Do you know how much sugar is in these children’s snacks?
- Credit: PA
Three quarters of children's snacks which claim to contain 'one of your five a day' do not actually constitute a full portion of fruit or vegetables, researchers have found.
The study by the University of Glasgow also found that half of the fruit snacks claiming to have 'no added sugars' contained concentrated juice or fruit puree as added ingredients.
The researchers said health claims made by some products were confusing for parents – and could be contributing to rising rates of childhood obesity.
In their analysis of 332 products, researchers found that cereal bars had the highest energy and saturated fat content and cereals had the highest salt content.
Fruit snacks had the highest sugar content, but in many cases still claimed to be one of a child's five a day – which researchers said 'is likely to be confusing for parents'.
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Dr Ada Garcia, who led the research team, said: 'Processed fruits are perceived by the public as a healthy natural alternative to added sugars, but because of the breakdown of the cellular structure they potentially have the same negative effect on weight gain as other forms of sugar, which is why they have recently been classified as free sugars in the UK.'
Researchers analysed products including breakfast cereals, fruit snacks, fruit-based drinks, dairy products such as yoghurts and ready meals using a tool from broadcast regulator Ofcom to decide whether foods were 'healthy'.
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They were judged on their energy, total sugars, saturated fat, salt, fruit/vegetable/nut, fibre and protein contents.
A large proportion of the products, including some 41pc which were commonly perceived as 'healthy', were classified as less healthy by the system.
The study team said stricter regulations were needed for food labelling and product content.
The researchers wrote: 'Prepacked foods targeted to children can be consumed as part of a 'balanced and healthy' diet, yet their health and nutrition claims remain questionable.
'Given the current rising rates of childhood obesity, the consumption of less healthy foods may have long term negative implications on child health.'