Too much sugar in food for children!

Obesity is a plague that is increasingly affecting children in most industrialized countries. A phenomenon that has been further amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic. Faced with this major public health problem, what is the nutritional quality of the products that make upfeed of children offered by the agro-food industry? To answer this question, a survey was conducted in Switzerland among four major retailers.

Focus on children’s nutrition

According to the results of the ESTEBAN survey conducted between 2014 and 2016 in France, 17% of children aged 6 to 17 years are overweight, of which 4% are obese. And according to initial epidemiological data, the incidence of childhood obesity has increased since the arrival of the Covid-19 epidemic in France.

To combat obesity and obesity among the youngest, public health authorities are multiplying initiatives. They take the form, for example, through the messages conveyed by the National Health Nutrition Program or through the implementation of the Nutri-Score. However, agricultural food producers are helping to improvefeed of children, by offering healthier and more balanced products? This question was at the heart of a study conducted in Switzerland in the spring of 2022 in four major retail chains. A total of 344 foods were screened.

One third of sugar in foods intended for children

From the beginning, some products are clearly intended for children, thanks to packaging that is able to attract the child at first glance. By examining the composition of these products, investigators realized that they contained on average 33% hidden sugars. By comparing their composition with WHO recommendations, 94% of products intended for children do not meet the nutritional requirements. One of the brands did not even offer any product that was able to meet the recommendations.

The hidden sugars found in foods that are clearly targeted at children were found in both sweet and savory products. In fact, the study shows:

  • Chocolate and sweets;
  • Grain products;
  • Ice cream;
  • Cakes and cookies;
  • Salty snacks;
  • Dairy products;
  • Beverages;
  • Cheese preparations;
  • delicacy meat;
  • Ready meals.

And yes, sugar does not just hide in sweet foods!

Healthier and more balanced baby food

Regarding the display of Nutri-Score, for products that had it:

  • 64% had an orange or red Nutri-Score;
  • 13% had a green or light green Nutri-Score.

After asking manufacturers to reduce the sugar level in foods intended for children, the WHO now calls for the removal of all advertising or promotions on these products.

For the consumer associations behind the study, more needs to be done to prevent excessive sugar consumption in children. They come with several recommendations:

  • Make it mandatory to display Nutri-Score on products primarily intended for children, through an enticing display;
  • Restrict advertising to foods that meet WHO nutritional criteria;
  • Prohibit any “health” or “nutrition” claim on foods that do not meet these criteria;
  • Demand efforts from the food industry to offer more balanced foods to children.

Estelle B., physician in pharmacy


– Nutritional quality and degree of processing of baby food assessment in the French market. Accessed June 2, 2022.
– Food for children. Positive nutrition profile and marketing, impossible to reconcile. Accessed June 2, 2022.

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