Study questions front-of-pack claims for kids’ foods

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

Many foods with front-of-pack label claims positioning them as ‘better for you’ choices for children compare poorly to dietary recommendations, according to a new study from the Prevention Institute.

The researchers examined the nutritional content of 58 products made by companies that are part of the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI).

The CFBAI was set up by the Council of Better Business Bureaus (BBB) in 2006 after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) launched a probe investigating industry’s marketing to children. Its stated aim is “to shift the mix of advertising messaging directed at children to encourage healthier dietary choices and healthier lifestyles.”

So far, 17 major food and beverage companies have joined the program – up from ten when it was first launched.

All of the chosen products carry a front-of-pack claim, either for the product as a whole or for specific nutrients, according to the researchers.

Of the 58 products, 49 (or 84 percent) did not meet one or more of the nutrition criteria set out by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the National Academies of Science for total sugars, fat, saturated fat, sodium or fiber.

According to those criteria, products were deemed to be high sugar if more than 25 percent of their calories come from sugar; high fat if more than 35 percent of calories come from fat; high saturated fat with more than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat; high sodium if they have more than 480mg per serving; and low fiber with less than 1.25g of fiber per serving.

The researchers found that over half (57 percent) of the products surveyed were high in sugar, over a third (36 percent) of prepared foods and meals were high in sodium, nearly a quarter (24 percent) were high in saturated fat, and nearly a third (28 percent) were low in fiber.

The full paper is available online here​.

Vice president and director of the CFBAI Elaine Kolish told that the organization needed more time to respond fully to the study. However, she said that CFBAI members have been making “steady, incremental progress” ​in reducing fats, sugars and sodium, highlighting recent sugar reduction efforts by cereal companies such as General Mills and Kellogg’s.

The nine products that did meet nutritional criteria were: Quaker Chewy Granola Bars – 25% Less Sugar (Chocolate Chip), Campbell’s SpaghettiOs Princess Shapes, Kid Cuisine Magical Cheese Stuffed Crust Pizza, Kid Cuisine Karate Chop Chicken Sandwich, Kid Cuisine Campfire Hotdog, Kid Cuisine Bug Safari Chicken Breast Nuggets, Kid Cuisine Pop Star Popcorn Chicken, Capri Sun 100% Juice – Fruit Punch, and Kool Aid Fun Fizz Drink Drops – Gigglin Grape.

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