Nestle’s infant food and controversy have never been too far from each other, and for several decades now.

The multinational had first earned the wrath of the global public health community over its marketing of infant formula. The health community pushed for stringent norms to ensure that infant formula was not marketed as a nutritious option over mother’s milk. And those guardrails remain till date.

The latest allegations involve “added sugar” in infant food, in low- and middle-income countries including India, though the product was found to be “sugar free” back home in Switzerland, according to Public Eye, a Swiss investigative organisation. Nestle claims, it is in compliance with international and local norms.

In 2003, soft drink and bottled water companies found themselves in the dock over allegations of pesticide residue in their products. Then too, the companies said, they were in compliance. Only that, standards on pesticide residue were defined, after this revelation.

It is disingenuous for companies to argue that food products meet the law of the land — when the law clearly has scope for improvement. International companies sell their products on the claim that they bring in global best practices. So taking refuge behind arguments that the groundwater has pesticide (and therefore the end-product too), does not wash, especially for companies operating globally.

Not long ago, Nestle’s Maggi noodles found itself in a soup over the presence of flavouring item MSG (monosodium glutamate). The explanation — it could be from naturally occurring glutamate. Nevertheless, the “No added MSG” label had misled many.

Food companies need to understand that it’s not business as usual, anymore. The use of sugar and salt in foods, let alone infant food — requires serious attention from the food and health regulators. Countries battle obesity, hypertension, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases. So anyone trying to catch them young, certainly needs to be stopped in their tracks.