Most food products packaged specifically for children have poor nutritional content even though more than half of the products are marketed with positive claims on the package labels, says a Canadian study released on Monday.
The study, done by researchers at the University of Calgary, claimed that 89 percent food products aimed specifically at children have poor nutritional content because of high levels of sugar, fat or sodium.
Confectionary, soft drinks and baked products were specifically excluded from the study.
The study looked at 367 food products and included products that had a cartoon on the front of the box or were linked to children's films, television programs or other merchandise.
The researchers found 70 percent of the products had higher than recommended sugar levels, 23 percent had high fat levels and 17 percent had high salt levels. The study, published in the July issue of the British journal Obesity Reviews, found that just 11 percent of the products studied, provided good nutritional value according to criteria set by the Center of Science in the Public Interest, a U.S. nonprofit agency.
The findings of the study also showed 62 percent of the products with poor nutritional quality made positive claims on the front of the packaging. Some of these claims included that the food items were low in fat, were a source of calcium, contained no artificial colorings or provided a number of essential nutrients.
Lead researcher Charlene Elliott from the University of Calgary, Canada said, "We included food products and packaging that were presented in such a way that children were the clear target audience."
"If a parent sees a product that makes specific nutritional claims, they may assume that the whole product is nutritious and our study has shown that this is definitely not true in the vast majority of cases," said Elliott.
According to the research team the findings are cause for concern, especially given current rates of childhood obesity all over the world.