There is an interesting case out of Australia that will confirm the concerns of many parents over food for young children. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) brought a legal action against Heinz in June after reviewing a complaint by the Obesity Policy Coalition about the sugar content of the food. The Commission determined that the level of added sugar would qualify the food — which is sold as a “natural” and healthy choice — as a confectionary item like junk food. The focus is a product line called “Little Kids Shredz.”
Shredz products features images of fruit and vegetables and states it is “99 per cent fruit and veg”. However the Commission found that products like the “berries, apple and veg” variety contain 68.7 grams of sugar per 100 grams. The sugar content is ramped up by using apple juice concentrate.
Nutritionist and dietician Rosemary Stanton testified that the bars are closer to a confectionery item, though she admitted under cross examination that the bars do contain some dietary fibre and nutrients.
In a statement, Heinz appears to fall back on the product size — a common way to minimize the unhealthy or fat content of products:
I tend to favor full disclosure and consumer choice in such cases. However, the government has a legitimate interest in combatting what it views as false advertising or misleading packaging. I am always leery of packaging defenses in the use of artificially small amounts for consumers.
A ruling against Heinz could trigger a reexamination in other countries over the sugar content of such food products as much of the world grapples with rising obesity levels among children.