In May, BBC news online reported that many supposedly ‘healthy’ fruit snacks aimed at children contain more sugar than sweets. This is according to the campaign group, Action on Sugar, which looked at 94 products that are on sale in the UK, such as coated dried fruit. It found that one-third contained three or four teaspoons of sugar and 85 per cent were “more sugary than Haribo Starmix sweets”.
Child health experts said the findings were “frightening”. However, the industry pointed out that most of the snacks contained no added sugars, and those that did were clearly labelled.
The group called on food manufacturers to stop adding unnecessary sugars to fruit-based snacks while labelling them as contributing to “one of your five a day”.
In the online article, Katharine Jenner, campaign director at Action on Sugar, says: “Parents find it hard enough to know what ‘healthy’ is without food manufacturers confusing matters with misleading claims.”
Despite the improvements that have been made to food labels when it comes to ingredient listing and identification, it is true that health claims on food labels can be misleading. Obviously this has a lot to do with marketing and making sure that products stand out and appeal to consumers. However, there are an increasing number of brands on the market that really do take the health claims they make seriously. Perhaps there should be stricter guidelines on what health claims can be made to ensure that those products that really contain only good stuff stand out alongside the less healthy competition. It’s a debate that’s likely to rumble on. What are your views?