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Dutch supermarket childrens’ products are ‘irresponsible’

Image: UNICEF Nederland

Nearly three quarters of Dutch supermarket products aimed at children are unhealthy and irresponsible, says children’s charity UNICEF.

That is its most damning conclusion after examining more than 2,000 products including desserts, drinks and breakfast cereals, many of which are marketed through child-specific advertising.

Checking the products to see whether they fitted within the ‘Schijf van Vijf’ – Wheel of Five – as set out by the Netherlands Nutrition Centre, UNICEF found that healthy food for children was not central to supermarkets’ policies and practices’.

‘Most products contain too much sugar’

The results, say UNICEF, ‘are not positive’ and ‘show a lot of room for improvement’. Most products, it says, contain too many processed sugars, energy or salt, and are also lacking in fibre. The charity also looked at how children’s products are promoted through leaflets and children’s marketing, and concluded that supermarkets ‘show no restraint’ in their offers for unhealthy products for children.

Key findings include:

  • Only a third of all baby and toddler products meet the Wheel of Five criteria
  • Just one breakfast cereal out of 30 met the healthy criteria
  • No child product desserts met the healthy criteria
  • About 25 per cent of all children’s products in brochures involve marketing, using language such as baby or kids.

Suzanne Laszlo, Director of UNICEF Netherlands, said: “Good nutrition is a children’s right. For many children, being well-fed is not an everyday reality. They eat too little of what is good for them and too much of what they don’t need.”

‘For many children being well-fed is not a reality’

UNICEF Nederland said it hoped that their findings would help to bring about change in both at government level and within Dutch supermarkets. It said that both were already working with consumers on health food options, and now UNICEF wanted to ensure that these latest recommendations were taken on board to ultimately help children make healthier choices.

The Central Bureau for Food Trade (CBL), which represents the Netherlands food industry, says health plays an important role in the supermarket. Consumers, it adds, have a wide choice of both healthy and less healthy products, but supermarkets make it easy for consumers to make healthy choices. Fruits and vegetables, for example, have a prominent place in stores, while all Wheel of Five products are available and encouraged by supermarkets.

Click here for more about UNICEF research (Dutch only)

Author: Simon Weedy

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