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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 November, 2003, 00:09 GMT
Children's food 'bad for health'
Many foods are targeted at children
Children who regularly eat so-called "kid's foods" could be putting their health at risk, it has been claimed.

The Consumers' Association says many of these foods have high levels of salt and sugar.

In some cases, they are at higher levels than those found in similar "adult" products.

Officials said eating too much of these products could increase a child's chances of developing diabetes, tooth decay and maybe even cancer.

The Consumers' Association asked nutritionist Dr Helen Crawley to analyse two menus.

They consisted of food and drink specifically targeted at children between the ages of seven and 10. These included breakfast cereal, juices and tinned pasta.

Salt and sugar

Dr Crawley found that at least one cereal contained fives times as much sugar as some adult cereals.

In addition, manufacturers used misleading images on their products, suggesting they had more of the main ingredient than they actually do.

Products under fire
Kellogs Frosties Turbos contains five times as much sugar as Kellogs Cornflakes
Capri-Sun Blackcurrant Juice Drink contained just 5.1% blackcurrant
Sainsbury's 'Blue Parrot Cafe Mild chicken curry with rice' contains only 14% chicken
Heinz Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends Pasta Shapes in tomato sauce with mini sausages makes a five-a-day claim but contains 0.5g of sodium
Source: Consumers' Association
For instance, a ready-made-meal was found to contain just 14% chicken while a juice drink contained just 5% blackcurrants.

Similarly, some products claimed they contributed to the recommended five fruit and vegetables a day.

However, their high fat and salt levels suggested they may actually do more harm than good if eaten in large quantities.

Sue Davies, the Consumers' Association principal policy advisor, called for EU-wide legislation to ensure food labels are clearer and do not mislead consumers.

"It is unacceptable that ranges aimed at children are nutritionally poorer than adult versions.

"Food manufacturers and retailers need to change their practices to ensure that products marketed at children do not contain higher levels of sugar, fat or salt than standard adult versions.

"The conclusions of the dietician's analysis is shocking. To follow such a diet on a regular basis would be damaging to a child's health.

"It could increase their risk of becoming overweight as well as their risk of developing diseases such as tooth decay, diabetes and more worryingly some cancers and heart disease later in life."

Claims dismissed

But the Food And Drink Federation accused the Consumer's Association of being irresponsible.

"I am surprised at such irresponsible and needlessly worrying advice to parents," said Martin Paterson, its deputy director general.

"It is absolutely untrue to suggest that children's products are damaging to health.

"The industry works with food regulators and parents to ensure that its products are safe, wholesome and can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet. "

The BBC's Vicky Young
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