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Here's what will happen to Nestle if found guilty in sugar controversy

'Nestle adds sugar to infant milk sold in less affluent nations, including India, but not in its primary markets like Europe or the UK,' said a report by Public Eye



Nandini Singh New Delhi

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The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has initiated an inquiry into the controversy over the sugar content in Nestle's Cerelac products, reported The Economic Times (ET).

Responding to the allegations, FSSAI has affirmed its commitment to conducting a thorough investigation. If Nestle is found at fault, the regulatory body has pledged to take stringent action against the brand. As part of the investigative process, a committee will be formed to delve into the details of the case.

Stakeholders are keenly observing the proceedings, awaiting the outcome of the investigation and the potential ramifications for Nestle.

In response to the controversy, Nestle issued a clarification stating, "We would like to assure you 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," news agency ANI quoted the company as saying.

"We never compromise and will never compromise on the nutritional quality of our products. We constantly leverage our extensive Global Research and Development network to enhance the nutritional profile of our products," it added.

A Nestle India spokesperson said, "Compliance is an essential characteristic of Nestle India, and we will never compromise on that. We also ensure that our products manufactured in India are in full and strict compliance with CODEX standards [a commission established by WHO and FAO] and local specifications [as required] pertaining to the requirements of all nutrients, including added sugars."

"Reduction of added sugars is a priority for Nestle India. Over the past five years, we have already reduced added sugars by up to 30 per cent, 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. Nestlé India is committed to delivering the best nutrition to our consumers, which we have been doing for over 100 years and would always maintain the highest standards of Nutrition, Quality and Safety in our products," said the spokesperson.


What is the Nestle controversy?

Nestle's sugar controversy extends beyond India. Nestle adds sugar to infant milk sold in less affluent nations, including India, but not in its primary markets like Europe or the UK. 

The revelation came to light when "Public Eye," a Swiss investigative organisation, and International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) sent samples of the company's baby food products marketed in Asia, Africa, and Latin America to a Belgian laboratory for analysis.

In the Indian market alone, with sales exceeding $250 million in 2022, every Cerelac baby cereal variant contains supplementary sugar, averaging nearly 3 grams per portion. Public Eye's recent inquiry indicated that Cerelac wheat-based cereals tailored for six-month-old infants retailed by Nestle in Germany, France, and the UK are devoid of additional sugar. Conversely, the identical product harbours more than 5 grams per serving in Ethiopia and 6 grams in Thailand.

An intriguing point to note is that Nestle's online platform, providing guidance on infant nourishment, explicitly mentions: "It is advised against incorporating sugar while preparing meals for your infant or providing them with sugary beverages. Some prominent nutrition and healthcare specialists propose refraining from introducing fruit juices in the initial year due to their relatively elevated natural sugar content. ...Steer clear of juice blends or alternative mixed beverages containing supplementary sweetening agents. Always scrutinise the packaging."

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First Published: Apr 18 2024 | 4:51 PM IST

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