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Packed junk for lunch

23rd October 2000

As children went back to school in September, the big retailers rolled into action with their usual habit of promoting unhealthy food for kids' packed lunches. We decided to compare the foods to the government's guidelines on nutrition (table reproduced below) to see exactly what children will be eating.

Sainsbury's took three pages of the September issue of The Sainsbury's Magazine to promote 17 food products for kids' lunch boxes. The Sainsbury's packed-lunch menu includes processed cheese, chocolate biscuits and chocolate selection packs, flavoured soft drinks, and three types of crisps. Of the 17 products, ten contained very high levels of fat and saturated fat. Other products had very high levels of sugar.

In its A2-sized brochure, LiDL offered 21 food products with the heading 'Where Packed Lunches Cost Less!' Perhaps they should have written, 'Where Packed Lunches are Worth Less!' The prices are low, but then so is the nutritional content. We estimate that at least 17 of the 21 products are high in fat and/or sugar and/or salt.

Last autumn, the Food Magazine criticised Sainsbury's and Tesco for offering money-off vouchers to mothers of young children, for lunch-box products such as sweets, hot dogs, sweetened cereal, processed cheese, jelly, chocolate, crisps and soft drinks.

A year on, and the supermarkets haven't changed their bad habits. The guideline for parents? If a product is marketed as suitable for lunch boxes, take a closer look at the label - it's more than likely that it is sugary, salty, or fatty junk.

More information

Children's food - how to get it right!

Getting kids to eat healthy food isn't easy, so we've produced a special poster guide to Children's Food. The poster will help you to sift the junk out of a child's diet - and it also has lots of great tips on getting them to eat healthy foods!

The poster costs only 2.50 and is available from The Food Commission, Publications Dept, 94 White Lion Street, London N1 9PF. Note: This poster is no longer available.