Misleading food labelsWhich? calls for ban on unproven food claims

14 March 2006

Which? is pushing for a Europe-wide ban on misleading and unproven claims about health benefits on food labels.

Our latest research has shown that almost 99 per cent of consumers want health claims checked on products before they go on sale. But currently there's no legal requirement for companies to do this.

The loophole means questionable claims appear on products. For example, St Ivel Advance semi-skimmed milk with omega-3 from Dairy Crest carries a 'Clever milk' logo and the label states that it 'may enhance learning and concentration' and 'can also help to maintain a healthy heart'.

But only the latter claim has been approved by the UK's voluntary Joint Health Claims Initiative (JHCI).

Milky Way spread 'rich in calcium' but mostly sugar

Which? continues to find examples of foods which aren't as healthy as they seem. These include Masterfoods' Milky Way whipped milk and chocolate flavour spread. Its label states that it's 'rich in calcium, magnesium and vitamins' but doesn't state so prominently that it's also high in fat (35.2g per 100g) and is more than half sugar (56.1g per 100g).

Then there's Nestle Cinnamon Grahams - it's label claims the whole grains contain 'essential nutrients…to help keep you and your family healthy from the inside out'. But the breakfast cereal is high in sugar (34.2g per 100g) and salt (1.8g per 100g).

Next week members of the European Parliament's Environment, Food Safety and Public Health Committee will vote on legislation that will control misleading health and nutrition claims on food sold in the UK.

Support the campaign

Which? is calling on all UK MEPs to ensure health claims have to be checked before foods are allowed on the shelf, and we want consumers to support the campaign by e-mailing their local MEP. Details of how to contact your MEP are on our Campaigns page - see 'Related links' below.

Michelle Smyth, Which? Public Affairs, said: 'Consumers are sending a clear message that they don't want misleading health claims on food. Without this legislation people have no way of knowing whether the products they buy are going to deliver the benefits they promise.

'MEPs can help by stopping health and nutrition claims on foods high in fat, sugar or salt. And making it compulsory for new health claims to be checked prior to sale.'