Researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have published a study claiming that many infant and toddler foods sold in the United States contain too much sodium or sugar. Mary Cogswell, et al., “Sodium and Sugar in Complementary Infant and Toddler Foods Sold in the United States,” Pediatrics, March 2015. Relying on a database of 1,074 infant and toddler foods and drinks that sourced nutrient information from a commercial database, manufacturer websites and major grocery stores, the study reported that “the majority of toddler cereal bars/breakfast pastries, fruit, and infant/toddler snacks, desserts, and juices contained ≥1 added sugar,” that is, at least one added sugar on the ingredient list.
In addition, the study’s authors noted that 41 of 79 infant mixed grains and fruits contained ≥1 added sugar, while 35 of these products derived more than 35 percent of their calories from sugar. They also concluded that (i) 72 percent of 72 toddler dinners were high in sodium content, containing more than 210 milligrams (mg) sodium per reference amount customarily consumed (RACC); (ii) toddler dinners contained an average of 2,295 mg sodium per 1,000 kilocalories (kcal); and (iii) savory infant/toddler snacks contained an average of 1,382 mg sodium per 1,000 kcal. By comparison, “the majority of the infant vegetables, dinners, fruits, and dry/instant cereals did not contain added sugars” and “all but 2 of the 657 infant vegetables, dinners, fruits, dry cereals, and ready-to-serve mixed grains and fruits were low sodium (≤140mg/RACC).”
“Parents can be assured that commercial foods for infants… sold in the United States in 2012 were generally acceptable in sodium and sugar content,” states the study. “However, the majority of snacks, desserts, or juice drinks for infants or toddlers, and many commercial foods meant for toddlers aged ≥12 months were either high in sodium content or contained ≥1 added sugar.”
Commenting on the results, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) called the study “just one more nail in the coffin of future generations, as parents unsuspectingly feed their toddlers way-too-salty foods.” But the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) pointed out that the study did not consider any of the low-sodium formulations put on the market since 2012 and questioned whether the out-of-date findings would unnecessarily confuse parents “as they strive to develop suitable meal options that their children will enjoy.” See CSPI and GMA News Releases, February 2, 2015.