Snack bars marketed with images of fruit contain minimal actual fruit: CHOICE

Sugar tax gains momentum

The UK's move to tax sugary soft drinks comes amid a growing campaign to raise awareness of the health implications of consuming too much of the sweet stuff.

Big-brand snack bars with images of fruit on their packaging contain minimal actual fruit ingredients and often fail to disclose added sugars, a review by consumer group Choice has found.

The review of 224 snack bars identified brands like Kellogg's and Aldi as some of the worst offenders, when it came to disguising excessive added sugars as fruit.

Choice found snack bars by Kellogg's and Aldi were misleading for using images of real fruit on their packaging.
Choice found snack bars by Kellogg's and Aldi were misleading for using images of real fruit on their packaging. Photo: Choice

Choice head of media Tom Godfrey described the fruit content of some products as "farcical".

"If you're putting your kid's lunch box together, you'd be far better off with fresh fruit and some wholegrain crackers," he said.

One of the lowest-ranked snack bars in the review was Aldi's Hillcrest Chewy Muesli Bars in Strawberry & Yoghurt flavour.

While the box depicts fresh strawberries, the fruit content is in fact "strawberry-flavoured fruit pieces", made up of fruit puree concentrates, flavour and a range of additives.

A spokesperson for Aldi said the product had a place in a healthy diet "when included as an occasional snack in the recommended serving size".

"We are proud of our truthful and transparent on-pack labelling across all our products and we encourage our consumers to look at the nutritionals and ingredients stated on our product's packaging," she said.

In another example, Choice found Kellogg's K-Time Twists in Raspberry and Apple claimed to have "raspberry and apple fillings" however they contained no actual raspberry, rather raspberry juice concentrate and 2 per cent apple.

"K-Time Twists are packed with sugar, juice concentrate (a form of added sugar), apple powder, fructose (another added sugar), brown sugar (more added sugar), a range of thickeners and other additives. It's a stretch to depict actual fruit on pack," Mr Godfrey said.

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However a Kellogg's spokesperson said new packaging that had been rolled out in the past eight weeks showed minimal fruit on the labelling, and disputed the Choice findings for reviewing old packaging.

"Our new packaging clearly says the product is raspberry and apple flavour. We are not suggesting they are a replacement for fruit. Any images of fruit are to show the flavour you can expect," she said.

Executive manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition Jane Martin said all brands had a responsibility to be open with consumers about the nutritional qualities of their products.

"The use of a real raspberry on a product suggests to consumers that the product contains real fruit," she said.

Jane Martin, executive manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition.
Jane Martin, executive manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition.  Photo: Ken Irwin

"At a time when 63 per cent of Australian adults and 27 per cent of children are overweight or obese, we want to see food manufacturers adopt the health star rating system to help consumers make more informed food choices."

The spokesperson for Kellogg's said the brand was continuing to roll out health star ratings on all its products over the next 12 to 18 months.

Sugar can currently be listed under more than 40 different names on a product's ingredient list, including fruit puree, syrup, fruit concentrate or malt.

This has prompted calls from the consumer sector for legislation requiring Australian food companies to disclose all added sugars on packaging.

"Food manufacturers should be required to provide [this] information on the label," Ms Martin said.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand is undertaking a technical evaluation on whether 'added sugars' should be included in ingredients lists and will report to the Ministerial Forum in late 2016.

Among other bars found by Choice to be high in sugars, salt and saturated fats were Coles Nut Bars Choc Coated Nut, Kellogg's LCM's Split Stix Yoghurty and Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Bars.

Healthier snack bars recommended included Goodness Superfoods Better for U Cereal Bars Wild Berries and Yoghurt, Uncle Toby's Farmer's Pick Roasted Macadamia & Almond and Emma & Tom's Chia Bar Cacao.

A Coles spokesperson said all Coles Brand products include detailed nutritional and ingredient information, including the Health Star Rating System.