If ever you needed a reason to have your product labels legally reviewed, the ACCC’s recent action against Heinz should be enough to convince you.
Product label claims are clearly in the ACCC’s sites, as the regulator issued Federal Court proceedings against food manufacturing conglomerate, H.J. Heinz Company Australia Ltd (Heinz), alleging false and misleading representations regarding its Little Kid Shredz products (Shredz).
Heinz’s Shredz products are marketed for consumption by children aged one to three. The packaging includes colourful images of fresh fruits and vegetables in three flavour combinations, and features taglines such as “99% fruit and veg”, which, “encourages your toddler to independently discover the delicious taste of nutritious food”.
The ACCC alleges that the packaging is misleading to consumers because Shredz products contain over 60% sugar ‑ which is not representative of the sugar values in natural fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, the ACCC asserts that the products do the opposite of what they claim in that, instead of developing a child’s taste for natural goodness, products like Shredz actually encourage a preference for excessive sweetness.
The Obesity Policy Coalition recently claimed that food products for toddlers were predominantly made from fruit juice concentrate and pastes, known to be disproportionately high in sugar. Chairman Rod Sims stated that the ACCC is specifically concerned with fortifying consumer protections regarding large businesses that make health claims, especially when it comes to products being marketed to young children.
The Shredz products have been available since at least August 2013. Heinz has now pulled the products off shelves but denies any wrongdoing.
The ACCC is seeking declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, corrective notices and costs. The outcome could have implications for food packaging around the nation.
We will keep you updated as the case develops.