Flourish With Fran August 22: Misleading Food Claims

Are you sure what is inside products you buy?

Flourish with Fran August 2022

Confusing food messages in our food environment and what to do about it.

Healthy eating is hard to follow, especially for those who live within infrastructures that do not support or endorse access to healthy and affordable food. This can affect us all, but young people are especially at risk of falling victim to confusing and misleading health claims that can be found online and in person.

This is where Bite Back 2030 come in. The team of passionate teenage activists from across the UK, alongside chef and campaigner, Jamie Oliver, are working hard to campaign for a better food system. The non-profit organisation hosts a national youth board with young people pushing for changes in the government, local youth boards in Birmingham and London, and are working with schools and community groups to raise awareness of how our food environment should and can provide easy access to nutritious foods. These interventions are necessary if we are to meet the UK target of halving childhood obesity by 2030.

There has been a range of campaigns driven by Bite Back 2030, from #SpillTheBeans looking at students’ opinions on school food, pushing for the 9pm TV watershed on Junk food adverts and a tireless campaign for permeant free school meal provisions in the holidays where 450,000 people signed and supported. The most recent campaign focused on misleading claims on products ‘Don’t Hide What’s inside’ as the big food businesses use health and nutrition claims to present a product as healthy without recognising the high sugar, fat, and salt content.

1,000 young people answered a series of questions based on 500 food and drink products commonly consumed by teenagers with health and nutrition claims in their marketing. With yogurts, smoothies, and cereal bars being the products often high in either salt, saturated fat or sugar leaving them with red traffic light labelling. Often not displayed on the products when in store! This is because ‘Front of Pack labelling’ ie the traffic light display is a voluntary label that food manufactures can decide to use or not. Products that are mostly ‘Red’ mean that these items should be eaten less often and in small amounts as they are high in fat, saturated fat, salt, or sugar. ‘Amber’ means the product can be consumed most of the time as it is neither high nor low in the specific nutrient. ‘Green’ is low in the nutrient and makes it a healthy choice. These displays are found on pre-packaged items and in-depth nutrition information can be found on the back of the packaging by law. The front of pack labelling scheme is important because it allows consumers to quickly glance at a product and make informed decisions.

Out of these 500 items, 1 in 2 of the products marketing make consumers believe they are healthy items and over 73% of the teens believed that they are eating healthily because of this. So, in response, Bite Back 2030 created their own ‘MÜd’ snack bar that is high in fibre, a great source of minerals and low in fat. Sounds great, right?!

Turned out MÜd is actually what it says on the tin… organic and natural mud! The campaign can be found across their social media pages via #DontHideWhatsInside and @BiteBack2030. I highly recommend looking up the video associated with ‘MÜd’! This campaign highlights a real issue in the food industry. The aim being to introduce a clear, mandatory labelling policy that includes regulation to end the use of health and nutrition claims on all unhealthy products.

Francesca Vuolo is a registered associate nutritionist with a BSc (Hons) Nutrition and MSc in Nutrition and Behaviour. Her interests range from nutritional psychiatry, physical activity, nature, public health, and farming, which complement her work. You can find out more on Instagram @flourishwithfran.

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