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August 15, 2011
NEW HAVEN, Conn.Parents often misinterpreted nutrition-related health claims on children's cereals, causing them to assume products with health claims are more nutritious overall despite actual nutrient quality, according to a new study published in the journal Public Health Nutrition.
Researchers at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University asked parents with children between the ages of 2 and 11 to view images of actual box fronts of childrens cereals. While the cereals were of below-average nutritional quality, the boxes featured various nutrition-related health claims including whole grain", fiber", calcium and vitamin D", organic" and supports your childs immunity". Participants were provided with possible meanings for these claims and indicated how the claims would affect their willingness to buy the product.
They found parents often inferred sugar-laden cereals were more nutritious than some alternatives when the packaging touted nutrition-related health claims. They suggested additional government regulation of front-of-package labeling is needed to protect consumers.
Promoting specific positive nutrients in products with other, less beneficial, ingredients (e.g. high-sugar cereals) appears to be a highly effective and low-risk marketing strategy for food companies," the researchers said. These claims provide an opportunity to enhance product image and increase sales with limited potential for consumer skepticism or other negative reactions."
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