Sugary UK children’s yoghurts named and shamed by researchers

Nearly two-thirds of the yoghurts marketed at children provide at least a third of a four- to six-year-old’s maximum daily intake of added sugars, according to research that calls for a ban on child-friendly packaging.

Despite the surveyed yoghurts containing added sugar, syrup and fruit concentrate, they are packaged with colourful cartoon designs designed to attract children. Many contain claims about health benefits, highlighting the presence of calcium, vitamin D and protein content, but the researchers warn that these distract parents from scrutinising nutrition labels.

The researchers, who are part of the Action on Sugar charity, are calling on the government to introduce restrictions on the use of child-friendly packaging and to remove nutrition and health claims on yoghurts with medium or high sugar content.

Katharine Jenner, the campaign director at Action on Sugar, said: “Clever marketing techniques such as advertising, promotions and packaging are powerful tools to get children hooked on the sweet stuff from a young age and for life.

“While the government’s obesity strategy is taking bold steps to tackle unhealthy advertising and promotions, they now need to ensure food companies only use cartoons and health halo statements on their healthier products, allowing parents to see more of what is good for their children.”

In the researchers’ ranking of the most sugary yoghurts marketed at children, Nestlé Rolo mix-in toffee yoghurt topped the table with 5.5 teaspoons of sugar (22g) per 107g pot, equivalent to 16 malted milk biscuits.

Yoghurts with the lowest sugar content included Nush almond milk strawberry tubes, the Coconut Collaborative mango and passionfruit yoghurt, and Yoplait Petits Filous strawberry and banana yoghurt.

The researchers also found that two-thirds of the yoghurts surveyed were either medium or high in saturated fat. Those with the highest saturated fat content were dairy-alternative products, including the Coconut Collaborative yoghurts, which are often perceived to be healthy.

Graham MacGregor, a professor at Queen Mary, University of London, and the chairman of Action on Sugar, said: “With 10 children out of every class of 30 leaving primary school either overweight or obese, it is imperative that food companies act more responsibly and commit to reformulate sugar, salt and calorie reduction instead of foisting unhealthy products on us that contain child-friendly packaging with misleading nutrition and health claims.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Childhood obesity is one of the biggest health challenges that this country is facing and we are taking significant action to drive the food and drink industry to reduce sugar content.

“There is more to do and later this year we will be launching a consultation into infant food marketing and labelling as part of our efforts to arm parents with the best information.

“We are also restricting the advertising of foods high in fat, salt and sugar, changing the law to reduce promotions of less healthy food and implementing calorie labelling in large restaurants, cafes and takeaways.”