A split European Parliament on Wednesday (20 January) rejected the draft EU rules which allow baby foods to provide 30% of their energy from sugar.
The Greens had submitted an objection to the new rules, saying that the new sugar levels would go far beyond the recommendation from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and pose a clear risk to infants’ health.
“The health risks associated with excessive sugar consumption are now widely accepted. The role of regulation should be to try and address this risk, particularly for infants and children, who are the most vulnerable consumers,” said the Green MEP Keith Taylor.
Taylor added that higher levels of sugar in baby food would contribute to the rising levels of childhood obesity and change taste preferences of children. Therefore, the proposal by the Commission is “irresponsible.”
But Julie Girling from the European Conservatives and Reformist (ECR) group said in a statement that MEPs should not deal with the health concerns by simply blocking legislation.
As the 30% figure is only a maximum level and not the recommended level, the sugar content in baby foods, such as cereals, is generally much lower.
“These foods are the only foods which are formulated specifically to limit the amount of salt, sugar and saturated fats, and ensure the correct amount of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals for the relevant age group,” Girling stressed.
The decision to object to the regulation is questionable, according to Girling, as the Commission has indicated that it will review the final compositional sugar levels when the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published an opinion on the matter later on in 2016.
The delegated regulation proposed by the Commission would have allowed baby foods to provide 30% of their energy from sugar (7.5g sugar/100 kcal).
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends 5% as a health level. The European Parliament members have recommended to the Commission to review the available health evidence before making a new proposal.
- 2016: European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to publish an opinion on compositional levels for sugar in baby food.