This study aimed to evaluate food labels targeted at children and identify the concomitant presence of claims and high levels of critical nutrients and/or the presence of sweeteners. As a secondary objective, it aimed to list different types of claims and check which marketing strategies are most used.
We collected 409 products, from 8 popular food groups targeted at children, in Brazilian market (i.e., fruit drinks, dairy drinks, sandwich cookies, cakes, breakfast cereals, jellies, corn snacks, and yogurts). The contents of critical nutrients (e.g., sugar, total fat, saturated fat, and trans-fat, and sodium) and presence/absence of sweetener were calculated, considering Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) parameters. Then, we verified the presence and types of claims in these products.
Overall, 265 (64.7%) labels presented claims. In three of the eight categories (i.e., breakfast cereals, dairy drinks, and yogurt), all products with claims (50, 34, and 34 products, respectively) had one or more nutrients in harmful concentrations (critical nutrients above PAHO’s nutritional profile and/or presence of sweeteners). In the other categories, only one product (of 63 sandwich cookies and 26 breakfast cereals with claims) and three products (of 22 cakes and 28 jellies with claims) had no nutrient in critical concentration. The presence of claims, like “rich/source” of micronutrient, was predominant in seven of the eight food groups.
In the present study, there was a high presence of claims, of different types, in foods targeted at children, which, for the most part, also have excess of at least one critical nutrient, according to PAHO.