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Juiced up food labelling misguiding consumers on fruit and vegetable choices

11th December 2014

Consumers are being misguided about the amount of fruit and vegetable content they are consuming in processed foods and drinks, with new research from Cancer Council NSW revealing that Australian food companies are squeezing the truth when it comes to fruit and vegetable claims on their packaging.

Almost half (48 per cent) of the packaged fruit and vegetable-based products surveyed by Cancer Council NSW made fruit and vegetable claims on the packaging, despite some having as little as 13 per cent fruit content.[1]

Household brands, including lunchbox favourites from Uncle Toby’s and Go Natural, were seen to glorify fruit and vegetable content on the packaging with claims such as ‘made with real fruit’ and stating the fruit or vegetable content proportion, or the number of serves of fruit or vegetables the product contains.

Co-author of the report and Nutrition Program Manager at Cancer Council NSW, Clare Hughes, said that as well as exploring fruit and/or vegetable content, the study also looked at the nutrient make-up of these products.

“A key aim of the research was to compare the nutrient composition of the products carrying the claims with the nutrient composition of the primary fruit and/or vegetable noted in each product. What we found was that these products contained much less dietary fibre and much more energy, saturated fat, sugar and sodium than their fresh fruit or vegetable equivalent, making them a poor substitute for the real thing,” she said.

Currently, these foods do not have to meet Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code nutrient criteria to be able to carry these claims and so can appear, without regulation, on products which are nutritionally unhealthy.

The Cancer Council NSW study found that less healthy products were actually more likely to carry fruit and vegetable claims than healthier products, with 78 per cent of less healthy foods carrying marketing claims compared to only 39 per cent of the healthier foods surveyed.[2]

Ms Hughes sees the number of nutritionally ‘unhealthy’ products that contain fruit and vegetable claims on their packaging as extremely concerning:

“Fruit and vegetables are important both in cancer prevention and helping people to maintain a healthy weight. Dietary guidelines encourage Australians to eat two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables each day, so food companies are cashing-in on this by clearly highlighting the fruit and vegetable content in their processed products.

“However, rather than helping to boost Australians’ fruit and vegetable intake, fruit and vegetable claims on packaging are encouraging them to choose highly processed and often unhealthy foods as a way of meeting their fruit and vegetable requirements.

“We know that more than half of Australian adults are not eating enough fruit and alarmingly more than 90 per cent are not eating enough vegetables. Despite what the labels say, we shouldn’t rely on these drinks, sugary fruit snacks and salty soups to meet our daily needs. Nothing beats the real thing.”

Cancer Council NSW is urging the Australian government to strengthen the Food Standards Code which does not currently regulate fruit and vegetable claims on food labels.

“We need tighter regulation of products that may lead Australians to believe they are contributing positively to their recommended two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables per day, where instead they are consuming less fibre, and more energy, saturated fat, sugar and sodium,” said Hughes.

For more information on the Investigating fruit and vegetable claims on Australian food packages report, please visit:

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=9418688&fulltextType=RA&fileId=S1368980014002511

 

 [1] Cancer Council NSW surveyed four food categories to investigate the fruit and vegetable claims on packages – fruit snacks, soups, fruit and/or vegetable juices and fruit and/or vegetable drinks – and then used nutrient profiling to assess the healthiness of the products.

[1] Cancer Council NSW categorised products surveyed as ‘discretionary choices’ if they did not appear in the Australian Dietary Guidelines as foods to eat regularly. It was found that a significantly higher proportion of ‘discretionary’ products (78 per cent) carried fruit and vegetable claims than those included in the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

  

– Ends-

 

Media Contact: Laura Cairnduff, Cancer Council NSW, 02 9334 1408/ 0423 421 382

 Filming and interview opportunities are available with Cancer Council NSW Nutrition Program Manager, Clare Hughes

 

Notes to editor:

Report reference: Lyndal Wellard, Clare Hughes, Yee Wun Tsang, Wendy Watson and Kathy Chapman. Investigating fruit and vegetable claims on Australian food packages. Public Health Nutrition 2014; FirstView:1-7

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=9418688&fulltextType=RA&fileId=S1368980014002511

Cancer Council NSW promotes fruit and vegetables as high in nutrients that are potentially protective against cancer, while also playing an important role in weight management.

5 – 12 per cent of cancers can be attributed to low fruit and vegetable consumption.

  

Example Products

 

Product Claim Reason we’re concerned
Snacks
Uncle Toby’s Roll Ups Made with real fruit Roll Ups are only 25% fruit, and this is ‘concentrated puree’ or ‘concentrated juice’, meaning they have none of the fibre of real fruit, and probably not the vitamins and minerals either.

They are also sticky and sugary and not good for children’s teeth.

They do not pass nutrient profiling, meaning they are not healthy enough to make a health claim.

Go Natural Twisters 1 serve of fruit per serve

 

100% fruit

While these contain 99.7% fruit, this is ‘concentrated puree’ or ‘concentrated juice’, meaning they have none of the fibre of real fruit, and probably not the vitamins and minerals either.

They are also sticky and very high in sugar (67%) and not good for children’s teeth.

They claim to be the equivalent of 1 serve of fruit, but a serve of dried fruit is 30g, and these are 18g/serve.

They do not pass nutrient profiling, meaning they are not healthy enough to make a health claim.

Iddy Biddy Fruit Bits Assorted Flavour Fruit Snacks 70% fruit juice

 

(note: on the back of the pack, it says ‘Contains 20% fruit juice concentrates, which is equivalent to 70% fruit juice’)

These ‘snacks’ are lollies. They have none of the fibre of real fruit, and probably not the vitamins and minerals either.

They are also sticky and very high in sugar (nearly 60%) and not good for children’s teeth.

The labelling is confusing (see previous column)

They do not pass nutrient profiling, meaning they are not healthy enough to make a health claim.

Fruit drinks
Charlie’s Old Fashioned Quencher Raspberry Made with real life raspberries and real life lemons There is only 13% fruit juice in this product, and the second ingredient is sugar. Per serve it has nearly 14 teaspoons of sugar.

It does not pass nutrient profiling, meaning it is not healthy enough to make a health claim.

Soup
Heinz Soup for One Creamy Tomato 3 vegie serves per 300g can*

 

* Based on the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. One serve of vegetables = 75g. Aim for a variety of vegetables

Although this product does pass nutrient profiling, one serve of this product provides nearly half (44%) of an adult’s upper limit of sodium, more than 4 teaspoons of sugar.

 

 

Campbell’s Rich Tomato Condensed Soup More than 6 serves of vegetables in every can*

 

* Based on The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (1998)

Although this product does pass nutrient profiling, one serve of this product provides 32% of an adult’s upper limit of sodium, 3 teaspoons of sugar.

 

There are 3.4 serves in a can, so it could imply that the number of serves in the can is reported when people wouldn’t eat a full can.

 

The veg (tomato) in this can is concentrated (paste) not whole veg, so will be low in fibre

 

[1] Cancer Council NSW surveyed four food categories to investigate the fruit and vegetable claims on packages – fruit snacks, soups, fruit and/or vegetable juices and fruit and/or vegetable drinks – and then used nutrient profiling to assess the healthiness of the products.

[2] Cancer Council NSW categorised products surveyed as ‘discretionary choices’ if they did not appear in the Australian Dietary Guidelines as foods to eat regularly. It was found that a significantly higher proportion of ‘discretionary’ products (78 per cent) carried fruit and vegetable claims than those included in the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

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