Recent years have seen growing controversy over the nutritional quality of children’s food, and nowhere more so than in the UK.
Today [Thursday] one veteran campaigner, Lizzie Vann of Organix, launched a new campaign urging parents to lobby the government and the UK food industry to implement a strict code of practice for the production of foods for children.
The proliferation of branded and own-label food products specifically targeted at children has been one of the key trends observed by food industry watchers in recent years. The Food Commission and high-profile individual manufacturers such as Vann, as well as prominent food writers such as Joanna Blythman, have spearheaded initiatives to increase parental awareness of undesirable ingredients in children’s food products.
Vann’s new campaign hinges on her belief that the current lack of legislation means children as young as one-year-old are treated as adults by the food industry. She is seeking to see them protected by law by the introduction of comprehensive new legislation to regulate children’s food up to the age of six years. She envisages a model based on the highly regulated baby food industry.
Code of practice
Vann is also calling for the introduction of a code of practice whereby manufacturers would adopt new measures including the exclusion of Azo dyes and colourings not proved to be safe for use for all children, restrictions on the use of flavourings and preservatives and more transparent labelling.
For the purpose of the campaign launched today, Vann has teamed up with Dr Vyvyan Howard, a toxico-pathologist, and the Hyperactive Children’s Support Group.
The campaign is driven by a report produced by Vann, Carrots or Chemistry? The Future of Children’s Food. The report surveyed 356 non-organic and 47 organic foods targeted at children and on sale in UK supermarkets and corner shops, during 2001. Vann claims the report reveals that:
· A third of the children’s foods investigated contained colourings, including dyes banned in Scandinavia and the US, which can cause adverse reactions in vulnerable people.
· Three quarters of the children’s foods surveyed contained flavourings with widespread use of flavour enhancers, including monosodium glutamate, which is banned for use in baby food.
· More than one in four of the foods examined contained preservatives and many brands did not display any nutritional information at all. The research also showed high levels of sugar, salt and fat in many children’s foods.
Casual approach to nutritional value?
The results of the surveys carried out in the production of the report are said to indicate that the overwhelming majority of foods on sale for children are made from poor quality ingredients, coloured to hide their true nature, flavoured artificially because of their poor taste and filled with preservatives to extend shelf life. Organix food quality manager Dr Paula Smithson also commented that the drive from food manufacturers to market children’s food on the basis of convenience, price and ‘kiddie appeal’ has led to a casual approach being taken to nutritional value
The report also alleges that the vast majority of parents feel they have insufficient nutritional awareness to feed their children healthily, while 65% are unable to say their children are eating a variety of foods.
The campaign aims to involve more parents in its fight to improve child nutrition, by encouraging them to lobby the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for a change in legislation.
A copy of the full report can be request from the Organix Press Office on +44 (0)1202 409 534