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Court rules Heinz 'healthy' toddler food misleading

New York

FOOD giant Heinz's misled consumers about the health value of Little Kids Shredz products for toddlers, an Australian court ruled on Monday, adding that the US firm should have been aware the claims were deceptive.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) took Heinz to court in 2016, saying images and statements on Shredz products, which contain fruit pastes, purees and concentrate, indicated they were healthy and nutritious for young children.

The national consumer watchdog said such claims were misleading as the products contain over 60 per cent sugar, significantly higher than fruit and vegetables, with the Federal Court agreeing.

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"Heinz . . . represented that (they were) beneficial to the health of children aged one to three years when by reason of their high sugar content and sticky texture, the products were not beneficial," Justice Richard White said in his judgement.

He found that Heinz had "engaged in conduct which was misleading or deceptive or likely to mislead or deceive in contravention" of Australian Consumer Law. "I am satisfied that each of the Heinz nutritionists ought to have known that a representation that a product containing approximately two-thirds sugar was beneficial to the health of children aged one-three years was misleading," he added.

The judge rejected another ACCC assertion that Heinz had claimed the products were of an "equivalent nutritional value" to fruit and vegetables and would encourage the development of healthy eating habits for children aged one to three".

The Shredz products are no longer on sale in Australia.

The World Health Organisation recommends limiting the intake of foods containing fruit juice concentrate to reduce the risk of obesity and tooth decay. AFP