ACCC takes Heinz to court over nutritional claims
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has initiated legal proceedings against Heinz over nutritional claims made on its Little Kids Shredz infant food range.
Little Shredz have been sold in major Australian supermarkets since at least August 2013.
The ACCC is alleging Heinz made false and misleading representations on the packaging and engaged in conduct liable to mislead the public.
According to the ACCC, images and statements on the packaging could lead consumers to think the food has the equivalent nutritional value of fruit and vegetables, the ACCC says this is not the case.
Little Shredz packaging features images of fresh fruit and vegetables, 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’.
The ACCC says these features could lead a consumer to believe Little Shredz are a healthy nutritious food for children between one to three years which it disagrees with.
“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,” said ACCC Chairperson Rod Sims.
“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,” Sims said.
Court case follows CHOICE investigation
Although the ACCC said the legal action follows a complaint from the Obesity Policy Coalition on toddler foods which make health claims but are made mostly from fruit juice concentrate, consumer advocacy group CHOICE also reported on one of the Shreadz products produced by Heinz in May 2016.
CHOICE had criticised Heinz Little Kids Fruit & Chia Shredz saying the product comprises of 35 per cent apple juice concentrate and a 18g serving contains the equivalent of more than three teaspoons of sugar.
ACCC alleges “products are likely to inhibit the development of a child’s taste for natural fruit and vegetables”
Chairperson Rod Sims also said: “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.
“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,” Sims said.
The ACCC is seeking declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, corrective notices and costs as part of the legal proceedings.
Australian Food News attempted to contact Heinz Australia but did not receive any comment on the matter prior to publication.