Background The first three years of life are a critical opportunity to support and encourage healthy dietary habits and good nutrition and to prevent overweight and obesity. It is also a period in which the palate is developed, and lifelong tastes, habits and food preferences are established. There is growing scientific and community concern around the impact of free sugar on children’s health. This study analysed the presence, source and amount of sugar ingredients used in commercial infant and toddler foods in Australia.
Methods We conducted a survey of infant (4-12 months) and toddler (1-3 years) foods instore and online at 3 major Australian supermarket chains. Nutritional and ingredient information was recorded and analysed.
Results Of the 250 products reviewed, 71% were marketed as suitable for infants. Just over three-quarters of the products analysed (76%) contained free sugars. Fruit puree was the most common source of free sugar in foods for infants, found in 55% of products, and concentrated fruit sugars and sugar/cane sugar were the most common sources of free sugar in foods for toddlers (47% and 31% respectively). Almost two-thirds of the products reviewed (63%) had ≥15% energy from total sugar. Foods with ≥15% energy from total sugar are considered high in sugar under Australian healthy eating guidelines. This was more common in foods for infants (73% of infant products) than in foods for toddlers (52% of toddler products).
Conclusion Many commercial infant and toddler foods available in Australia contain harmful levels of sugar ingredients and do not represent optimal nutrition for young children. Higher standards should be set to ensure that free sugars are not used in commercial infant and toddler foods (with limited specific exceptions) and that sweet snacks are not marketed as suitable for infants and toddlers.