Parents are concerned about misleading health claims made for foods targeted at children, according to research commissioned by the Food Standards Agency.

The Agency looked at this issue because of its concern that advertising and the promotion of foods to children could be having an adverse effect on their diets and health. Too many high fat/salt/sugar foods in children's diets could contribute to childhood obesity and long term health problems.

The research results do not indicate a general objection to promotional activity, rather specific concerns about products depicted as 'healthy', when they were regarded as 'unhealthy' (high fat, high sugar). These promotions provoked feelings in parents of anger and of being misled.

The FSA's research has shown that parents feel bombarded with conflicting advice about healthy eating, and respond by ignoring much of it.  As a result they only have a selective awareness and understanding of what constitutes a healthy diet for children, equating 'balance' with 'variety' and relying on manufacturers' claims to inform their food choices.
However, the research found that parents' goals towards a balanced, healthy diet did include fruit, vegetables and milk.

A further finding in this research was that fathers were more likely than mothers to give in to their children's demands when children pestered parents for certain products.

The Agency is planning a number of initiatives to address these issues:

   Surveys of the nutritional content of foods promoted to children
   Developing Agency advice on 'healthy' messages on foods promoted to
   children
   Developing Agency healthy eating advice specifically for parents
 
Suzi Leather, Deputy Chair of the Food Standards Agency, said: " We know that most parents do want to provide their children with a balanced, healthy diet. They are concerned about misleading health claims about foods for their children. We want to work with industry on how they can communicate accurate health messages and information about the food they promote to children and on the labels of these products so that parents have clear and accurate information about what they are buying.

" It also appears that there may be a need to bolster the resolve of fathers when they are out shopping with their kids. Mums seem to be able to withstand requests and demands from their children better than Dads. "