European Parliament backs objection to sugary baby food

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

European Parliament backs objection to sugary baby food

Related tags Nutrition Sugar European parliament

In a plenary vote today Members of European Parliament (MEPs) called for a rethink of rules that could allow up to 30% sugar content in cereal-based baby foods, which could bring the draft legislation back to the drawing board.

The motion was adopted with 393 votes in favour, 305 votes against and 12 abstentions.

final vote approved

Before the vote, rapporteur Keith Taylor of the Green party, who tabled the objection to the draft delegated act on Food for Specific Groups (FSG), took to the floor and urged MEPs to vote in favour of a rethink.

“This vote comes down to whether we want to fuel the obesity epidemic,” ​he said. “The Commission has proposed to continue to allow 30% of energy [in baby food] to come from sugar. This is unacceptable and way above WHO recommendations.”

Following the result, Taylor immediately tweeted about the victory.

But industry nutrition lobby group Specialised Nutrition Europe (SNE) said it "deeply regretted"​ the result of the vote.

"This draft regulation would have completed a legal framework ensuring a high level of food safety and guaranteeing strong consumer protection for infants and young children,” ​adding that the current rules on baby food ensure products are formulated  in a way that limits the amount of salt, saturated fat and sugars.

Objections to the use of nanotechnology and GMOs over the unknown long-term health risks were also adopted. A zero tolerance policy to pesticides was rejected.

The adopted resolution also called for clearer labelling and marketing on infant foods to make it clear they are not suitable for infants under the six months of age, bringing them in line with the World Health Organisation's (WHO) recommendations.

This was applauded by Patti Rundall of campaign group Baby Milk Action. "If you wait until the baby is developmentally ready - normally around 6 months - they will reach out and join in with family foods and minimally processed finger foods - and they will be all the healthier for it!  So this is certainly a very good day for child health and the decision will have resounding impact globally.” 

Parliament's opposition means the draft delegated act, that has been two years in the making, will now go back to the European Commission for reconsideration.

Taylor had originally tabled two other objections to delegated acts on marketing infant and follow-on formula as well as foods for medical purposes. But these were rejected by his fellow MEPs​ in the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee (ENVI) last week, meaning only the objection to sugary baby food was put to the vote at today's plenary session in Strasbourg.

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