Voices 31/01/2016

Let's boot out excess sugar, babies are sweet enough already

European Union Parliament have forced the European Commission back to the drawing board after rejecting its plans that would have allowed baby food to continue to contain up to three times more sugar than is recommended by the World Health Organization.

Obesity is the largest health problem that we face in the 21st century, so who would want to give babies a sweet tooth?

The delegated act the Commission was promoting would allow the sugar content in cereal-based baby foods to remain at 30%. This is in direct contradiction of guidelines by the World Health Organization that recommend a 10% upper limit or a 5% limit to be on the safe side. Quite clearly MEPs were taking the opportunity to say to the Commission: "No, let's boot out excess sugar. Babies are sweet enough already.

The Commission will have to come up with new proposals which are more reflective of the Parliament's resolution. What we want is clean, basic food for children; it's not complicated. I hope they have taken the Parliament's comments on board as MEPs will be looking very closely at it and if necessary will refuse the delegated power again. There was a clear majority in favour of booting this back and that's what's happened.

We on the environment and public health committee have tried to pilot labelling schemes to warn consumers through a traffic light system about foods which have higher levels of sugar, salts and fats. Unfortunately this was opposed by the industry and we didn't get it through Parliament.

We need a greater degree of transparency about the materials which make up our food in this day and age. "You are what you eat" as the old expression goes and there is a role there for the Parliament to champion sustainable, wholesome eating. Excess sugar, salt and fats are very bad news in food for grownups, not just for babies, so we will keep trying to provide more information for consumers when they buy packaged food.


di Keith Taylor