This report from Bite Back 2030, in partnership with Livity and Action on Sugar, takes a look at how health claims on food products (which are often misleading) influence the choices made by teenage consumers in the UK.
As part of the study, Bite Back 2030 surveyed over 500 different food and drink products with ‘health halos’ driven by health, nutrition and marketing claims and within categories identified by our research as commonly consumed by teens. They also surveyed 1,000 young people aged 13 to 18 across the UK and ran a week-long mobile diary exercise to capture what eight teens ate and drank on a daily basis.
At the core of Bite Back 2030 is a Youth Board, a team of passionate teenage activists from across the UK who are campaigning for more opportunities to be healthy. They are calling on the food industry to take responsibility and help redesign the food system so it protects the health and futures of millions of children. This includes being up front and honest about their products, as well as removing the confusing and misleading health halos on the packaging of their high fat, salt and sugar products.
This report concludes with seven recommendations for industry, and two for government:
- Stop making health and nutrient claims on products deemed high in fat, salt and sugar, that would receive a red traffic light label for any nutrient
- Accelerate reformulation programmes and set long-term targets to increase healthfulness of product ranges (in addition to meeting salt, sugar and calorie reduction targets)
- Disclose the percentage of sales that are derived from less healthy and healthier products in their annual reports
- Ensure that portion sizes are standardised, realistic, clearly labelled and easy to understand — empowering consumers to make healthier choices
- Ensure that meal deals represent a better opportunity for health - remove unhealthy snacks and drinks from price promotions
- Ensure all products display front-of-pack traffic light labelling
- Invest in creative marketing for healthier options and move away from use of mascots, celebrities and cartoon imagery on unhealthy products
- Utilise the opportunity of the UK exiting the EU to introduce a clear, mandatory labelling policy in the UK, including: declarations of free sugars; traffic light labels (or an equivalent scheme) with a review of where thresholds should be lowered; regulation to end the use of health and nutrition claims on unhealthy products; and consistent portion sizing across categories
- Put in place mandatory targets for reformulation for the food industry, including declarations of percentages of sales from less healthy and healthier products, as recommended in the National Food Strategy