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Child yoghurts 'loaded with sugar'

MANUFACTURERS are exploiting the 'healthy' image of yoghurt and fromage frais while loading them with sugar to attract children, a survey published today says. One small pot contained the equivalent of nearly four lumps of sugar.

Despite labels declaring 'no added sugar', many were sweetened with fruit-based concentrates and purees, the survey found. Yoghurts and fromage frais are good sources of protein, calcium and B vitamins but the proliferation of brands targeted at children, featuring cartoon characters, colourful packaging and added sugar, had 'undermined' their health value.

The survey, by the Food Commission, could not find one example of plain yoghurt or fromage frais marketed for children and babies. Of 20 children's products, 16 had added sugar and added fruit and 13 contained more sugar than fruit.

The Department of Health's recommendation to reduce sugar in diets exempts those naturally present in milk and is aimed at 'non-milk extrinsic' (NME) sugars such as brown or packet sugar, honey, fruit syrups, purees and juices. The worst offender was a 50g pot of Nestle's Chambourcy Hippo-Tots fromage frais which contained 19 per cent of NME sugars, or nearly four lumps' worth.

The levels of sweetener are typically higher than would be obtained if parents made their own blend with freshly pureed fruit. A plain yoghurt or fromage frais with two teaspoons of fresh mashed strawberries contains 0.6 per cent added sugar. The least sugary commercial products contained 5-8 per cent. Dr Tim Lobstein, the report's author, accused firms of cashing in on 'healthy' desserts and ensuring 'a child's first tooth will be a sweet one'.