The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has commenced proceedings in the Federal Court against H.J. Heinz Company Australia Ltd (Heinz) in relation to its Little Kids Shredz products. The ACCC alleges that Heinz made false and misleading representations, and engaged in conduct liable to mislead the public, in relation to the nature, characteristics and suitability of these products, in contravention of the Australian Consumer Law.
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 that these images and statements represent to consumers that 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 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.
The World Health Organisation recommends limiting the intake of foods containing fruit juice concentrate to reduce the risk of obesity and tooth decay.
The Shredz product range includes three varieties; ‘peach apple and veg’, ‘berries apple and veg’ (pictured), and ‘strawberry & apple with chia seeds’ and has been available in major supermarkets nationally since at least August 2013.
The ACCC is seeking declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, corrective notices and costs.
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