How the Food Companies Mislead Parents... No Artificial Flavors, Colors or Preservatives But... You Do Get Plenty Saturated Fat!

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Wed, 12/17/2008 - 2:15am.

Food companies are misleading parents through legal loopholes and spurious health claims to market unhealthy food to children, a charity has claimed. The British Heart Foundation (BHF) claims to "expose" the "top five" marketing tactics it said companies used to advertise children's food high in fat, sugar and salt.

The report, prepared by food campaigning group The Food Commission on behalf of the BHF, said companies made claims about the quality of products to hide the true nutritional content and used selective nutritional and health information.

Companies also used "emotional insight" to empathise with mothers about some of the difficulties in raising a family, and imagery to entice and mislead parents, the report said.

Kellogg's claimed its Coco Pops Cereal and Milk Bars were the "best choice for a lunchbox treat" and used images of grapes and a wholemeal bread sandwich on packaging despite containing 41g of sugar per 100g, the study said.

Dairylea promised "no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives added" but did not mention that one "bite" contained nearly a third of a child's daily recommended maximum saturated fat intake.

An ad for KFC showed children volunteering to clean up after eating one of the takeaway chain's meals, while an ad for Burger King Aberdeen Angus Mini-Burgers showed a motherly figure declaring "the lunch battle is over".

The BHF commissioned the report as part of its Food 4 Thought childhood obesity campaign.

The report also said companies were showing "misleading" adverts during shows popular with young people like the X Factor, despite regulations banning the advertising of junk food during children's programmes.

The BHF is calling for a ban on all junk-food television advertising before 9pm.

It also wants "consistent" junk food marketing regulations across all media and for a mandatory front-of-pack food labelling system to help parents understand the nutritional values of children's products.

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.

"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.

"Obese children are more likely to become obese adults and this will have serious implications for future levels of heart disease. We must all play our part to stop this happening."

Manufacturers denied the report's findings.

A Kellogg's spokesman said: "To suggest we exploit marketing loopholes as a matter of course is rubbish. Our on-pack claims are rigorous and all our marketing reflects the latest advertising codes."

He added: "We don't believe there is a silver bullet to childhood obesity. It's about having a balanced diet and active lifestyle at the same time. That's why all our products have very clear Guideline Daily Amounts (GDA) on the front of pack. We believe this helps parents make their own mind up about what they want to feed their kids."

Kraft, the maker of Dairylea, said: "Parents tell us that no artificial ingredients are important to them so that's what we highlight. In fact, Dairylea Bites provides 16% of a five to 10-year-old child's guideline daily allowance for saturated fat - far less than the amount claimed by BHF."

A Burger King spokesman said: "The Burger King Warrior Mums advertising campaign is designed to help mums find a quality treat for their kids whilst out of the home, and is not designed to be a substitute for a home-cooked meal."

The fast-food chain had made a number of quality improvements over the last couple of years, including low-calorie options and the halting of television advertising directly to children.

Food and Drink Federation spokesman Julian Hunt said: "We haven't yet read this dodgy dossier to be able to comment in full. But when it comes to the marketing of food and drink products, we know that the UK is one of the most strictly regulated countries in Europe.

"It is complete nonsense to suggest that manufacturers are exploiting legal loopholes in the marketing regulations. A report published by the Advertising Standards Authority only this week shows that 99% of advertising in all media is fully compliant with the rules now in place.

"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."

Advertising Association chief operating officer Rae Burdon said: "The BHF report is disappointing. This approach will do nothing to address the issue of healthier lifestyles.

"The rules regulating food advertising are robust and effective and industry consistently demonstrates that it acts within both the spirit and the letter of the codes. The findings of the Advertising Standards Authority Food Advertising Survey, published last week, showed a 99% level of compliance.

"The debate has moved on and the focus is now about encouraging healthier lifestyle and diets through positive behavioural change."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "There are now fewer ads on TV that are tempting our children into bad eating habits - but we must continue to keep our eye on other types of media.

"We must do more to reduce marketing unhealthy foods to children elsewhere - and that includes kids' promotions on the internet, at the cinema, in magazines.

"But it is important that we don't just focus on marketing of unhealthy products. We now need to turn pester power' completely on its head, and start using the power of marketing to help rather than hinder parents.

"Ofcom is reviewing the current restrictions and will report its findings shortly.

"A third of children in the UK are either overweight or obese - so it's essential that we help our children make healthy choices in what they eat. The food and drink industry has a huge role to play in this."

 Rachelle Money - December 17, 2008 - source SundayHerald

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Wed, 12/17/2008 - 2:15am.