Fruit snacks are such a fraud. Passing off sugary candy as snacks for kids? As Bridgette Kidd, MPH, RD, LD put it:
Fruit snacks are the epitome of a healthwashed product.
That’s because packaging claims deliberately mislead consumers about the nutritional value of the product. Study author Clare Hughes described the problem this way:
Our concern is that fruit and vegetables are ingredients that, when put on labels, would sway people’s food choices and give the impression that they’re a healthy product. Some of the claims being made on snack foods would lead parents to think, ‘Maybe this is a good thing to put in my kid’s lunchbox’.
It’s not just parents who are misled by these claims. Some of my children’s teachers and principals have used fruit snacks as rewards for good behavior because they consider them healthier than candy. This ignores the recommendations by major health organizations not to use food as a reward. Kids need help learning to love food that loves them back and schools should help counter junk food marketing messages instead of reinforcing them with Fruit Snack Fridays.
Children are especially vulnerable to fruit snack fraud because they have a biological preference for sweet foods and trust in the cartoon characters used on the packaging. Fruit snack companies take advantage of children’s developmental vulnerabilities but more people are speaking out against it:
Some have advocated that media characters should not be used to market to children who are cognitively immature and vulnerable to target marketing because of their limited ability to differentiate between facts and persuasive marketing communications.
Susan Linn of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has made some of the most effective arguments against marketing products like fruit snacks to children:
It’s inherently deceptive. People that have a profound impact on kids should be those that have their best interest at heart — the community, parents, teachers, doctors, etc. But with advertising, kids are exposed to adults who do not have their best interest at heart and have tools to manipulate their behavior. Aside from all this – research tells us that marketing is a factor in many problems, precocious sexuality, erosion of creative play, the ability to problem-solve, the acquisition of materialistic values, the false notion that the things we buy will make us happy, obesity, eating disorders, youth violence, and family stress.
How do we bring an end to fruit snack fraud? Add your voice and spread the word: