Children “targeted with unhealthy food”

Supermarkets and multinational food companies are targeting children with processed foods containing too much fat and sugar and too little fibre, a Swedish consumer organisation has said.

A report from consumers’ organisation Konsumentföreningen Stockholm (KfS) showed that most food marketed to children had higher fat and sugar content than food marketed to adults.

Breakfast cereals came in for particular criticism in the report. Most cereals were 30-50 percent sugar, with Quaker’s ‘Kalas Puffar’, Nestlé’s Kangus, ICA’s Honungspuffar and Coop’s Honey Bees singled out as the worst offenders.

Perhaps contrary to many people’s expectations, cereals were also found to be low in fibre, with most products containing 1-3 grams of fibre per 100 grams.

The report slammed dairy products with high sugar content, including yoghurts and milk drinks.

Louise Ungerth, head of consumer affairs at KfS, called on the food industry to “assume its responsibilities”:

“Food targeted at children should have high nutritional standards with high fibre content and low levels of fat, salt and sugar,” said Ungerth.

The organisation is also demanding that the Swedish government forces food manufacturers to make nutritional information on packaging clearer.

Ungerth said that the question was already being discussed at the EU level, but challenged the food industry to take independent action.

The report also demanded that the food industry stops putting toys in cereal packets and stops broadcasting Swedish children’s programmes from outside Sweden, a practice devised to circumvent Swedish restrictions on adverts aimed at children.

Despite the criticism of the food industry, KfS said that progress had been made in the past year, with a number of manufacturers reducing sugar content in yoghurts and cereals. Two dairies had stopped adding sugar, and were now using fruit sugars and purées instead.

As well as acting as a consumer organisation, KfS has a major interest in supermarket chain Coop Norden. KfS owns twenty percent of the Swedish Cooperative Union, which in turn owns 42 percent of Coop.