'Healthy' snacks for kids contain more sugar than Haribo sweets
Parents are 'being misled' say campaigners, but regulators insist that sugar content is 'clearly labelled'
Several leading brands of "healthy" fruit snacks aimed at children contain more sugar than Haribo sweets, a study has revealed.
More than four teaspoons of sugar was found in a small packet of Tesco's yogurt coated strawberry fruit bites, Fruit Bowl's raspberry 'Fruit Flakes' and Whitworth's 'Sunny Raisin' custard coated raisins.
"Parents find it hard enough to know what 'healthy' is without food manufacturers confusing matters with misleading claims," said Katharine Jenner, campaign director at Action on Sugar, which led the study.
Child health experts said the results were extremely concerning. "Fruit contains fibre, which we all need to function properly," paediatrician Colin Michie told the BBC. "But in these snacks the benefits of fruit have been sacrificed by covering them in yogurt and other sugary coatings."
The latest figures reveal that a third of all children aged 11 to 15 are currently overweight or obese, while tooth decay currently affects nearly 30 per cent of five-year-olds in Britain.
"The worldwide epidemic of tooth decay will only be controlled when manufacturers markedly reduce the levels of sugars in their products," says Aubrey Sheiham from University College London.
The campaign group is lobbying the government and the food industry to reduce sugar levels in food and drink and is encouraging parents to give their children fruits and vegetables instead of processed fruit snacks.
However, Barbara Gallani, director of regulation, science and health at the Food and Drink Federation said the snacks' sugar content was "far from hidden" and clearly displayed on the packaging. "Parents can use this information to compare and choose between products," she says.
The Department of Health insists that tackling childhood obesity and reducing the sugar content in food and drinks is a priority. "We have already taken billions of calories out of the food and drink market over the past few years by working with industry, and we continue to consider our next steps," a spokesperson said.