Feeding young children sugary fruit pouches can lead to tooth decay and weight gain, experts warn

Sarah Young

Parents are being urged to stop feeding young children sugary fruit pouches amid concerns that consuming too many could be linked to a range of health conditions.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has warned that tougher, mandatory regulations are needed regarding the amount of “free sugar” that can be included in baby and toddler foods.

Free sugar refers both to sugar which is added to foods and beverages by manufacturers, and sugar that is naturally present in honey, syrups and fruit juices.

The experts added that the rise in popularity of convenient jars and pouches is a result of family life becoming busier.

By turning to ready-made products or home-made sweet purees during the weaning process, children run the risk of consuming far too much sugar.

Professor Mary Fewtrell, the RCPCH's nutrition lead, also explained that eating sweet-tasting foods can mean babies develop an aversion to more sour-tasting vegetables.

"Baby foods can be labelled 'no added sugar' if the sugar comes from fruit - but all sugars have the same effects on the teeth and on metabolism," Fewtrell said.

"It's important to recognise that babies have an innate preference for sweet tastes but the key is not to reinforce that preference and to expose them to a variety of different flavours and food textures.

"Babies are very willing to try different flavours if they're given the chance - and it's important that they're introduced to a variety of flavours including more bitter-tasting foods such as broccoli and spinach from a young age."

Fewtrell added that fruit pouches can also mean a baby misses out on the opportunity to learn about eating from a spoon or feeding themselves, before suggesting parents might benefit from more information on the impact of free sugars.

An accompanying report from the RCPCH claimed that the current food environment is “awash with cheap and abundant sugar“.

It added that the over-consumption of free sugar in infants and children, especially in liquid form, is linked to a range of health conditions, both immediate and in later life including tooth decay, being overweight and Type 2 diabetes.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) recommends that free sugars provide no more than 5 per cent of daily total energy intake for those aged two years and over, and even less for children under two.

However, the National Diet and Nutrition Survey shows the average daily intake for one-and-a-half to three-year-olds is currently 11.3 per cent, more than double the recommended amount.

The report follows a 2018 poll by home appliance manufacturer Beko which found that half of British parents have "given up" trying to get their children to eat their "five-a-day",

The survey of 2,000 parents of children up to age 10, found 41 per cent abandoned attempting to get greens into kids’ diets because they were more concerned about ensuring they eat full stop.

Furthermore, five per cent admitted they simply don’t think it’s important for their children to get their five-a-day.