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Business News/ Companies / News/  FSSAI to probe allegations of high sugar in Nestlé's baby food
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FSSAI to probe allegations of high sugar in Nestlé's baby food

The food regulator will analyze the findings of Public Eye's report, and present it before a scientific panel for further assessment.

Customers with shopping carts browse Nestle SA's Maggi noodles at a Walmart India store on the outskirts of Chandigarh, Punjab. Photographer: Udit Kulshrestha/BloombergPremium
Customers with shopping carts browse Nestle SA's Maggi noodles at a Walmart India store on the outskirts of Chandigarh, Punjab. Photographer: Udit Kulshrestha/Bloomberg

New Delhi: The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) will start investigating allegations of high sugar content in Nestlé's infant cereals sold in India, following a report by Swiss investigative agency Public Eye, which specialises in corporate wrongdoing.

India's food regulator will analyze the findings of Public Eye's report, and present it before a scientific panel for further assessment, said people aware of the matter, seeking anonymity.

Earlier this week, Public Eye, in collaboration with the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), published the results of its investigation into various brands of infant milk and cereals sold by Nestlé across developing nations. 

According to the findings, the Swiss food company allegedly added sugar and honey in its two primary brands—Cerelac and Nodi—sold in parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

According to Public Eye, Cerelac baby products sold in India had high sugar content. “Almost all Cerelac infant cereals examined contain added sugar–nearly 4 gm per serving on average, equal to roughly a sugar cube– although they are targeted at babies from six months of age. The highest amount—7.3 gm per serving—was detected in a product sold in the Philippines."

FSSAI did not respond to Mint's queries on the issue. 

However, one of the people cited above, said: “It will examine claims made by Public Eye, and place the findings before a relevant scientific panel."

In response, Nestle on Thursday issued a statement refuting the allegations. Products manufactured in India are in "full and strict compliance" with global food standards, and local specifications pertaining to the requirements of all nutrients, including added sugars, the company said.

“We would like to assure that our infant cereal products are manufactured to ensure the appropriate delivery of nutritional requirements, such as protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, iron, etc., for early childhood. We never compromise and will never compromise on the nutritional quality of our products," a company spokesperson said in a statement.

“We constantly leverage our extensive global research and development network to enhance the nutritional profile of our products. Compliance is an essential characteristic of Nestlé India, and we will never compromise on that."

The company also said that its products manufactured in India are in full and strict compliance with CODEX standards (a commission established by WHO and FAO), as well as local specifications.

According to Nestlé India, in the past five years, it has reduced added sugars by up to 30%, across its infant cereal range, depending on the variant. “We regularly review our portfolio and continue to innovate and reformulate our products to further reduce the level of added sugars, without compromising on nutrition, quality, safety, and taste." 

However, in Europe, and other developed markets, the company does not add any sugar to its infant nutrition products.

Nestlé's India portfolio include noodles, chocolates and packaged milk. In 2022, its dairy and nutritional products, including dairy whitener, condensed milk, yoghurt, maternal and infant formula, baby foods, and health care nutrition, reported sales of 6,815.73 crore, contributing 40% to its domestic sales.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Suneera Tandon
Suneera Tandon is a New Delhi based reporter covering consumer goods for Mint. Suneera reports on fast moving consumer goods makers, retailers as well as other consumer-facing businesses such as restaurants and malls. She is deeply interested in what consumers across urban and rural India buy, wear and eat. Suneera holds a masters degree in English Literature from the University of Delhi.
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Published: 18 Apr 2024, 03:07 PM IST
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