Fifty-three per cent of food products specifically targeted to babies and toddlers in Canadian grocery stores have an excessive proportion – more than 20 per cent – of calories coming from sugar, according to a new study by University of Calgary Professor Charlene Elliott.
The study, funded by the Centre for Science in the Public Interest Canada, examined sugar and sodium levels in 186 food products specifically marketed for babies and toddlers. Published in the advanced online version of theJournal of Public Health,the study also analyzed four categories of baby-toddler foods against their adult counterparts to reveal whether a “halo effect” attributed to baby-toddler food is warranted.
“There is a presumed halo effect around baby and toddler foods because people expect these foods to be held to a higher standard,” says Elliott, an associate professor in the communications &culture department. “Yet this is not necessarily the case.”
The study sought to draw attention to the new, and expanding category of “toddler” foods available in the supermarket – which include fruit snacks, cereal bars, desserts, and cookies – as well as baby food products outside of simple purées of fruits and vegetables (which could be classifi ed as pure foods).
Products in the study included puréed dinners and desserts, toddler entrees and dinners, snacks (biscuits, cookies, fruit snacks, snack bars and yogurts) and some cereals. Excluded were simple purées of fruits and vegetables, juices and beverages, and also infant formulas and infant cereals designed to be mixed with breast milk or water. The study also made specific comparisons between four types of toddler food products – toddler cereal bars, cookies/biscuits, fruit snacks and yogurt – and their adult equivalents. It found that these baby/toddler foods were not nutritionally superior to the adult equivalents when it comes to sugar and in some cases fared worse.
The study “Sweet and salty: nutritional content and analysis of baby and toddler foods” by Charlene Elliott is available on theJournal of Public Healthwebsite at: http://jpubhealth.oxfordjournals.org (click on Advance Access).