Baby food: "Let's boot out excess sugar, babies are sweet enough already"

MEPs have forced the European Commission back to the drawing board after rejecting its plans that would have allowed baby food to continue to contain up to three times more sugar than is recommended by the World Health Organization. UK Green MEP Keith Taylor, who drafted the resolution to turn down the plans, explained: "Obesity is the largest health problem that we face in the 21st century, so who would want to give babies a sweet tooth?" Read our interview with him to find out more.

Interview with Keith Taylor, baby food rapporteur
Keith Taylor

MEPs vetoed the draft rules partly because they feared they were "likely to contribute to rising levels of childhood obesity." Can you give us more details?

The delegated act the Commission was promoting would allow the sugar content in cereal-based baby foods to remain at 30%. This is in direct contradiction of guidelines by the World Health Organization that recommend a 10% upper limit or a 5% limit to be on the safe side. Quite clearly MEPs were taking the opportunity to say to the Commission: "No, let's boot out excess sugar. Babies are sweet enough already."

Obesity is the largest health problem that we face in the 21st century, so who would want to give babies a sweet tooth?

Parliament's rejection of the draft rules means new proposals are needed.  What are the next steps?

The Commission will have to come up with new proposals which are more reflective of the Parliament's resolution. What we want is clean, basic food for children; it's not complicated. I hope they have taken the Parliament's comments on board as MEPs will be looking very closely at it and if necessary will refuse the delegated power again. There was a clear majority in favour of booting this back and that's what's happened.

The resolution adopted by MEPs also mentions that "poor diet is now by far the biggest underlying cause of disease and death globally". What role can the EU play in tackling this problem?

We on the environment and public health committee have tried to pilot labelling schemes to warn consumers through a traffic light system about foods which have higher levels of sugar, salts and fats. Unfortunately this was opposed by the industry and we didn't get it through Parliament.

We need a greater degree of transparency about the materials which make up our food in this day and age. "You are what you eat" as the old expression goes and there is a role there for the Parliament to champion sustainable, wholesome eating. Excess sugar, salt and fats are very bad news in food for grownups, not just for babies, so we will keep trying to provide more information for consumers when they buy packaged food.

Related articles