Majority of Food Products for Children Found to be Unhealthy; Many Misleading Health Claims Made

Jan 7, 2009 by

Majority of Food Products for Children Found to be Unhealthy; Many Misleading Health Claims Made

Parents would, of course, want to seek out the best food products for their children. Unfortunately, it may prove to be a much tougher task than we think.

A study conducted at the University of Calgary in Canada has found that most of the food products which are made specially for children are non-nutritious and unhealthy. And this is even if most of the manufacturers may claim that their products do provide some health benefit.

The study team looked at the food labels of 367 products which are made specifically for children, including those featuring cartoon characters on the packaging or directly tied to various movies, television programs and merchandise for children.

Standards put in place by the nonprofit organization Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) indicate that healthy food for kids should provide at most 35% of its calories from fats (this guideline does not apply to nuts, seeds and nut butters). In terms of weight, added sugar should form at most 35% of the whole product. Also, sodium levels should not exceed 230mg per portion for snacks, or 770mg per portion for pre-prepared meals.

While CSPI realizes that this does not exactly point to an ideal meal, but it is a compromise which allows for some moderately unhealthy food products to be part of an overall balanced diet.

Even then, using the CSPI guidelines, the study team found that only 11% of the products provided good nutritional value.

Of those products which failed to meet the said guidelines, 68% had in fact made some sort of positive health claim on their product packaging, for example being high in iron, being a good source of whole grain, or being low in fat. Also, 70% of the “failed” products had fallen short of the standards because of excessive sugar. Cereals and fruit snacks were the most guilty of making nutritional claims despite being overly filled with sugar.

“Parents may have questions about which packaged foods are good for their children. Yet certain nutritional claims may add to the confusion, as they can mislead people into thinking the whole product is nutritious,” said Charlene Elliott, the leader of the study, which was published in the journal Obesity Reviews.

This is frightening – despite using substandard nutritional and health guidelines, only a pathetic 11% “passed” the thresholds. What are we feeding our children today?…

(That question can also be extrapolated to – what are we feeding ourselves today?)

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