The Dietary Guidelines for Americans notes that “healthful diets help children grow, develop, and do well in school;” children need to be given the tools to learn how to eat healthy so they can carry this into adulthood.45 Healthy foods that the USDA recommends should be promoted to children, they need these foods to grow and be strong.46
Children need whole fresh foods filled with nutrients, Phytochemicals and essential fats for proper brain and body development. The nutrients in whole foods help their bodies mature optimally, the Phytochemicals protect their growing cells from premature damage and the essential fats are crucial for learning, attention and memory.47
The foods that are marketed to our children are highly processed, filled with added sugars and do not fit within the Dietary Guidelines recommended by the USDA.48 Parents should accept some blame for purchasing these types of foods for their children, but the food and beverage industry and the agricultural policies of this country significantly force these unhealthy, unnatural foods into the lives of our children.49
III. WHY ARE WE FEEDING THESE FOODS TO OUR CHILDREN?
A. MISLEADING FOOD LABELING AND PACKAGING CLAIMS
A walk down any grocery food aisle would confuse the average consumer and mislead them into purchasing items based on the claims made on the front of the package.50 Recently, food packaging labels and claims have been receiving a significant amount of attention because of the unsubstantiated claims they make.51 The CSPI just released a report titled Food Labeling Chaos because they recognize that “[a]ccurate, easy-to-read, and scientifically valid nutrition and health information on food labels is an essential component of a comprehensive public health strategy to help consumers improve their diets and reduce their risk of diet-related diseases.”52 In response to misleading labeling the FDA Commissioner, Margaret Hamburg, stated: “[W]e’ve seen the emergence of claims that may not provide the full picture of their products’ true nutritional value. It will be important to reestablish a science-based approach to protect the public. . . .”53
A careful look at the labels on the type of food marketed to children reveals a laundry list of misleading claims.54 Some of the common misleading claims are “Smart Choice,” “All-Natural,” “Made With Real Fruit,” “A Good Source of…,” “Less Sodium,” “Made With Whole Grains,” etc.55 These companies know how these claims affect the buying decisions of the average consumer and therefore, consistently place them on the front of product packages targeted towards children.56 “Food and beverage companies are some of the most sophisticated communicators in the world and are clearly capable of accurately reflecting what is in their products if they wanted to.”57 The food industry emphasizes the nutritional value of relatively unhealthy foods.58 These companies decide to place the importance of profits59 above the health of America’s children.
Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts claim on the front of their package that it is “Made with Real Fruit” when in actuality the product contains less than 2% of a dried raspberry.60 Also, fruit snacks packages have a variety of colorful fruit on the package and also claim “Made with Real Fruit” or “Naturally Flavored” but a close inspection of the ingredients on Kellogg’s Disney Character Fruit Snacks reveals that the first ingredient is corn syrup, then sugar, and then apple puree concentrate.61 As stated supra, the USDA considers fruit concentrate as an added sugar.62 Therefore, making this claim misleads parents into purchasing unhealthy food products based on the information on the front of the package.63 These claims misinform busy parents and prevent them from purchasing whole natural fruits and vegetables instead.64 Kellogg’s Fruit Loops claims that their product is a “Smart Choice”.65 However, Michael Jacobson, the executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest said it best, “When you have 40 percent sugar, can you imagine that? Half the box with grain and half of the box with sugar, that’s not such a smart choice.”66 Experts have said that the purpose of the “Smart Choice” program is to “make processed foods look healthy when you really want people eating foods that have been as minimally processed as possible.”67