Mumbai: Packaged foods company Nestle India on Monday claimed its infant cereal brand Cerelac complies with local food norms, saying added sugars in the baby food are less than what India’s food regulator permits. 

“The way to meet the nutrition profile could be different, ingredients could be different,” said chairman and managing director Suresh Narayanan. “That we have the need in India is the reason why we have added this (sugar) but at levels which are much much lower than what is even specified by the local regulator.”

“One has to have the trust and confidence that the local regulator knows what they’re putting there…All that we are saying is that, yes added sugar…there is a content, the content is declared on our pack,” he said. 

There has been a 30% reduction in added sugars in the last five years, and the company will continue to reduce it to whatever will be the bare minimum, Narayanan said in a select media roundtable on Monday. 

This is the first time the company’s CMD has come on record to address concerns around the company’s baby food brand.

The company’s comments come after a report by Public Eye, a Swiss investigative organization and the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) alleged that all Cerelac baby cereal products sold in India contained added sugar. 

The report alleged that Nestlé adds more sugar to its baby nutrition products in some developing markets compared to those sold in Europe. In Europe, the report claims, the company does not add any sugar to its infant nutrition products.

Narayanan said formulations for babies under 18 months are done on a global basis in line with the carbohydrates, energy, protein, fat, vitamin, minerals and supplements requirement of a growing child.

“There is no local approach to making a nutritional adequacy strategy. It is done globally… There is no distinction that is done between a child in Europe or India or any other part of the world,” he said.

“How this translates into a product locally depends on different considerations, on local regulatory environments, local availability of raw materials, on some of the maternal habits as far as feeding is concerned and these go to make the recipe of the product which is always and completely complaint with the standards that are set as far as the country is concerned,” he added.

India’s food regulator, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), prescribes a maximum permissible level of added sugar to 13.6 grams per 100 grams of serving for baby cereal. 

On average, Nestle’s Cerelac brand contains 7.1 grams (per 100 grams of serving). “We are well below the maximum limit that has been set,” he said. “I also want to add here very clearly that added sugar products and no added sugar products are present in Europe and Asia as well. So the unfortunate allegation that it is racially stereotyped is unfortunate, but untrue,” he added.

Narayanan said over the past five years, the company has reduced added sugars by up to 30%, across its infant cereal range, depending on the variant.

“The journey continues and what proportion gets dropped over a period of time, I think the efficiency of science and R&D will tell. We would like to look at a product with which, hopefully, at some time becomes no added sugar,” he added.



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Published: 29 Apr 2024, 06:19 PM IST