The BEUC's recently launched campaign aims to boycott the EC's "long-standing failure" to put an end to the "bogus food claims" reportedly made by the various manufacturers of products that have high fat, salt, or sugar content. The EC was initially supposed to publish nutrient profiles nine years ago, and this could have prevented the proliferation of false claims by manufacturers.
Pauline Constant, communications manager for food, health, sustainability, and safety, says that the profiles must be published soon. If the profiles remain unpublished, this will turn into a 10-year-old concern. She adds that making the data public can help curb the possibility of an obesity epidemic since consumers need to be made aware that products which claim to be healthy can't always be trusted. (Related: Food Packaging Tricks — Why Reading The Label Is Not Enough.)
The BEUC highlighted the fact that powdered beverages and products for children are the "worst offenders," especially on social media. These two product types often come with health claims even though they contain a lot of sugar.
Constant explains that based on real-life examples, food products full of fat, salt, or sugar are being marketed as "high in fibers," contains "B vitamins," or "boosts your immune system." It is misleading to sell a hot drink containing at least 75 percent sugar as full of "calcium and vitamins." Manufacturers are taking advantage of these claims by using them as marketing tools instead of indicators of a healthy product for consumer guidance.
The BEUC's social media campaign named certain beverages such as "Nestlé's Nesquik, Idilia Foods' Cola Coa, and Mercator's Ben Quick." The organization also mentioned Danone's Actimel Kids, which claims to contain vitamin D but also has high levels of sugar.
Olivera Medugorac, Nestlé's European affairs manager, addressed the campaign and pointed out that the company backs the introduction of nutrient profiles. Medugorac shares that Nestlé was one of the companies that approved the "joint call for urgent adoption of EU-wide nutrient profiles for nutrition and health claims" last May 2017. She adds that Nestlé wants to ensure that nutrient profiles are used to help consumers, industry, government, and public health stakeholders make more informed choices when it comes to food and beverages.
Constant maintains that the practice is deceptive, especially since it gives unhealthy products a "healthy halo." She concludes that the "problematic" practice has a significant impact on products for children and babies. Parents who fall prey to false health claims on food products will buy them without a second thought because they "want the healthiest for their little ones."
Who would think twice about getting baby cereals that have "iron, zinc, and vitamins?" It might not even cross the minds of parents to check the warnings behind the packages about the 30 percent sugar content of the same baby cereals, especially since the warnings often come in small characters.
Only time will tell if the EC finally publishes the nutrient profiles that the BEUC has been asking for since 2009.
Aside from powdered drinks and food products, avoid buying these items because they may have a high sugar content:
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