Consumers Misled By Claims On Cereal Packaging
It’s common knowledge that many of the leading breakfast cereals may contain a high amount of sugar. However, a recent UK study has revealed that more often than not, consumers are mislead by the seemingly healthy messages that can be found on packaging.
By analysing the packaging of the 13 top-selling cereals in the UK in terms of imagery, health claims and nutritional content, researchers from Cardiff University found that nutritional claims focused on minerals and vitamins, like folic acid, as well as making legitimate claims such as “no artificial colours or flavours”. The latter can potentially mislead consumers into believing that the cereals are healthier than they are, when in fact a single portion of eight of the options contained more than half of Public Health England’s recommended daily sugar intake for 4- to 6-year-olds.
In addition, imagery regarding the portion size on the packaging’s front was often misleading. The manufacturers’ recommended portion sizes were at least two-thirds less than what was depicted. If the pictures were to be imitated, children between 4 and 10 years of age could exceed their daily sugar allowance by 12.5 per cent through just a single bowl of cereal.
“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,” said Maria Morgan, senior lecturer in dental public health at the university’s School of Dentistry.
“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,” Morgan explained.
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but sadly marketers are misleading the public on what constitutes healthy options and acceptable portion sizes,” added Chair of the British Dental Association’s Health and Science Committee Dr Russ Ladwa.
“It’s a toxic mix, with claims on ‘nutritional benefits’ designed to blind consumers to sugar content, images of super-sized portions to encourage overconsumption, and emotive language to fuel pester power. The result is a recipe for tooth decay and obesity,” Ladwa continued.
“These billboards on our breakfast tables still fall entirely outside advertising regulations for marketing sugary foods to kids. Until government tightens up marketing rules, and sets concrete targets on reformulation, the UK will miss sugar reduction targets by a country mile.”
With the recent sugar tax targeting fizzy drinks, Irish consumers may soon find their favourite treats and cereals are next in the firing line.
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