Parents are being 'tricked' into buying sugary snacks for their children, campaigners warn

Lauren Clark
·3-min read
Anti-sugar groups say manufacturers and retailers are marketing sugary products as healthy fruit-based options for children (Getty Images)
Anti-sugar groups claim manufacturers and retailers are marketing sugary products as healthy fruit-based options for children. (Getty Images)

With school a distant memory, parents may be forgiven for giving into their children’s requests for sweet snacks in recent weeks.

However, anti-sugar groups have warned that even the fruit-based options that give many peace of mind when it comes to a child’s diet may not be so virtuous after all.

Campaigners are calling on the government to better regulate sugary products marketed by manufacturers and retailers as healthy snacks.

Action on Sugar and the Early Years Foundation claimed that sweets including M&S’s Percy Pigs are being misleadingly marketed.

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The groups – prompted by the publication of the independent National Food Strategy, which described obesity as a “national emergency” – said parents are being “tricked” into buying such snacks.

Holly Gabriel a nutritionist at Action on Sugar, told The Telegraph that many people are “tricked into choosing these fruit-based snacks thinking they are choosing healthier products, only to find these items are high in free sugars, and with minimal nutritional value”.

She said many such products come labelled with “no added colours”, “one of your five a day” or “great for kids”, and argued that they should be considered confectionary, not healthy snacks.

June O'Sullivan, CEO of the London Early Years Foundation, told the newspaper: "It's already a struggle for parents to fully understand what is 'healthy' without food manufacturers confusing matters further with misleading claims and snacks packed full of sugar which are marketed heavily towards children.”

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In response, a spokesman for M&S said: "All our products have clear labelling so that customers can make informed choices about what they buy.

“All our Percy Pigs are made with natural fruit juices and no artificial colours or flavourings, and last year we also introduced a range of Percy Pigs with one third less sugar."

According to the NHS, children aged seven to 10 should have no more than 24g of free sugars a day.

Similarly, children aged five to six should consume no more than 19g of free sugars a day.

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There’s no guideline for children under the age of four, but it's recommended they avoid sugar-sweetened drinks and food with sugar added to it.

Consuming too much sugar can contribute to weight gain and possibly obesity – which comes with a number of health complications – and it can also lead to tooth decay.

Risk of the latter can increase when fruit, which is a very healthy snack in its original form, is juiced or blended, the NHS notes.

Likewise, the NHS advises that dried fruit should be consumed as part of a meal, rather than a snack.

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