Our annual Bad Taste Food Awards highlight product claims we think are hard to digest.
Walk down the supermarket aisles and you’ll find products boasting they’re “low fat”, “packed with protein” or full of “whole grain” goodness.
They’re claims carefully crafted to persuade us the food’s a better choice. But there’s often more to the story when you read the fine print on the back of the pack.
Our annual Bad Taste Food Awards highlight product claims we think are hard to digest. Thanks to everyone who sent in nominations.
Uncle Tobys Plus Protein Peach, Sultanas & Oat Clusters boast they contain “fibre from whole grain to support healthy digestion” plus “20% of your daily protein” when served with 125ml of skim milk. With “no artificial colours or flavours” and a 4.5-star health rating, what’s not to like?
Check out the ingredients list and you’ll find sugar, at nearly 22 percent, is the next-largest ingredient after wheat and oats. The peach content in the cereal is “fruit pieces” – a mash up of peach puree, apple puree, pear puree, invert sugar and, wait for it, more sugar. To top it off, there’s golden syrup and honey adding to the sweetness.
Nestlé Milo Protein Clusters are also keen to brag about their whole grain content. The cereal has a “whole grain guaranteed” tick and promises to “give your child sustained, low GI energy to keep them going for longer”. There’s “protein”, “fibre”, “8 vitamins and minerals” and even a four-star health rating.
But sugar is again the next-largest ingredient in this product, after the oats and wheat. All up, the clusters contain 26.5 percent of the sweet stuff.
Nestlé claims its cereals “are making nutrition easier with the great taste and goodness of whole grain”. It’s not the first time a Nestlé cereal has featured in our awards. Last year, Nestlé Milo Duo was a “winner”. The cereal touted its “energy + calcium” content and “vitamin D for growing bones” but a 50g serve packed nearly 3.5 teaspoons of sugar.
Nice & Natural Probiotic Oat Bars have jumped on the probiotic bandwagon. The cranberry and coconut bars with “greek style” yoghurt claim to be “the right way” to “activate your day”. The muesli bars boast they’re a “good source of fibre”, “with prebiotics and probiotics” and “no artificial colours or flavours”.
The less savoury fact is they’re also 22 percent sugar. That’s nearly 8g – or two teaspoons – in each 35g bar. The sweeteners include sugar, honey, raisin juice concentrate, brown rice syrup and even sugar-sweetened cranberries.
OSM Almond with Vanilla Bites boast they’re “nutritionally balanced”, made with “premium wholesome ingredients” and “no artificial flavours or colours.” They’re also a source of “protein”, “fibre”, “10 vitamins” and “six minerals”.
Why not “try it in your lunch box or on the go”. The bites are also good to put in your kid’s lunch box, according to the company’s website.
The downside? You guessed it, the sugar content. The ingredients include fructose, brown rice syrup and honey.
Polish off four bites, the recommended serving, and you’ll be consuming 30g of sugar.
“Power”, “iron” and low calories are on offer in a bottle of dragon fruit-flavoured Glaceau Vitamin Water, a brand of Coca-Cola Amatil. But if you think you’re just buying water with a few added vitamins, think again.
Knock back a bottle of this stuff and you’ll have consumed five teaspoons of sugar. One 500ml bottle contains 22g of sugar in a single hit. If you’re looking for a low-calorie option to quench your thirst, we recommend tap water.
There’s no shortage of products on the shelves touting their low-fat status. The problem? When manufacturers reduce the fat content, sugar or sodium may be spooned in instead.
Take Edmonds 97% Fat Free Vanilla Cake. Both the cake and frosting proudly claim 97 percent fat-free status. What’s more, there are “no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives”.
But what the front of the pack doesn’t tell you is that sugar is the largest ingredient in the cake mix, as well as in the icing. Yep, more sugar than flour. In fact, sugar makes up 54.6 percent of the dry mix.
Eat just one 75g slice of the cake and you’ll have consumed six teaspoons of sugar.
Another product proudly waving the “97% fat-free” flag is Woolworths Chocolate Flavoured Creamed Rice. This sweet treat contains “no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives” and even manages a 3.5-star health rating. But dish up the suggested serving of 210g (half a tin) and you’ll be knocking back five teaspoons of sugar.
Beehive Shaved Champagne Ham also claims to be 97 percent fat-free as well as “gluten free”, “soy free” and “MSG free”. However, it’s anything but sodium free. It contains 1200mg of sodium per 100g, putting it well and truly in the high-salt food category. Spruiking a high sodium ham as 97 percent fat-free doesn’t wash with us.
Companies milking collagen claims to help sell their products are on the rise.
Lewis Road Creamery launched its bovine-collagen-infused milk earlier this year. The company’s website claimed the collagen “specifically aids joint health and mobility” and had been “scientifically shown to regenerate joint cartilage [and] stimulate the body’s own mechanisms for maintaining healthy joints and optimum mobility”.
But evidence for collagen supplementation is far from conclusive. When we asked Lewis Road for the evidence it was using to back its claims, the company sent us two reports from supplement manufacturers. We didn’t find them persuasive.
What’s more, the company’s claims aren’t approved under the Food Standards Code and it shouldn’t have been using them. Lewis Road ditched the claims after we pointed out it had put its hoof in it.
Anyone looking for a lunch box snack for their kids might be tempted by Pams Fruit Zoo Vines. They’re “65% fruit juice”, contain “no artificial colours or flavours” and are “gluten, dairy & nut free”. The perfect lunch box treat?
Read the fine print and you’ll find these vines are almost 55 percent sugar. Not only are you getting sugar from the reconstituted fruit juices but you’re also getting a hit of glucose syrup and added sugar to boot.
One 17g vine contains 9.3g – more than two teaspoons – of the sweet stuff. If you want a dairy-, gluten- and nut-free option for the kids, there’s always a plain old piece of fruit. It will give them vitamins, minerals and fibre as well – not just the juice.