The Oakland-based Prevention Institute has issued a report claiming that front-of-package (FOP) labeling for children’s food is “misleading.” Authors of the study used the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative’s product list to identify 58 prepared foods, snacks, cereals, and beverages with FOP labeling. The researchers then defined a product as “unhealthful” if it met one or more of the following criteria: (i) greater than 35 percent calories from fat; (ii) greater than 10 percent calories from saturated fat; (iii) greater than 25 percent calories from total sugars; (iv) greater than 480 mg sodium per serving for non-meal items or greater than 600 mg per serving for meal items; and (v) less than 1.25g fiber per serving.

Of the products sampled, 84 percent were allegedly “unhealthful and did not meet one or more nutrient criteria” derived from the U.S. Dietary Guidelines and the National Academies of Science. The report also supplies statistics on caloric sweeteners such as high-fructose corn syrup, whole food ingredients and artificial food dyes. In particular, the results purportedly indicate that (i) 57 percent of the study products contained high levels of sugar and 95 percent contained added sugar; (ii) 53 percent were low in fiber; (iii) 53 percent did not contain any fruits or vegetables; (iv) 24 percent of prepared foods were high in saturated fat; (v) 36 percent of prepared foods and meals contained high levels of sodium; and (vi) 21 percent contained artificial coloring.

The Prevention Institute has since claimed that these findings underscore flaws in the current FOP labeling system for children’s foods. “Without FDA regulation, instead of giving more information to parents struggling to make the best decisions for their kids, the system is deceiving them,” states a January 2011 press release. “The food industry can—and should—do better.” See Food Politics and Los Angeles Times, January 19, 2011.