Kraft Heinz has been found to have misled consumers over its on-pack claims about the nutritional content of its Shredz snacks range for kids.
The Federal Court has found that Kraft Heinz claimed the Shredz products were beneficial for young children via images and statements on its packaging.
Legal action was first launched by the ACCC in 2016, following concerns the boxes featured pictures of fruit and vegetables and stated "99 per cent fruit and veg", when the products actually contain around 60 per cent sugar. The range included three varieties; ‘peach apple and veg’, ‘berries apple and veg’, and ‘strawberry & apple with chia seeds’.
The Shredz products, which were withdrawn from sale in May 2016, were a dehydrated snack made from 99 per cent fruit, vegetable and chia seed ingredient, and according to Heinz, did not contain any preservatives, artificial colours or flavours.
“We welcome the court’s decision, which shows that businesses that make false or misleading claims about the health benefits of products face serious consequences,” ACCC acting chair Delia Rickard said.
H. J. Heinz Company Australia managing director Bruno Lino said, “Heinz is disappointed with the outcome but respects the decision that has been made.
"Heinz is committed to providing high quality food products and to communicating clearly and transparently with consumers on its packaging.
"We are presently reviewing this matter carefully to see if there are any further learnings which can be applied going forward.”
Heinz is facing a fine of up to $1.1 million, according to PKN's Yaffa Media stablemate, AdNews.
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.
In the past, consumer watchdog Choice has publicly criticised baby and toddler snacks from brands for often containing large amounts of sugar and offering few health benefits.
A hearing on penalties and other orders sought by the ACCC will be held on a date to be fixed by the court.
In the US, Kellogg and PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay division are also in this week in the media spotlight over their label claims, with a Californian couple suing them over the packaging on Pringles and Lay's Salt and Vinegar chips, which they claim imply an “all natural” snack instead of one that uses artificial flavours.