Though young people are drinking fewer sugary drinks on the whole, lawmakers continue to do their part to help kids and parents make healthier choices.
Now, researchers from New York University have found that the labels on kids’ fruit drinks are often misleading for parents. The team says that labels on fruit juice drinks are often unclear when it comes to which juices are strictly fruit and which contain added sugars.
“Given the many different drinks marketed to children that contain or appear to contain juice, it is important that caregivers are able to differentiate among products and identify healthier options,” said researcher Jennifer Pomeranz.
Understanding nutrition labels
The researchers analyzed top-selling kids’ juice drinks and evaluated the nutrition facts to determine how outside labelling differed from what was inside the drinks. Their work ultimately revealed why it’s so complicated for parents to know what’s really in the drinks they’re buying for their kids.
Many drinks that contained natural sweeteners didn’t indicate that there were added sugars, while others tried to spin it so the added sugars were seen as a positive. Those that didn’t contain high-fructose corn syrup used that as a selling point in their packaging, though the juices had other types of added sweetener.
“We identified numerous labeling practices that obscure the true nature of drinks trying to pass as juice, blurring the distinction between drinks that are acceptable for children and those containing added sugars or sweeteners,” said Pomeranz. “Nonetheless, these practices align with current FDA regulations, which allow the naming and use of fruit images that reflect the drink’s flavor, regardless of the product’s ingredients.”
All but three percent of the juices analyzed for the study showed images of fruits on the containers, though almost 50 percent of the drinks didn’t contain the fruits shown on the packaging.
Moving forward, the researchers say the goal should be to help consumers make the healthiest choices for their kids in the easiest way possible.
“The FDA should make it easier for consumers to tell what products are healthy for children -- without having to carefully inspect the nutrition panel and decipher each ingredient on the back of the package,” said Pomeranz.