Children’s food and beverages fail to live up to health claims on packaging

According to new research from Sana Chehimi, MPH, of the Prevention Institute, health claims on children’s food labels are misleading and fail to meet basic nutrient guidelines. Chehimi presented her research last week at the Society for Behavioral Medicine’s 33rd Annual Meeting & Scientific Sessions.

Currently, there is no federal law that regulates food marketing to children. Instead the nation’s largest food and beverage companies operate under a voluntary, self-regulated advertising program designed to encourage children to make healthier dietary choices.

Many children’s front-of-package labels claim their products are a “good source of fiber,” or an “excellent source of protein.” The label for the juice drink Capri Sun, for example, declares it is a “good source of calcium.”

However, Chehimi’s research has found many of these health claims are misleading. Chehimi compared 58 children’s food products (e.g., Apple Jacks, Capri Sun, SpagettiO’s etc.) with the following nutrient criteria:

    • >35 percent calories from fat = high fat
    • >10 percent calories from saturated fat = high saturated fat
    • >25 percent calories from total sugars = high sugar
    • >480 mg per serving for non-meal items or >600 mg per serving for meal items = high sodium
    • <1.25 g fiber per serving = low fiber

Chehimi found that 84 percent of products failed to meet one or more nutrient criteria. In her presentation she also offers some recommendations for how to fix the problems with front-of-package labeling for children’s food and beverages.

View the full presentation here

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