BSNA responds to WHO Europe Region report on baby foods – July 2019

Posted On: 
16th July 2019

Declan O’Brien, Director General of the British Specialist Nutrition Association responds to the WHO Europe Region report on baby foods published on 15 July.

BSNA members are committed to making nutritious products and marketing them in a responsible way, in line with the aims and principles of the WHO code as set out in UK law. Our members fully support efforts to increase the rates of breastfeeding in the UK.

The NHS, Public Health England (PHE) and Start4LIfe recommends introducing complementary foods from ‘around 6 months’. As part of their commitment to improve infant health, our members have been working with PHE to reformulate the content of products, recognising that they provide a convenient and valuable option for parents in feeding their children as part of a balanced diet for infants. 

The majority of commercially available infant food products contain no added sugar or salt, and the category has already undertaken extensive reformulation to reduce the total sugar content of products. These products can encourage healthy eating habits in young children, including supporting incremental dietary, flavour and texture diversification.

BSNA members always recommend that parents speak with a healthcare professional to ensure that their babies are showing appropriate signs of developmental readiness before introducing solid foods. Baby foods are labelled so that parents can decide when it’s right to start complementary feeding within a timeframe that is safe and nutritionally appropriate.     The UK and European legislation and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in their latest consultation on complementary foods, recognise that it is safe to offer baby foods from 4-6 months. The European Society of Paediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN), a leading expert group in this area, share this view.

Like for like, commercial baby foods, have a similar sugar content whether commercially produced or made at home (Carstairs et al 2016). As this age group may eat three to four times the quantity of food per kg bodyweight as compared to adults, contaminants, including those naturally present, are controlled to a greater extent. This means that baby foods are a more suitable choice for this age group.  Between 12-18 months of age, baby foods contributed only 6% of average daily total sugars in an infant’s diet (The Diet and Nutrition Survey of Infants and Young Children, 2011 - DHSC and FSA).

Baby foods are governed through EU regulations in particular Regulation (EU) No 609/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council on food intended for infants and young children, food for special medical purposes, and total diet replacement for weight control and also Commission Directive 2006/125/EC on processed cereal-based foods and baby foods for infants and young children.