To examine parents’ beliefs about the meaning of common front-of-package nutrition-related claims on children's cereals and determine whether the claims would make them more willing to buy the cereals.
Parents viewed images of box fronts for children's cereals of below-average nutritional quality, as assessed by a validated nutrient profiling model. These boxes featured various nutrition-related claims including ‘supports your child's immunity’, ‘whole grain’, ‘fibre’, ‘calcium and vitamin D’ and ‘organic’. Participants were provided possible meanings for these claims and asked to select any that applied with the option to write in additional meanings. They also indicated how the claim would affect their willingness to buy the product.
Parents with children between the ages of 2 and 11 years (n 306) recruited through an online panel.
The majority of parents misinterpreted the meaning of claims commonly used on children's cereals. They inferred that cereals with claims were more nutritious overall and might provide specific health-related benefits for their children; and these beliefs predicted greater willingness to buy the cereals.
These findings indicate that common front-of-package nutrition-related claims are potentially misleading, especially when placed on products with high levels of nutrients to limit (e.g. sugar, sodium) and low levels of other nutrients to encourage (e.g. fibre, protein). Additional regulation is needed to protect consumers in the USA.
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