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Tuesday, 16 July, 2002, 08:05 GMT 09:05 UK
Parents finger bad food
Child eating
There is growing concern about children's diets
Parents have named and shamed foods aimed specifically at children which they believe do them no good at all.

And, amid mounting concern over the unhealthy nature of the modern diet, a Labour think-tank has suggested that high-fat foods should carry an additional tax as a way to promote healthy eating.

A jury of 800 parents recruited by the independent campaign group, the Food Commission decided that the worst example of a "lunchbox" food was Dairylea Lunchables.

Largely thickened, artificially sweetened, expensive water

Expert description of Sunny Delight
These packs of meat and cheese slice with wheat crackers were described by one parent who took part as: "vile over-processed rubbish."

Another brand which fell foul of parents was the soft drink Sunny Delight, awarded the prize for "Additive Nightmare".

Experts described it as "largely thickened, artificially sweetened, expensive water."

Even after a re-launch parents were concerned that it contained just 15% real fruit juice.

Fast food

Fast food chain McDonalds was criticised for encouraging children to pester their parents to buy them Happy Meals, blasted for their high fat, salt and sugar content.

Worst foods
Dairylea Lunchables
Sunny Delight
Kellogg's Real Fruit Winders
McDonald's Happy Meals
The "prize" for a product containing large quantities of sugar went to Kellogg's Real Fruit Winders, a wound-up length of fruit flavoured jelly.

The Parents Jury said the product claims to contain more than 50% real fruit but "neglects to mention that each fruit winder is 47% pure sugar".

A number of examples of healthy food are highlighted in the awards, including Sun-Maid Raisins and Captain Organic dried fruit, which are said to be ideal for children's lunchboxes.

Fruit, especially bananas, kiwi fruit, grapes and apples are said to be best for teeth, while nurseries and primary schools were congratulated for promoting the five-a-day message.

Sainsbury's Blue Parrot Cafe range and Organix Brands were praised for taking steps to reduce additives in children's food.

Annie Seeley, Parents Jury co-ordinator, said: "Children's foods are often low in essential nutrients but high in fat, salt and sugar, and, rely in artificial colouring and flavourings for their appeal to children.

"They are sold using manipulative marketing techniques which encourage children to pester parents into buying such foods."

'Parents have choice'

Martin Paterson, deputy director general of the Food and Drink Federation, said: "Consumers are already judge and jury when it comes to what foods make up their children's diets. They give their verdict every week at the supermarket check-out.

"Parents and children together can create a healthy lunchbox from the wide range of wholesome and tasty foods available.

"No one food is bad - balance is the key - and demonising individual products which are marketed as snacks or treats may be unhelpful to both parents and children."

Kraft Foods, the makers of Dairylea Lunchables, said in a statement: "Parents recognise the importance of making food attractive and tasty for kids to eat and choose to give their children Dairylea Lunchables as an occasional and fun treat."

A spokeswoman for Procter and Gamble, the makers of Sunny Delight, said: "Whilst we do not know how the Food Commission selected its Jury and appreciate that the Food Commission is critical of the whole soft drinks industry, we are not surprised at the results, given the high profile, controversy and criticism levelled against the brand following its launch."

Food tax

The idea for a tax on high-fat foods has been proposed by the left of centre group Demos.

It suggests that foods with a high fat and sugar content, in particular processed and fast-foods, should carry an additional levy that would significantly increase their cost to the consumer.

Demos also suggests that the money raised should be spent on subsidising healthier foods such as fruit and vegetables, or public health campaigns.

There is growing concern that low income groups have little choice but to opt for a diet of unhealthy, highly processed foods because they are cheaper than healthier alternatives.

See also:

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