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ACCC takes action on nutritional claims for toddlers

160622_TSF_BlogHero_01Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is taking on food giant Heinz regarding packaging of some foods, implying they are healthy for our 1-3 year olds – it seems our mission for clearer labelling is gaining strength!

Packaging and labelling of food products, especially those marketed for our kids, can be misleading. And we aren’t referring to your can of Sprite or Caramello Koala type of discretionary snacks! This is everyday foods, like cereals, muesli bars and flavoured yoghurts, that we are lead to believe are good for us, yet can be PACKED with added sugars.1

We recently called out on Facebook to That Sugar followers to identify packaging and labelling of food and drink that appeared to be healthy, when at a closer look (as discussed here) wasn’t all that great!

Now the ACCC have announced commencement of proceedings in the Federal Court against H.J. Heinz Company Australia Ltd (Heinz) in relation to its Little Kids Shredz products.

ACCC vs Heinz

In a recently issued press release (as you may have seen us share on Facebook), the ACCC have alleged that Heinz made false and misleading representations, and engaged in conduct liable to mislead the public, in relation to the nature, characteristics and suitability of these products, in contravention of the Australian Consumer Law.

The Shredz products’ packaging features prominent images of fresh fruit and vegetables and statements such as ‘99% fruit and veg’ and Our range of snacks and meals encourages your toddler to independently discover the delicious taste of nutritious food’.

ACCC Heinz Shredz June 2016

The ACCC alleges that these images and statements represent to consumers that the products are of equivalent nutritional value to fruit and vegetables and are a healthy and nutritious food for children aged one to three years.

This is not the case.

ACCC Chairman, Rod Sims, states that products such as these are not substitutes for fruit and vegetables in their whole food form, and shouldn’t be claimed as being so, “The ACCC has brought these proceedings because it alleges that Heinz is marketing these products as healthy options for young children when they are not. These products contain over 60 per cent sugar, which is significantly higher than that of natural fruit and vegetables – for example, an apple contains approximately 10 per cent sugar.”

“We also allege that rather than encouraging children to develop a taste for nutritious food, these Heinz Shredz products are likely to inhibit the development of a child’s taste for natural fruit and vegetables and encourage a child to become accustomed to, and develop a preference for, sweet tastes.”

Thank you Mr Sims!

Identifying ‘healthy’ a growing concern

There is increasing concern around creating excessive desire and a taste for the sweet stuff at such a young age. It may be that lack sensitivity to sweet encourages eating more.2 Excess consumption can lead to dental caries, obesity, learning, addiction, and a lack of diversity of food, nutrients and flavours in the diet.

And we are well aware that sugar is sneaking into many of our littlies foods, despite the perception they are healthy.

“The ACCC wants to make clear that major companies have an obligation under the Australian Consumer Law to ensure products’ health claims do not mislead the public. As part of the ACCC’s current focus on consumer protection issues arising from health claims by large businesses, we are particularly concerned about potentially misleading health claims for products being marketed for very young children,” Mr Sims said.

The ACCC’s action follows a complaint by the Obesity Policy Coalition about food products for toddlers that make fruit and vegetable claims but are predominantly made from fruit juice concentrate and pastes, which have a very high sugar content.

The World Health Organisation recommends limiting the intake of foods containing fruit juice concentrate to reduce the risk of obesity and tooth decay.

The Shredz product range includes three varieties; ‘peach apple and veg’, ‘berries apple and veg’ (pictured), and ‘strawberry & apple with chia seeds’ and has been available in major supermarkets nationally since at least August 2013.

The ACCC is seeking declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, corrective notices and costs.

What to do? Just eat real food

In the meantime, we advocate that read your labels carefully. Limit offering processed, packaged snacks to the munchkins, especially at such a young age. Opt instead for eating real, whole foods to help our kids grow smart and strong!

We have great recipe ideas on the blog, and in our books, and e-books Low Sugar Snacks and The Office Luncheon, which are super easy to make, tasty, and wonderfully nutritious!

By Angela Johnson (BHSc Nut. Med.)

 

References:

  1. Meloncelli, NJ, Pelly, FE, & Cooper, SL 2016, ‘Nutritional quality of a selection of children’s packaged food available in Australia’, Nutrition & Dietetics, vol. 73, no. 1, pp. 88-94 7p
  2. Jayasinghe, S 2016, Does a sweet tooth affect sugar intake?. [online] Available at: http://www.massey.ac.nz/massey/about-massey/news/article.cfm?mnarticle_uuid=61340BF1-BA12-7884-DAA3-26358BAA3425, viewed 21 June 2016.

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