H.J. Heinz Company Australia has been accused by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) of misleading consumers over the nutritional value of its Little Kids Shredz products.
The Shredz products’ packaging features prominent images of fresh fruit and vegetables and 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 alleges these images and statements represent to consumers the products are of equivalent nutritional value to fruit and vegetables and are a healthy and nutritious food for children aged one to three years, when this is not the case.
The Shredz product range includes three varieties; ‘Peach Apple and Veg’, ‘Berries Apple and Veg’, and ‘Strawberry and Apple with Chia Seeds’.
The ACCC claims the products had been available in major supermarkets nationally since at least August 2013, however, Heinz told C&I Week the Shredz products were no longer available.
“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. 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,” ACCC chairman, Rod Sims, 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,” Mr Sims said.
The ACCC’s action follows a complaint by the Obesity Policy Coalition about food products for toddlers that make fruit and vegetable claims but are predominantly made from fruit juice concentrate and pastes, which have a very high sugar content.
Heinz “strenuously deny” allegations
In a statement issued to C&I Week Heinz said it denies the allegations made by the ACCC.
“Heinz takes labelling of products very seriously and complies with all Australian labelling and food laws. While the products in question are no longer on the market, we strenuously deny the allegations made by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and look forward to defending our position,” the company said.
The ACCC is seeking declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, corrective notices and costs.