Nestle's potential regulatory trouble in India over sugar issue; brand clarifies

Nestlé adds sugar to infant formulas sold in less affluent countries, including India, but not in its key markets such as Europe or the United Kingdom, ToI rep

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has launched an investigation into the controversy surrounding the sugar content in Nestlé Cerelac products.

In response to these allegations, the FSSAI reiterated its commitment to investigate the matter thoroughly. If Nestlé is found guilty, the regulator has promised to take strict action against the brand. As part of the investigation process, a committee will be formed to find out the details of the case.

As the investigation unfolds, interested parties will closely monitor the process, awaiting the outcome of the investigation and the potential ramifications for Nestlé.

The brand promptly addressed the controversy with a clarification. We want to guarantee that our baby cereals are made with all the necessary nutrients like protein, carbs, vitamins, minerals, and iron for early childhood development.

“We will always prioritize the nutritional quality of our products. We constantly utilize our wide-reaching global R&D network to improve the nutritional content of our products," it added.

Nestlé India spokesperson said, "Compliance is a core feature of Nestlé India and we will never compromise on that aspect. We also ensure that our products made in India are fully and strictly compliant with Codex standards (a committee set up by WHO and FAO) and local specifications." (as required) With respect to all nutrient requirements including added sugars, reducing added sugars is a priority for Nestlé India and in the last five years, we have already reduced added sugars by up to 30%, depending on the variant that we review periodically. Nestlé India is committed to providing the best nutrition to our customers, which we have been doing for over 100 years and always maintain the highest standards of nutrition, quality and safety in our products.

nestle india

Nestlé adds sugar to infant formulas sold in less affluent countries, including India, but not in its key markets such as Europe or the United Kingdom, ToI reported. The revelation came to light when Public Eye, a Swiss research organization, and IBFAN (International Baby Food Action Network) sent samples of the company's baby foods marketed in Asia, Africa and Latin America to a Belgian laboratory for examination. 

In the lucrative Indian market, which is expected to exceed 250 million USD in sales by 2022, each Cerelac infant cereal contains added sugar, averaging about 3 grams per serving. A recent Public Eye investigation, published on Wednesday, found that Cerelac wheat-based cereals designed for six-month-olds and marketed by Nestlé in Germany, France and the UK contain no added sugar. On the other hand, the same product contains more than 5 grams per serving in Ethiopia and 6 grams in Thailand.

Meanwhile, Nestlé India's share price recently dipped below its 100-day simple moving average, currently standing at Rs 2,526.2 at 9:30 am. of Thursday. Today, the change is at -0.78%, with the 100 day SMA at Rs 2,532.78. This move indicates a possible change in the direction of the stock.

When confronted with the results, Nigel Rollins, a scientist at the WHO, told Public Eye and IBFAN: "There is a double standard here that cannot be rationalized." He also observed that the scenario where Nestle does not incorporate sugar into these products in Switzerland but readily embraces it in economically disadvantaged environments “poses both public health and ethical challenges.

According to the report, the WHO warns that early introduction to sugar can create a permanent inclination towards sugary products, increasing the possibility of obesity and various permanent diseases. In 2022, the WHO backed a ban on added sugars and sweeteners in edibles intended for infants, encouraging industry to "take initiatives" and "support public health objectives" by renewing their offerings.

An interesting point to note is that Nestle's online platform, which provides guidance on infant feeding, specifically states: “It is recommended that you do not incorporate sugar when preparing meals for your infant or providing sugary drinks. Some prominent nutrition and health care experts recommend refraining from introducing fruit juices in the first year because of their relatively high natural sugar content. ...Stay away from juice mixes or alternative mixed drinks that contain added sweeteners. Always check the package." Unfortunately, this advice doesn't seem to apply to the company's own merchandise that retails in the mid- and middle-income segment.

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