Food manufacturers mislead parents, claims BHF report

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags British heart foundation Nutrition

Manufacturers of children’s breakfast cereals and lunchbox snacks have been accused of misleading parents about high levels of salt, sugar and fat in a British Heart Foundation report.

The research, which was conducted by the Food Commission on behalf of the British Heart Foundation (BHF), investigated the allegation that food manufacturers target parents in advertising.

Current UK regulations ban television advertisements for foods high in fat, sugar or salt during or around programmes specifically made for children, and any advertising of these foods that may be of particular appeal to under-16s.

BHF chief executive Peter Hollins said: “It is clear that some food companies are preying on parents’ concerns to actively market children’s food that is high in sugar, fat and salt. They are manipulating legislative loopholes to find new tactics to entice children and their parents.”

These tactics, according to the BHF, include using ‘selective health claims’ and ‘emotional insight’ to relate to parents’ concerns about ensuring their children eat healthily.

Industry compliance

However, Food and Drink Federation (FDF) communications director Julian Hunt described the report as ‘baffling’.

He said: “It is complete nonsense to suggest that manufacturers are exploiting legal loopholes in the marketing regulations – a report published by the Advertising Standards Authority shows that 99 per cent of advertising in all media is fully compliant with the rules now in place.”

The report highlighted several foods which promote the nutritional benefits of certain elements, such as high fibre or calcium, without mentioning that they are also high in salt, sugar or fat. These included Honey Shreddies, which has ‘helps you get three-a-day wholegrain’ written on the front of the pack, although it contains 30.3 per cent sugar.

It also noted the use of statements recognising the pressures parents face in ensuring their children eat healthy foods, such as ‘for mums who like to say no to their kids’ on Natural Confectionery Company Jelly Snakes. The sweets contain 50.5 per cent sugar.

Hunt added: “It is also highly spurious to allege that nutrition and health claims are not regulated; they are, thanks to a strict EU regulation covering all nutrition and health claims on food and drink products.”

The British Heart Foundation has called for tougher restrictions on food advertising, including a ban on all junk food advertising before 9pm, as it claims that many of the most popular family-oriented television programmes – such as The X Factor – are not covered by current restrictions.

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