Our annual Bad Taste Food Awards call out manufacturers on the claims they use to make their products seem like better choices.
Supermarket shelves are chock-a-block with products claiming to have “no added sugar”, be “low in fat” and oozing veges, wholegrains, protein, vitamins and minerals. But take a closer look and you might discover they’re not all they’re cracked up to be.
Food manufacturers use all manner of claims to convince us their products are better choices than they really are. Our annual Bad Taste Food Awards highlight products that really take the cake. Thanks to everyone who sent in nominations. This year, we were spoilt for choice.
Claims come thick and fast in the breakfast food aisle. I Love Breakfast Cocoa Magic Crunch claims to be “made with no refined sugar”, contain “no nasties” and be “a source of fibre [and] buckwheat”. The fact it’s “naturally sweetened with the goodness of dates” is plastered all over the box.
What’s not to like? The sugar content. The ingredients list reveals the kids’ cereal is not only sweetened with date puree but also “unrefined sugar”. In fact, unrefined sugar is the second largest ingredient – ahead of the 4.5% date puree. All up, the cereal is 25% sugar.
Freedom Foods XO Crunch is a similar cereal offender. It has a 4-star health rating, is made “with the goodness of 3 grains” and is free from gluten, wheat and nuts. To top it off, it claims “no preservatives”, “low salt”, “non-GMO”, “no artificial colours or flavours”, “a source of fibre” and “low fat”. What’s more, it’s “good for you” and a “fun and nutritious way to start your kids’ day”.
But the ingredients list paints a very different picture. It lists sugar as the second largest ingredient. There’s also a bit of golden syrup in the mix. This “nutritious” breakfast food is 22% sugar. Perhaps not so nutritious after all.
Nestle Milo Duo cereal features an athletic young netball player and boasts a “whole grain guaranteed” tick of approval. Other claims brag the cereal provides “energy + calcium” and “vitamin D for growing bones”. But once again, sugar is the second largest ingredient. A 50g serving packs nearly 14g – 3.5 teaspoons – of the sweet stuff.
Countdown’s Instant Drinking Chocolate proudly displays its 4-star health rating. The cocoa claims to contain “no artificial colours, flavours, or preservatives” and even comes with a “100% satisfaction guarantee”.
But the drinking chocolate’s primary ingredient is sugar. In fact, it’s got 62% of the stuff and is only able to claim a 4-star rating on the assumption it’ll be mixed with lite milk.
In 2016, Nestle’s Milo took out one of our first Bad Taste Food Awards for its 4.5-star health rating, despite containing almost 50% sugar. Like Countdown, Nestle calculated the rating based on mixing the powder with low-fat milk. After coming under fire, Nestle ditched the rating. We think Countdown should do the same.
Maggi’s wholegrain chicken-flavoured 2 Minute Noodles brag they’re “made with wholegrain” and are “99% fat free”. They even get a 3.5-star health rating.
But untangle the nutrition panel and you’ll soon discover one serving of these noodles contains 935mg of sodium. That’s almost half the 2000mg daily limit suggested for an adult. And more than the amount needed for basic health – which is between 460 and 920mg.
If young kids are chowing down on these noodles, they’ll be getting two-thirds of their daily intake of sodium in one fell swoop.
Another lunch box favourite, Tasti Fruit and Nut Snak Logs claim to be “Nature’s Power Pack” and “wholesome little beauties”. The back of the box would have you believe they’re “a jam-packed 70s original from when life was good, ingredients were real and taste was true”.
But you’ll have to check out the nutrition information panel to discover these snack bars are 38.4% sugar. While some is from the fruit content, the ingredients list also names five other sweeteners – sugar, brown sugar, glucose, honey and apple juice concentrate.
If it’s wholesome and real you’re after, stick to your own home-made muesli bars.
Next up is Fry’s Turkish Delight, which boasts it’s “60% less fat* and always has been”. That’s 60% less fat per gram than the average of leading chocolate bars. Impressed? You shouldn’t be.
The 55g bar is half sugar and nearly 5% saturated fat. Its sugar content is on par with most other chocolate bars.
Back on the protein band-wagon, Horleys Protein 33 Chocolate Fudge Flavour Energy Bar packs 20g of protein and promises “muscle fuel”. In fine print, the packet declares “protein aids muscle growth and repair when consumed as part of a healthy, varied diet”.
While this might be true, most Kiwis already get ample amounts. And a fudge bar laden with 20g of sugar is far from the healthiest source of protein. You’re better off sticking with whole foods packed with protein such as nuts, legumes and pulses.
And in case you’re tempted by the brownie pictured on the front of the pack, grab your magnifying glass and read the fine print. It states: “Photo shown is not actual product”!
Protein junkies might be tempted by the 45g of it in Mammoth Supply Co’s Iced Original Coffee. The flavoured milk promises to provide “the fuel you need to crush any task”. It’ll even give you 150% of the recommended daily intake of calcium. And it has a 5-star health rating to boot.
But crush the entire 600ml drink and you’ll be knocking back almost 44g of sugar, that’s more than 10 teaspoons, in one hit. The bottle boasts most of the sugar is the stuff naturally present in milk. But it also has three teaspoons of added sugar – half the 25g or six-teaspoon daily maximum the World Health Organization advises.
Another flavoured milk that’s milking its “health” credentials is Primo Sublime Lime. This milk claims to be “eternal happiness, world peace & divine flavour” in a bottle and comes with a 4.5-star health rating. However, a 600ml bottle packs 41.5g of sugar. Like Mammoth, it boasts most of the sweetness is from the milk, but you also get three teaspoons of added sugar.
Both Mammoth and Primo are Fonterra brands.