11 Apr 2019

A new study suggests health claims on foods aimed at children are often misleading

A team from the University of Glasgow studied three hundred and thirty-two products, including breakfast cereals, fruit snacks, fruit-based drinks, dairy products and ready meals that were being marketed to children to examine whether they were living up to healthy claims made on packaging.

The research was conducted at a wide-range of UK retailers, and focused on products marketed to children above the age of one. A range of child friendly themes including cartoons or promotions and terms suggesting a nutritious or healthy attribute such as ‘one of 5-a-day’, on product packaging were identified both in stores and online. Information on sugar, salt and fat content, as well as health and nutrition claims, was recorded. The Ofcom nutrient profiling model (NPM) was used to assess if products were healthy.

From the products sampled, it was clear that nutrition and health claims were commonly used to market products aimed for kids, along with child-friendly cartoon imagery. However, upon inspection many of these health claims were found to be unreliable.

For example, many of the products identified included claims relating to the common ‘one of your 5-a-day’ messaging. However, upon investigation 75.4% (103) of products which made this claim were made up of less than 80 g of fruit and vegetables. A total of 41% of the products were deemed less healthy by the Ofcom NPM, suggesting that the health benefit claims could be misleading.

The University of Glasgow suggests uniform guidance for packaging is needed to prevent misleading packaging claims. As currently it could be likely that parents are feeding their children products they believe are healthy, but are actually not.

To see the full report click here