Regulators investigating “dodgy” frozen yoghurt health claims following CHOICE findings

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 4th September 2013

Australia’s leading consumer group CHOICE says its research into five frozen yoghurt (froyo) businesses – WowCow, Mooberry, Yogurtland, Yogurberry and Zwirl – has identified a “potential breach” of the Australian Consumer Law and “numerous dodgy health claims”.

The New South Wales Food Authority is now investigating some of the products mentioned in CHOICE’s research.

CHOICE said some frozen yoghurt shops marketed their products as “healthy” alternatives to other chilled products by claiming the froyo products were “low-fat”, “low-kilojoule”,  and/or “high-calcium”, and by emphasising the fresh fruit toppings, “beneficial cultures, antioxidant-rich goji or acai berries and even omega-3”.

“Froyo might be tasty but it’s not a health food and it’s unlikely to give consumers the outlandish health benefits claimed by some stores, like slowing the body’s ageing process,” said Angela McDougall, Food and Policy Advisor at CHOICE. “If you enjoy froyo, it’s important to think of it as a naughty treat like you would ice cream, rather than some healthy alternative with magical properties,” she said.

“Frozen yoghurt may sound healthy, but consumers need to know that it is a dessert treat, particularly in large amounts and smothered with sugary toppings,” Ms McDougall said.

Rounding up

CHOICE said its investigation found a Yogurberry store that charged $25 per kilo for its products, and claims the store “rounded up” the weight of a cup of its froyo.

“Four our order the scales read 325g but the receipt showed 330g – a 5g round up, adding 12 cents to the price,” Ms McDougall said.

“CHOICE alerted the National Measurement Institute and they advised us this breaches the Australian Consumer Law requirement that customers must be informed of extra charges,” Ms McDougall said.

CHOICE said a Yogurtland store was “charging per fluid ounce, detailing energy content in calories and not clearly displaying the price per kilogram – all breaches of regulations which state that information should be displayed in metric measurements and the price per kilogram needs to be clearly displayed for the consumer”.

Health and nutrition claims

CHOICE said frozen yoghurts have “about half the calcium content of regular, unsweetened yoghurt and 1.5 times the kilojoule count from the added sugar”.

Yoghurt is milk and live cultures (bacteria) fermented to create a sour taste. Commercial yoghurts may also contain added sugar, artificial sweeteners, or added cream, milk solids, gelatin and gums to create texture.

“It’s difficult for consumers to know how froyo stacks up against regular chilled yoghurt because the nutrition and ingredient information in many shops in non-existent or incomplete,” Ms McDougall said.

According to Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ), take-away shops selling unpackaged foods should be able to provide nutrition information on request. If a nutrition or health claim is made about the food, a nutrition label should be available.

“Consumers are also met with a barrage of health claims in many froyo shops – of the ones we visited, WowCow was the only one that did not make any health claims and was the only one able to to produce nutrition information in-store,” Ms McDougall said.

“Yogurberry claims its yoghurt contains ‘vast quantities of bifidus lactobacillus that is not only excellent for your digestion’ but can also ‘aid weight loss and significantly lower the risk of coronary heart disease’,” Ms McDougall said.

CHOICE said Yogurberry claimed ‘calcium is known to have slimming effects’ and that ‘live yoghurt cultures… can slow the ageing process of the body’. CHOICE said it referred these claims to the NSW Food Authority, which is now investigating the issue.

CHOICE said it was calling for a nationally consistent kilojoule-labelling system for take-away food to “help consumers make health choices”.

CHOICE claims Yogurberry and others making "dodgy" health claims