Campaign group Action for Sugar is urging the Government to place tougher restrictions on medium and high sugar food products that target children.
Research into sugar levels in yoghurts that are marketed to children – often via cartoon characters – found that just one in 20 of them had healthy sugar levels, with the worst offender packing in five-and-a-half teaspoons per pot.
The charity, based at Queen Mary University of London, studied 100 yoghurts, many of which featured designs that are eye-catching to children, and found that popular brands including Frubes, Yoplait and Munch Bunch were all high in sugar.
The most sugar-laden was a Nestlé’s Rolo Mix-in Toffee yoghurt which contains 20.6g of sugar per 100g. Read the full Action for Sugar report here.
Current NHS guidelines suggest children aged between seven and ten should have no more than 24g of sugar a day, with younger children advised to consume just 19g.
Action for Sugar also criticised packaging that made claims about calcium, Vitamin D and high protein levels, saying it misled parents and created a ‘distorted health halo.’
Campaign lead Dr Kawther Hashem, a nutritionist, said: “Parents can easily be misled when walking through the yogurt aisle in the supermarket.
“Given only 5 per cent of yogurts with child friendly packaging would have a green coloured label as being ‘healthy’ for sugar, food companies must make every effort to reduce the sugar in these products, particularly the ones targeted so explicitly towards children.”
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Dr Hashem’s colleague, Katharine Jenner, campaign director at Action on Sugar added: “Clever marketing techniques such as advertising, promotions and packaging are powerful tools to get children hooked on the sweet stuff from a young age and for life.
“Whilst the Government’s Obesity Strategy is taking bold steps to tackle unhealthy advertising and promotions, they now need to ensure food companies only use cartoons and health halo statements on their healthier products, allowing parents to see more of what is good for their children.”
In the first chapter of The College of Medicine’s Manifesto, Hope for the Future, Sir Sam Everington and Professor Dame Donna Kinnair also call for strong action on tackling childhood obesity, saying: “Obesity rates are highest in the most deprived 10 per cent of the population, more than twice that of the least deprived 10 per cent.
CURRENT NHS GUIDELINES ON SUGAR CONSUMPTION
“Around 35 per cent of children in Year Six (aged ten to 11) are now overweight or obese, a figure that’s expected to reach 40 per cent in the next four years. Type 2 diabetes rates are increasing in children.
“It’s important to acknowledge areas of improvement in child health over the last six years but the enduring issues outweigh the positive.”
Last month, the National Food Strategy report, led by Henry Dimbleby, called for families with low incomes to be offered free fruit and vegetables to help them ‘break the cycle’ of buying food that is affordable but unhealthy.
Government ministers have pledged to make proposals for a healthier Britain within six months of the report being published and Dimbleby is calling for US-style social prescribing of healthier food – via food vouchers – to ensure that those living in poverty can access fresh produce.