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Nestle India hits over four-month low amid 'sugar in baby food' row

Shares of Nestle India hit an over four-month low of Rs 2,409.55, falling 5 per cent on Thursday's intraday trade



SI Reporter Mumbai

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Shares of Nestle India hit an over four-month low of Rs 2,409.55, falling 5 per cent on Thursday's intraday trade, as the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) company has been put under the scanner for putting out misleading claims regarding health and nutritional benefits of their products.

The stock price of the packaged foods company hit its lowest level since November 30, 2023. At 11:25 AM, the stock price of Nestle India was trading 3.4 per cent lower at Rs 2,460, as compared to 0.52 per cent rise in the S&P BSE Sensex. The S&P BSE FMCG index, meanwhile, was down 0.1 per cent in an otherwise firm market.

Nestle India manufactures products under four categories: milk products and nutrition, powdered and liquid beverages, prepared dishes and cooking aids, and chocolates and confectionery.

According to media reports, Nestle, the world's largest consumer goods company, has come under scrutiny following revelations by Public Eye, a Swiss investigative organisation, regarding the addition of sugar and honey to infant milk and cereal products in various countries, including India. CLICK HERE FOR FULL REPORT
According to the report, Nestle adds sugar to infant milk sold in "poorer countries" but not in its main markets in Europe and the UK. 

"Campaigners from Public Eye, a Swiss investigative organisation, sent samples of the Swiss multinational's baby-food products sold in Asia, Africa and Latin America to a Belgian laboratory for testing. The team found added sugar in the form of sucrose or honey in samples of Nido which is a follow-up milk formula brand intended for use for infants aged one and above. The sugar content was also found in Cerelac, a cereal aimed at children aged between six months and two years," The Guardian reported.

The same products have no sugar in the European markets. Cerelac clocks $1 billion globally of which 40 per cent are coming from India and Brazil.

On its part, Nestle India has said that it has reduced added sugars by up to 30 per cent in its infant cereal range.

"We believe in the nutritional quality of our products for early childhood and prioritise using high-quality ingredients. Over the past five years, Nestlé India has reduced added sugars by up to 30 per cent, depending on the variant, in our infant cereals portfolio (milk cereal based complementary food)," said a Nestle India spokesperson.

Amid this, reports also suggest the Government of India has taken suo-moto cognisance of the issue and "will investigate the matter after doing due diligence".

The Department of Consumer Affairs will follow the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act in asking the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to check samples of Nestle's infant food sample, sources said. Senior officials of the Department of Consumer Affairs and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) will discuss the matter soon, reports added.

This is not the first time that Nestle has come under scanner. Earlier, a social media influencer's (The Food Pharmer) had posted about the heightened sugar levels (beyond permissible limits) in Cadbury’s drink – Bournvita.

Following this, the NCPCR (National Commission for Protection of Child Rights) had urged the FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) to take action against companies that did not meet safety standards and guidelines and are instead marketing power supplements as 'health drinks'.

According to the regulatory body, 'health drink' lacks a defined definition within the country's food laws, and labelling products as such violates regulations. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry has directed e-commerce firms to remove all drinks and beverages, including Bournvita, from the 'health drinks' category from their platforms and portals.

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First Published: Apr 18 2024 | 12:09 PM IST

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