The Oakland-based Prevention Institute has just released its new research report: Claiming Health: Front-of-Package Labeling of Childrens Food. The report summarizes the Institutes investigation of whether kids foods with better-for-you front-of-package labels meet dietary recommendations and nutrition standards.
Bottom line: they dont.
Researchers bought 58 kids food products made by companies who have promised to meet certain nutritional criteria.
All had front-of-package labels that indicate healthier options.
The researchers measured the contents of these foods against a fairly standardand quite generousset of nutrient criteria.
The criteria allow products to have up to 25% of the calories from added sugars, up to 480 mg of sodium, and as little as 1.25 grams of fiber per serving.
Even so, the data show that:
Nutrient criteria make it easy to game the system, and front-of-package labels do exactly that.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) will soon release its second report on front-of-package labels, this one recommending what the FDA should do about them. Lets hope the IOM committee pays close attention to this report.
Claiming Health makes it clear that without rigorous nutrient standards, plenty of not-so-good-for-you foods will be labeled as better for children.
As I keep saying, alas, front-of-package labels, like health claims, are about marketing, not health.
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