Nestle India on Monday said that its baby food brand Cerelac is in compliance with the country’s local food laws with “added sugar” levels being “much lower” than permissible upper limit set by the FSSAI.

The company emphasised that the allegations of “racial stereotypes” made by Swiss NGO Public Eye’s report are “untrue”. The packaged food major pointed out that baby food products with “added sugar” are also sold in European markets. The company said it continues to be on a journey to reduce ”added sugar” levels in its Cerelac portfolio.

At a select media roundtable, Suresh Narayanan, Chairman and Managing Director, Nestle India said, formulations, especially for children below 18 month, are developed on a global basis keeping in mind the “energy-dense” nutritional needs of an infant. ”There is no local approach to making a nutritional adequacy strategy. It is done globally. Hence, there is no distinction made between a child in Europe or India,” he stressed.

“How this translates into a product locally depends on different considerations of the local regulatory environment, availability of raw materials and maternal feeding habits,” he explained.

The packaged food major pointed out that according to FSSAI standards the maximum permissible level of added sugar is 13.6 grams per 100 grams of feed. “Nestle is at 7.1 gms (per 100 gms) . So we are well-below the maximum limit standard that has been set. We are also well below the “added sugar” levels prescribed by Codex requirements,” Narayanan stated.

Well within limits

Elaborating on the reasons for “added sugar”, he stated, “The fact that there is need in India, is the reason why we have added this but at levels which are much much lower than what is prescribed by the local regulator. And I think one has to have the trust and confidence that the local regulator knows what standards they are setting,” he added.

Stating that the company makes clear declarations of total sugar and added sugar on Cerelac pack labels, he stressed that “there is nothing in this product that makes it potentially of any risk to the child.”

Narayanan also pointed out that both “added-sugar and non-added sugar products” are present in Europe as well as in Asia. “So allegations that it is racially stereotyped are unfortunate but untrue,” he added. He was referring to the allegations made by Swiss NGO Public Eye on Nestle having “double standards” for baby food products sold in middle-income and low-income countries compared with developed markets.

Stating that “added sugar” levels have been reduced by 30 per cent in the past five years, Narayanan added that the company is looking at further ways of reducing “added sugar” levels in the Cerelac portfolio.

Nestle India said it has not received a formal communication from FSSAI but the food safety regulator has indicated that it will conduct industry-wide sampling and testing exercise. It added that the controversy has not had any significant impact on sales of Cerelac.