Parents 'misled' into buying junk food, say researchers

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Food manufactures are tricking parents into buying junk food for children by using misleading statements and images, a new report argues.

The research, which was conducted by the Food Commission on behalf of the British Heart Foundation (BHF), investigated how children’s breakfast foods and lunchbox snacks are marketed to parents.
It found that food companies use five main techniques to play on parents’ fears and aspirations and manipulate their ability to make healthy choices for their children. These included: making selective nutritional claims, making selective health claims, making statements about quality, using ‘healthy’ imagery, and using empathy and emotional insight.
The study highlighted a promotion in Sainsbury’s magazine that said that products such as Nestle cereal and Nesquick can ‘help kids to maintain strong, healthy bones’, without mentioning that the products contain up to 59g of sugar per 100g. Kellogg’s Coco Pops Cereal and Milk bars were also criticised for using images of grapes and a wholemeal bread sandwich on their packaging to associate the products with a healthy snack, while they too contain high levels of sugar. Other products, such as Dairylea, came under fire for claiming to contain ‘no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives added’ while having high levels of saturated fat.
The British Heart Foundation called for consistent junk food regulations across all media and for compulsory labelling on the front of food packs to help parents understand the nutritional values of the products they are buying for their children.
Peter Hollins, chief executive of the BHF, said, ‘We are calling on the UK government to rigorously limit the marketing of unhealthy foods and make sure that labels are clear and consistent. We’re asking parents to join us in campaigning for an end to the techniques that allow companies to mislead them.’
Download the report, entitled How Parents Are Being Misled: A Campaign Report about Children's Food Marketing at www.bhf.org.uk.

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