Many packaged food products for children in Vietnam have added sugars, sweeteners: study

By Phan Anh   December 20, 2023 | 03:00 am PT
Many packaged food products for children in Vietnam have added sugars, sweeteners: study
A boy buys snack at a convenience store in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Minh Nga
Packaged food for children under three years of age in seven Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam, have high sugar and salt content, according to a UNICEF study issued Tuesday.

The study, aided by UNICEF and partners of the Consortium for Improving Complementary Foods in Southeast Asia (COMMIT), evaluated over 1,600 cereals, snacks and other ready-to-use meals marketed for children aged between six months and three years in Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, revealing that 44% of the surveyed products have added sugars and sweeteners.

72% of the snacks and finger foods have added sugars and sweeteners, while more than 33% of the studied products included more salt than what is recommended, the report added.

Around 90% of the labels on the studied products have "potentially misleading or deceptive claims about their composition," according to UNICEF.

Lesley Miller, acting representative of UNICEF Vietnam, said several commercially produced complementary food (CPCF) in the Vietnamese market do not meet nutritional standards, and their labels can be misleading for parents.

"There is an urgent need to address significant gaps in the national CPCF regulatory framework," said Miller. "Children and their parents deserve better options."

Around 75% of surveyed mothers in Vietnam said they let their children consume CPCF at least once a day. Most of them reported buying the products either in supermarkets (48%) or shops for children (33%), according to the report.

The study also revealed that certain countries do not have sufficient legal measures to adjust the levels of sugars and salts contained within CPCF products.

UNICEF called for better governmental regulations over CPCF, including a ban on added sugars and sweeteners, limited levels of sugars and salts, and forbidding use of misleading labels.

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