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Industry misleading parents on sugar-laden food

We have called on government to stamp out misleading marketing claims by children's food manufacturers, revealed in damning new research from Action on Sugar.

The latest findings show that some breakfast foods aimed at toddlers contain up to four teaspoons of sugar per serving. Over three quarters of products claim to have 'no added sugars' or 'only naturally occurring sugars' despite many containing sugars from fruit juices, concentrates and purees – all of which are harmful to dental health.

It's an all too familiar approach from industry. Earlier this year our study of 109 baby pouches aimed at children under the age of 12 months found over a quarter contained more sugar by volume than Coca Cola, with parents of infants as young as four months being marketed pouches that contain the equivalent of up to 150% of the sugar levels of the soft drink.

We want to see sweeping action on food marketing and labelling, including the complete removal of misleading nutrition and health claims on baby and toddler food and drink products. Together with the publication of the long overdue commercial baby food and drink guidelines, we can ensure dedicated baby aisles in supermarkets are a 'safe space' for parents.

Eddie Crouch, BDA Chair said: "The food industry is walking parents down the garden path, pushing sugar-laden products as healthy options. Claims of 'no added sugar' are utterly meaningless when toddlers are receiving four teaspoons over breakfast.

"Tooth decay is the number one reason for hospital admission among young children, and Ministers can't remain bystanders. Action here is a prerequisite if we're ever going to turn the tables on wholly preventable diseases."

Government has yet to step up. In 2017, the Sugar Reduction Programme was introduced, with a 20% reduction in sugar levels in certain key contributors to children's sugar intake expected by 2020. The progress report issued in 2019 showed that only 3% of this reduction had been met.

We joined 40 organisations earlier this year in writing to the Government, calling for the final report to be published. We are still waiting.


Action on Sugar's Sugar Awareness Week runs from 14 to 20 November.

We have been leading the calls for radical and urgent action to lower the nation's sugar intake, through action on marketing, labelling and expansion of the sugar tax.

Our list of useful resources for dental professionals can help to support you when having conversations with your patients about sugar intake. One of the most important messages to share with your patients is to remember that it is not just the amount of sugar eaten that causes tooth decay, but also how often those foods and drinks are consumed.