Parents are concerned about misleading health claims made for foodstargeted at children, according to research commissioned by the UK FoodStandards Agency. The Agency looked into this issue because of concerns that advertising andthe promotion of foods to children could be having an adverse effect ontheir diets and health.
Too many high fat/salt/sugar foods in children'sdiets could contribute to childhood obesity and long term health problems, the Agency stressed.
Suzi Leather, Deputy Chair of the Food Standards Agency, said: "They are concerned about misleading health claims about foods for their children. We want to work with industry on how theycan communicate accurate health messages and information about the foodthey promote to children and on the labels of these products so thatparents have clear and accurate information about what they are buying."
The research results, following a survey across the UK in Juneand July 2001, do not indicate a general objection to promotionalactivity, the FSA indicated, rather specific concerns about products depicted as healthy, when they were regarded as unhealthy, (high fat, high sugar). Thesepromotions provoked feelings in parents of anger and of being misled, the Agency reported. The FSA research revealed that parents feel bombarded with conflicting advice about healthy eating, and respond by ignoring much of it. As aresult they only have a selective awareness and understanding of whatconstitutes a healthy diet for children, equating balance, with variety, and relying on manufacturers' claims to inform their food choices.
However, the research did find that the parents' goals towards a balanced, healthydiet did include fruit, vegetables and milk.
According to the research, fathers were more likely than mothers to give in to their children's demands when children pestered parents for certain products.
In order to address these issues the FSA is planning a number of initiatives. These include: surveys of the nutritional content of foods promoted to children; developing Agency advice on "healthy" messages on foods promoted to children and also "healthy" eating advice for parents.