When the label on the children’s food product says it’s better for you, chances are it’s not, and one nutrition advocacy group suggests that in the absence of federal regulation, companies are making deceptive claims.
Prevention Institute of Oakland, CA. found that 84 percent of the children’s food products it examined did not meet even basic dietary recommendations and nutritional standards.
Its new study, “Claiming Health: Front-of-Package Labeling of Children’s Foods,” examined whether the nutritional content of 58 familiar products, whose labels make the “better for you” claim, met criteria established by U.S. Dietary Guidelines and the National Academies of Science.
Under those criteria, products can have up to 25 percent of the calories from added sugars, up to 480 mg. of sodium and as little as 1.25 grams of fiber per serving.
The study identified only nine products that met the nutrition criteria; 49 products failed to meet one or more criteria.
The study also found that:
— 57 percent of the study products were high in sugar
— 95 percent contained added sugar
— 53 percent were low in fiber
— 53 percent did not contain any fruits or vegetables; of the fruits and vegetables found, half came from just 2 ingredients – tomatoes and corn.
— 24 percent of prepared foods were high in saturated fats.
— 36 percent of prepared foods and meals were high in sodium
— 28 percent of prepared food were low in fiber
— 21 percent contained artificial coloring–additives with potentially harmful health impacts, offering no benefits whatsoever
— 93 percent of cereals were high in sugar and 60 percent were low in fiber
— 90 percent of snack foods were high in sugar and low in fiber
In 2009, the institute points out, the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service stated that the agencies “would be concerned if FOP (front of package) labeling systems used criteria that were not stringent enough to protect consumers against misleading claims, were inconsistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, or had the effect of encouraging consumers to choose highly processed foods and refined grains instead of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.”
The Prevention Institute concluded that its study, “underscores that the current system–which counts on food companies to decide what information they include on their front-of-package labels–is broken. Without FDA regulation, instead of giving more information to parents struggling to make the best decisions for their kids, the system is deceiving them.
The food industry can–and should–do better.”