Dentists slam misleading claims on sugary cereals for kids
Parents are being ‘hoodwinked’ by imagery and health claims on boxes of cereal aimed at children.
That's according to the British Dental Association (BDA) whose leaders have called for sweeping changes to food marketing and product formulation, as new research published today (27 July) reveals the extent of misleading claims on sugar-rich cereals aimed at children.
Analysis of packaging for the 13 top selling cereals from Cardiff University, published in the British Dental Journal, has revealed:
- At the manufacturer’s suggested portion sizes, eight out of 13 top cereals provide over half the Public Health England recommended daily sugar intake for four to six year olds.
- Imagery used on packets depicts servings three times the size of manufacturers’ recommended portion sizes. Children eating these volumes would exceed their daily sugar allowance by 12.5% on a single bowl alone.
- The majority of products featured potentially misleading nutritional claims, designed to offer a ‘halo effect’ leaving consumers to consider them healthier than warranted, or ignore other warnings. Eleven out of 13 products made claims regarding one or more vitamins, whileeight out of 13 were considered extremely high in sugar.
- Emotive language, such as ‘yummy’, ‘magical’ or ‘meet new friends’ dominated products aimed at children, with reassuring language on ‘quality’ and supposed nutritional value designed to appeal to parents.
Cereals are currently the second largest contributors of free sugars in children’s diets, accounting for 8% of intake for four to 10 year olds, and 7% for teenagers. Previous studies have concluded exaggerated portion sizes can contribute to consumers pouring up to 42% more cereal than recommended.
The BDA has expressed concern that cereal packet imagery continues to fall outside the Committee of Advertising Practice code relating to high fat, salt or sugary foods to children. It has called on the government to deliver both concrete changes to marketing guidelines and mandatory targets for sugar reduction, as part of its landmark obesity strategy.
Tooth decay remains the number one reason for hospital admissions among children aged five to nine.
The study’s co-author, Maria Morgan, Senior Lecturer in Dental Public Health at Cardiff University, said:'The big thing for me is the normalisation of bigger portion sizes in Britain, which is affecting childhood obesity, adult obesity and oral health. I don’t like parents being hoodwinked by the imagery.
'I would welcome reformulation of these products. We need to work with the industry on this. I am also worried about food labelling post-Brexit because currently food labelling conforms with EU regulations and going forward we want it as good as if not better than what we have now.'
The article is UK children's breakfast cereals – and oral health perspective, R Khera, RM Fairchild, MZ Morgan, British Dental Journal, 2018; 225: 164-169
Author: Julie Bissett