The Federal Court has found that health claims made by HJ Heinz Company Australia through its Little Kids Shredz product to be misleading for consumers.
According to the ACCC, images and statements about Shredz products being healthy and nutritious for young children were untrue.
The court found that Heinz had misrepresented its Shredz products as beneficial to the health of children aged one to three years, and that Heinz nutritionists ought to have known the representation of a product containing about two-thirds sugar as beneficial to health of children was misleading.
“We welcome the court’s decision today, which shows that businesses that make false or misleading claims about the health benefits of products face serious consequences,” ACCC Acting Chair Dalia Rickard said.
The court found that the combination of imagery and words on the packaging, including prominent pictures of wholesome fresh fruit and vegetables and statements such as “99 per cent fruit and veg”, conjured up the impressions of nutritiousness and health.
“Heinz’s Shredz products consisted of over 60 per cent sugar, significantly higher than that of natural fruit and vegetables,” Ms Rickard said. “An apple in comparison contains around 10 per cent sugar.”
The ACCC’s action followed 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 Shredz product range included three varieties – ‘Peach, Apple & Veg’, ‘Berries, Apple & Veg’, and ‘Strawberry & Apple with Chia Seeds’ – which were available in major supermarkets nationally from 2013 until at least May 2016. The products are no longer on sale.
A hearing on penalties and other orders sought by the ACCC will be held on a date to be fixed by the court.