Supermarket shelves are full of unhealthy food aimed at children

Almost three-quarters of the products for children in Dutch supermarkets are not healthy. They do not fit into a healthy eating pattern according to the five-digit diet, says children’s rights organisation Unicef after researching 2000 products. 70 percent of the food and drink contained too much sugar, saturated fat or salt or too little dietary fibre.

The researchers searched the shelves for products specifically for children, either because they had cheerful figures on them or because they contained ‘baby’ or ‘kids’ in the name. They also looked at food and drink that is a typical part of a school menu, such as drinking suits or take-away biscuits.

Other biscuits and sweets were left out of consideration, because by definition they fall outside the five-disc range.

“We focused on children’s products because you would rather expect them to be suitable for children,” says Leonie Barelds of Unicef in the CCeit Radio 1 Journaal. But in the vast majority of cases that was not the case. “In some shelves there is no healthy offer for children, while the products are intended for them

Take the desserts. “When you stand in front of that shelf, you see all those small portion packs, just right for children. There’s often a cheerful picture on it, too. It’s only logical that as a parent you think such a product is suitable to give to your children. But our analysis shows that no children’s dessert meets the criteria of the five-ounce disc, especially because it contains too much sugar”

In the case of breakfast cereals, where, according to Unicef, many products are also made for children, the researchers found only one product that was sufficient. Almost all of them contain too much sugar and fat and too little fibre.

Marc Jansen of the CBL, the trade associations of supermarkets, does not agree with the results of the study. “It is far too limited, only a small number of products have been looked at that Unicef calls children’s products in this case. And not to the enormous quantities of healthy and safe products in supermarkets, such as fresh fruit and vegetables”

He points out the responsibility adults have. “Children don’t do the shopping. It’s the parents in the shop who have plenty of choice to make good, tasty meals for their children every day. And if you want to, all meals can fit within the five-disc range. You’ll find everything you need in the supermarket.”

Barelds from Unicef thinks that’s too easy. “Supermarkets determine what they put on their shelves and what the ratio is between the products that do or don’t fit within the five-digit range. We would like to see a larger range of children’s products that do fall within the five-digit range.”