams of added sugar per serving.


Nestle has given an explanation for its use of sugar in infant food on its site.

It writes:

“All our infant formula products for babies under 12 months of age do not contain added sugars.

For the so-called growing up milks (GUMs), for children aged between 1 and 3 years, we started to phase out added sugars some time ago and the vast majority of these products do not contain refined sugar. We aim to reach 100% by the end of 2024.

It says that sugars in our cereals come from different sources, depending on the recipe involved:

  • In a complete recipe containing milk, total sugars include the lactose naturally present in milk which accounts for around 60% of the total sugars.
  • Some sugars, naturally present in cereals, are released during manufacturing.
  • Some sugars can also come from ingredients we add, such as fruit puree, pieces of fruit, sucrose, or honey, which are used to add flavor and texture.

It also says, “The total level of sugars in our products, including those generated during the manufacturing process and those added, are in line with local regulations and/or international standards as applicable.”

In 2022, WHO called for a ban on added sugars and sweeteners in food products for babies, and urged the industry to “be proactive” and “support public health goals” by reformulating its products.








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