UCL Health


Identifying opportunities to support age-appropriate feeding with commercial infant food labelling

This project will identify opportunities to support age-appropriate feeding with commercial infant food labelling.

Baby eating spaghetti

8 March 2024


Infants and young children in the UK often consume too many calories and too much sugar, contributing to poor dental health and excess weight gain in the early years. The Childhood Obesity Plan makes a commitment to ensuring food labelling is made clearer to support families in making the best choices for feeding young children.

There is concern over the high level of sugar in many baby foods. The potential impact of adding high sugar indicators (sugar warning labels) to baby foods is unknown. However, previous research has shown that adding high sugar indicators to foods for older consumers, leads to increased purchasing of healthier products and reduced purchasing of less healthy products.

Approximately one-third of baby foods are packaged in pouches. There are no data on the proportion of UK infants and toddlers who consume contents directly from the pouch, but this may be a common practice. There are concerns that this could delay and impair learning to eat from a spoon, and encourage faster and/or continual feeding, which could adversely impact dental health and increase overall energy intake.

Aims and objectives

This project will investigate the potential benefits and harms of introducing mandatory labeling on commercial infant food and drink (baby food), including the addition of

  • high sugar indicators and
  • best practice information about decanting from pouches.


This research project aims to identify changes to baby food labels, including images and text, that are likely to be most effective in supporting primary caregivers to reduce their infants’ sugar intake and encourage decanting from pouches. The potential impacts, both positive and negative, of introducing mandatory labels on baby food will be established, including (i) high sugar indicators and (ii) information about decanting from pouches.

We will undertake a mixed methods programme of research. A scoping review of existing evidence will first be conducted to better understand what is already known about the way labels influence caregivers’ beliefs about the sugar content of baby food products. Qualitative interviews and an online experimental study will then be conducted with caregivers to explore beliefs about sugar and the potential impact on caregiver purchasing and feeding behaviour of adding sugar warning labels to baby foods and feeding guidelines to pouches.

We will also compile data about the current infant food market so identify how many and what type of products would be required to include a high sugar indicator and/or guidelines about feeding from pouches. Representatives from the food industry and third-sector organisations will then be interviewed to understand how the industry might respond to these mandatory label changes, including opportunities for reformulation.


  • January 2024 to December 2026

Led by Andrew Steptoe and Clare Llewellyn at the Behavioural Science and Health (UCL)


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The NIHR Policy Research Unit in Healthy Weight is part of the NIHR and hosted by UCL.