Last year, Americans spent $ 1.4 billion on the most popular brands of children's fruit drinks and flavored waters. According to dietary guidelines, none of the drinks was healthy.
Why should loving parents do that? According to Children's Drink Facts 2019, a new report from the University of Connecticut's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, US beverage manufacturers said they would spend $ 20.7 million in 2018 for fun, fruity drinks Add sugar additive for families.
"I know that parents want their kids to be healthy, but the sweetened drinks market is simply incredibly confusing for parents," said lead author Jennifer Harris, principal investigator for the triennial study by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation was funded.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is alarmed that children consume so much added sugar, "Dr. Natalie Muth, pediatrician and lead author of the AAP Policy Statement on reducing the consumption of sugary drinks in children and adolescents.
"Adding sugar increases the risk of many health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, heart disease, and childhood obesity," said Muth, who was not involved in the study. "Labels on drinks are confusing and misleading. Parents believe that they will offer their children a healthy drink if this is not the case. "
Two-thirds of the 34 Sweetened The Children's Drink Fact Report Analyzed drinks did not contain juice, but on 85% of the packs fruit pictures appeared. Most drinks containing juice closed the amount at 5%.
"Most sweetened drinks say" good source of vitamin C "or" 100% vitamin C, "but they have little or no juice," Harris said. "Many of them say 'low sugar', 'less sugar', but they do not say it because there are low calorie artificial sweeteners, it's just very confusing."
It's not just parents. Children are exposed to advertising, the report says. Children between the ages of 2 and 11 saw twice as many ads for sweetened drinks as non-added drinks and four times as many ads as adults.
Two of the most popular drinks – Kool Aid Jammers and Capri Sun Roarin & # 39; – advertised their drinks directly to children on children's television programming, the report said.
Both drinks contain 0% juice, but there are pictures of fruits on the front of the box. CNN turned to Kraft Heinz, who manufactures both products, and received no response.
Many large beverage companies have agreed to change their advertising for children.
The American Beverage Association (ABA), which represents some In addition, the statement of the beverage manufacturers: "Our companies adhere strictly to the guidelines of independent observers, which restrict the marketing of drinks to children to 100% juice, water or milk drinks and TV -, radio and digital advertising to confirm compliance. "
There are several gaps in their responsible marketing policies," Harris said, "for example, children see advertisements when they watch TV with their parents."
"In addition, ABA does not consider packaging designed to appeal to children as marketing for children." Harris said, "Both Hi C and Tum E Yummies are sweetened fruit drinks from Coca-Cola children with a packaging that is clearly aimed at children."
Sugar and artificial sweeteners added  One-third of all sweetened fruit drinks contained At least 16 grams of sugar, more than half of the maximum amount of sugar a child should receive daily, some are even worse, such as the fruit drink "Minute Maid Lemonade" by Coca-Cola
Small 6 ounce juice box contains 21 grams of sugar, "Harris said." Children should consume no more than 25 grams of sugar per day, so a juice box will provide the bulk of that allowance consumed for the day. "
At CNN's request, Coca-Cola provided a link to recent efforts to reduce sugar in its portfolio.
Investigations have shown that parents I do not want to give their child any drinks with artificial sweeteners. Nonetheless, 74% of the tested sweetened fruit drinks and flavored waters contained low calorie sweeteners. Both sugar and artificial sweeteners were included in 38% of the drinks.
"When you look at the packaging of the products, it's impossible to tell what's in the product, just the front of the package," Harris said. "You need to turn it around and look through the list of ingredients to see how much juice it contains, or whether sugar or low-calorie sweeteners have been added."
Starting January 1, major brands worth $ 10 million are on sale For sales exceeding 20%, the added sugar must be listed on the nutritional label on the back of all products, according to new Food and Drug Administration guidelines , Smaller manufacturers have an extra year to stick to it.
However, the new label does not list any low-calorie artificial sweetener, Harris said. These remain hidden in the list of ingredients, and parents who are ingenious must look for them.
One concern is that parents may not know the chemical names for sweeteners such as aspartame, acesulfame potassium or sucralose, stevia, neotame or saccharin.
For children under the age of 5, however, it is crucial to avoid sweetened beverages, especially those that are particularly sweet because they are artificially sweetened.
"At that age, children's taste preferences are evolving," Harris said. "If they get used to really sweet products and artificial sweeteners are too sweet, your child just can not taste it when trying to add water or milk drink. Under 5 is a really critical time. "
Stevia, made from a plant leaf, is often considered by parents to be" healthy, "but Harris said there is no evidence that" it differs from the other sweeteners except that it is made from a leaf unlike chemicals.
"Nobody knows what impact it can have," Harris said. "No one has been able to do the research, especially not with children."
The response of the health groups to the report was negative
The response of the National Health and Nutrition organizations to the report "Children's Drink Fact" was cutting.
"As a nation, we must tackle the onrush of marketing sugary drinks for our children & # 39; s no & # 39; 39; statement, "said registered dietician Rachel Johnson, former chair of the American Heart Association's Nutrition Board, in a statement 19659002]" We know what it's all about protecting children's health, and it's time to put in place effective policies that reduce consumption of sugary drinks just as you would with tobacco, "added Johnson.
The report clearly recommends manufacturers label all added sugars, including low-calorie sweeteners, and indicate the juice content on the front of the beverage wrapper It is more likely to be seen by consumers.
The report also suggests The FDA prohibits the misleading use of fruit pictures on drinks with little or no juice and encourages manufacturers to comply with the nutritional information on their packaging.
Finally it in the report that the state and local Taxes on sugary drinks for children should be extended to fruit drinks and flavored waters with the hope that higher prices would discourage consumption.
"This may include sugar-containing beverage taxes coupled with increased education on health issues, such as warnings," said the AAP. "Parents also play an important role in modeling the selection of healthy drinks and refusing to buy sugary drinks."
The American Heart Association joined the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Academy of Nutrition and the University of California at Dietetics, and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry will release a consensus statement in September setting out what Children under 5 should drink.
Dairy products, caffeine-containing beverages and sugar and low-calorie sweetened beverages, "states the recommendations," as these beverages represent a major source of additional sugar in infant nutrition and can not provide a clear nutritional value. "
Babies under six months need only breast milk and formula. In terms of juice, the group recommends avoiding juice for children under 1 years old. "Even 100% fruit juice has no nutritional benefit over whole fruits."
This is because the natural sugar in the juice contributes to weight gain and tooth decay Similar to other sugars, pediatricians say. Although it contains some vitamins and some calcium, juice is not a good choice because of the lack of protein and fiber in a healthy drink.
The drinks of choice for the second year of a child should be water and whole milk. The group advises. "A small amount of juice is fine," says the recommendations, "but make sure it's 100% fruit juice to avoid adding sugar, or better, serve small pieces of real fruit that are even healthier
Parents between the ages of 2 and 5 should skim or consume low-fat milk and continue to push water to provide moisture to their children, and the juice should be kept to a minimum. "Remember that adding Water can do a lot of things with water, "says the instructions.
And as the child grows," water and milk are the preferred drinks for all children. "Mouth said.
For parents planning to deliver 100% juice, the children's beverage facts report had good news.
Beverage manufacturers have made some progress: there were 33 different brands of either 100% juice or juice-water blends.
But be careful with 100% juice boxes and sacks, the report said, as most contained more than 4 ounces, which is the maximum daily amount of juice recommended for toddlers between 1 and 3 years old. Some even contained more than 6 ounces, the maximum recommended for pre-schoolers aged 4 to 6 years.
Most juice-water blends contained less than 50 calories and had lower total sugars and calories than 100% juice.