A recent study done by Professor Elliot at the University of Calgary in Alberta Canada. Elliot investigated more than 300 food items, not including chips, soda, or chocolate bars. These products had labeling designed to appeal to parents as being a good choice for children. What Elliot found was quite disturbing. Although 63% of the 367 products tested claimed certain health benefits on the label, 89% of all the foods tested were deemed to be of Poor Nutritional Quality (PNQ) due to high fat, sugar or sodium. Many of the products tested were breakfast cereals; they were guilty of the too high sugar content.
No more than 35% of daily calories should be derrived from fat with the exclusion of nuts and peanut butter (according to CSPI – Center for Science in the Public Interest) presumably because they have a significant amount of protein. They should have no more than 35% added sugar by weight. This one is a bit trickier to measure because sugar naturally occurs in milk and fruit. Food manufacturers need not disclose the amount of naturally occuring sugar on a product label. This is where the study could potentially be slightly faulty. Of the 89% of PNQ’s, some may have been wrongly accused due to non disclosure of naturally occuring sugars.
As a parent who needs to make 2 lunches every school morning, this comes as a surprise and a disappointment as pre packaged items save a lot of time in the chaos of teeth brushing, dressing, hair combining and arguments that occur in getting children out the door. I am naive enough to believe that companies couldn’t blatantly lie about being healthy, but by whose definition are they basing their health claims? As ever, we must get back to the basics, stick to the outer aisles of the supermarket, and READ ingredient labels. In the wise words of Michael Pollen, author of the Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, any product that makes a health claim on the package is likely unhealthy.
See Full Press Release in the UK Journal of Obesity News or on Eureka Alert.