Scientists are worried about the sugar levels of baby food in South Africa

Scientists are worried about the sugar levels of baby food in South Africa

South Africa has the highest rates of childhood obesity in the world, with an alarming figure of 13%. The global average stands at 6%. One of the main causes of South Africa’s rate is the rapid growth of the country’s commercial food industry. This has led to increased consumption of cheap, easily accessible and ultra-processed food that is high in sugar.

We analyzed the sugar content of a variety of baby food products. The study sample included commercially available baby foods—including boxes of cereals and jars of processed food—targeted at children under 12 months and sold in supermarkets and other major retailers in South Africa. We collected data on sugar content and compared this with recommended intake guidelines. We also checked if the sugar content was added sugar or free sugar—the kind often found in processed food.

We also characterized the food based on back of the package information. This wasn’t easy as the facts are provided in tiny font that is difficult to read and interpret. For example the content is usually shown as grams per 100 ml or per serving, not in teaspoons.

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