Nearly a decade after the World Health Organization developed guidelines restricting products marketed to children based in part of sugar, fat and salt content, a systematic review published Aug. 9 in the journal Nutrients found 88% of products marketed to children in 2017 do not meet WHO’s 2010 standards. This is the same percentage as in 2009, according to the study which compared products marketed to children in Canada in 2009 to 2017.
A closer look at the products’ nutritional values show that not only did the percentage of products failing to meet WHO standards fail to improve, but that the amount of sugar actually increased, while fat stayed the same and sodium decreased.
“By far, the most common nutrient threshold exceeded was sugar, with 72.9 and 77.3% of products having excess sugar in 2009 and 2017, respectively,” and 16% of the products qualified as high in fat in each data set, the researchers note.
“Products with excess sodium per serving side dropped over time, and this was statistically significant, with 12.1% of products in 2009 to 5.3% of products in 2017,” they added.
The researchers also pointed out that some companies changed products so that they appeared to be more nutritional, but in fact were not. For example, six of the 14 identical products in each data set had smaller serving sizes in 2017 than 2009 but this changes “was always accompanied by an increase in at least one sugar, sodium or fat per 100 g even if the respective nutrient content per serving size did not change or decreased.”