By Wilnard Bacelonia

(File photo)

MANILA – Senator Imee Marcos filed a bill on Monday seeking to prohibit baby food producers and manufacturers from adding sugar in their products.

Marcos cited studies made by both the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the University of the Philippines (UP) that Filipinos are at risk for obesity. which prompted her to file Senate Bill (SB) No. 2581 or the No-Added Sugar on Baby Foods Act.

“In a 2022 survey of the DOST’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute, around 27 million Filipinos are overweight and obese. For the past two decades, overweight and obesity among adults have almost doubled from 20.2 percent in 1998 to 36.6 percent in 2019,” Marcos said in her explanatory note.

Similarly, the prevalence rates of overweight and obesity among adolescents have more than doubled from 4.9 percent in 2003 to 11.6 percent in 2018, the DOST study added.

A recent study by UP likewise found that young Filipinos are at a greater risk of obesity, due to the consumption of food that are energy-dense and nutrient-poor, exacerbated by growing urbanization and increased incomes, Marcos said.

The lawmaker also cited the World Health Organization which is seeking a ban on added sugars in baby food for children aged 0 to 36 months old due to its detrimental impact on the child’s oral health.

It likewise put children at risk of developing a preference for sweet foods, which may lead to overweight and obesity-related diseases in adulthood.

“The proposed bill seeks to ensure good nutrition, optimal child growth and development, and better health outcomes for children. To this end, the government, and agencies concerned shall implement a ban on added sugar in baby food. The producers/manufacturers shall take responsibility to remove added sugar and look for healthier alternatives in their baby food products,” Marcos explained.

SB 2581 mandates the Department of Health to recall, prohibit, or seize from public sale or distribution any baby food that contain added sugar.

The producer or manufacturer of baby food that will be proven to contain added sugar will also be fined not less than PHP300,000 but not more PHP500,000 or will be imprisoned for not less than one year but not more than five years or both, upon the discretion of the court.

In case the offender is a juridical person, the president, secretary, treasurer, and such other officers or persons responsible for the offense, shall be liable for the penalty of imprisonment.

If the seller, distributor or manufacturer of the subjected baby food is a foreigner, he/she shall be deported after service of sentence and payment of fine without further deportation proceedings. (PNA)