Hidden nasties leave a bad taste
Consumer NZ chief Sue Chetwin hopes to see more honest packaging displayed on food items
Lunch-box fillers, super juices and rice rusks for tots are under fire for displaying images and slogans implying they’re healthier than they are.
And some of the products emblazoned with giant fruit or vegetables contain little more than 1 per cent of the image that helps sell them.
Consumer NZ has just named the recipients of its 2018 Bad Taste Food Awards with popular brands such as Kellogg’s, Nestle, Tegel and Fresh ’n Fruity in the Top 10.
The products, nominated by the public, include labels such as “low fat”, “wholegrain”, “no refined sugar”, “no artificial colours or flavours” and “natural” but most contain between three to 20 teaspoons of sugar a serve.
Auckland mum of three Kirstie Holmes said she was careful when buying food for children Matilda, 7, Eli, 5, and Dulcie, 3, but noticed some packaging was at odds with the ingredient list.
“I always check the ingredients when buying something new but sometimes the picture on the front gives you the wrong impression,” Holmes said.
“We have bought a few of the things on the list in the past, including yoghurt, but now I make my own because we want to avoid high sugar.”
Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin said the awards highlighted the claims food manufacturers made when marketing their products.
Foods named in this year’s awards included some promoted as healthier choices when they contained a lot of sugar.
Also on the list are foods promoting their fruit and vegetable content, when they contain very little of it, and products making “meaningless animal welfare claims”.
Chetwin hoped the awards would lead to more honest packaging that didn’t give the impression a product was healthier than it was.
She said E2 manufacturer CocaCola labelled its drink as a “supplemented food”, a term used when foods have been modified to provide a benefit beyond meeting basic nutrition needs.
“But we fail to see much benefit in consuming almost 20 teaspoons of sugar,” Chetwin said.
Nestle Nesquik cereal claimed it was a “source of fibre”, but Chetwin said it also was 30 per cent sugar.
Nature Valley Crunchy Oats & Honey snack bars featured three teaspoons of sugar in each serve, while a 250ml glass of Simply Squeezed Super Juice Warrior featured seven teaspoons of sugar.
And while a packet of Baby MumMum First Rice Rusks featured pictures of veges on its box, the vegetable content was just 1.36 per cent.
Chetwin added claims by fresh chicken meat manufacturers Tegel, Ingham’s and Pams of “cage-free” conditions didn’t mean anything.
“Cage-free claims on your chicken might sound reassuring but these claims are meaningless and risk misleading shoppers about what they’re buying,” Chetwin said.
“Chickens raised for meat aren’t kept in cages. And cage-free doesn’t mean free-range — the chooks don’t leave the shed.”
Liam Baldwin of Tegel said, like other brands, it used the cage-free label to “dispel myths”.
“There are still a lot of people out there who think the chickens (for meat) are kept in cages so we are just assuring everyone it is an untruth,” Baldwin said. “It’s like people believing there are hormones added to chicken, which is also not true.”
Nestle said of the sugar content in Nesquik cereal, the recipe had been revised over the years and sugar and saturated fat reduced and fibre and wholegrain content doubled.
“People choose chocolate-flavoured cereals like Nesquik for taste, and there comes a point where you can’t reduce sugar without significantly affecting the flavour, texture and ‘bowl life’,” spokeswoman Margaret Stuart said.
All Nestle cereals met the Heart Foundation target for sodium levels, had more than 2g of fibre and 8g of wholegrain per serve. Other companies did not reply to requests for comment before deadline.
Kirstie Holmes with her three kids Eli, Matilda and Dulcie.