Extensive research shows that diets high in sugary foods and beverages are associated with increased risk of tooth decay, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, and hypertension. But despite the overwhelming evidence linking sugar with negative health outcomes, federal policy has not fully acted on the best-available science to reduce added sugars in children’s diets.
Early and repeated exposure to sweet foods and beverages shapes children’s lifelong preferences for the sweet taste. Even as research continues to strengthen the evidence of the detrimental impacts of added sugar consumption on the young, food companies manufacture and aggressively market sugary baby foods, snacks, and drinks that influence children’s tastes at a critical stage of development. A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists reviews the federal regulatory landscape for added sugars in food products manufactured for children aged six months, when they begin to eat solid foods. It also summarizes the inception of the baby food market and detail how the food industry has worked tirelessly to conceal information about added sugar and its detrimental health effects from the general public. Finally, the report proposes specific improvements that all stakeholders can make to protect children from an added sugar overload in their diets.