The big squeeze: a product content and labelling analysis of ready-to-use complementary infant food pouches in Australia

Kaitlyn A Brunacci, Libby Salmon, Jennifer McCann, Karleen Gribble, Catharine A.K. Fleming

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    BACKGROUND: Encouraging the early development of healthy eating habits prevents diet-related chronic disease. It is well understood that highly processed foods with high amounts of sugars, salt and fats are a risk factor for non-communicable diseases. Commercial baby foods in ready-to-use squeeze pouches emerged in the global food market around 2012. The long-term effects of this now ubiquitous packaging on the quality of infant diets, baby food consumption and marketing are unknown. This study aimed to conduct a rigorous mixed-methods audit of squeeze pouches in Australia to inform product regulation and policy. METHODS: Nutritional and marketing data were sourced from products available in Australian retailers. Analysis of nutritional content, texture and packaging labelling and serving size was conducted. Pouches were given a Nutrition Profile Index (NPI) score and compared with the Australian Infant Feeding Guidelines. Marketing text was thematically analysed and compared to existing infant nutrition policy around regulation of marketing claims. RESULTS: 276 products from 15 manufacturers were analysed, targeting infants from 4 + to 12 + months. Total sugar content ranged 0.8-17.5 g/100 g, 20% (n = 56) of products had added sugars, 17% (n = 46) had added fruit juice, 71% (n = 196) had added fruit puree. Saturated fat content ranged from 0.0 to 5.0 g/100 g, sodium 0.0-69 mg/100 g and dietary fibre 0.0-4.3 g/100 g. Only two products were nutritionally adequate according to a nutrient profiling tool. Marketing messages included ingredient premiumisation, nutrient absence claims, claims about infant development and health, good parenting, and convenience. Claims of 'no added sugar' were made for 59% of pouches, despite the addition of free sugars. CONCLUSIONS: Squeeze pouch products available in Australia are nutritionally poor, high in sugars, not fortified with iron, and there is a clear risk of harm tothe health of infant and young children if these products are fed regularly. The marketing messages and labelling on squeeze pouches are misleading and do not support WHO or Australian NHMRC recommendations for breastfeeding or appropriate introduction of complementary foods and labelling of products. There is an urgent need for improved regulation of product composition, serving sizes and labelling to protect infants and young children aged 0-36 months and better inform parents.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)14
    JournalBMC Public Health
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2023

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