2016's worst food and supplement labelling scams

Thursday, 12 January, 2017

US non-profit health advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has released its list of the 10 Worst Food and Supplement Scams of 2016, criticising companies that rely on “pretty pictures and appealing buzzwords to fool people into thinking that their foods or supplements are healthier than they really are”, according to CSPI senior nutritionist Lindsay Moyer.

In no particular order, the labelling scams of 2016 are:

1. Nutella. The family favourite, which calls itself ‘Hazelnut Spread with Cocoa,’ contains more sugar and (sustainable) palm oil than hazelnuts and cocoa, earning its place on the list.

2. Quaker Real Medleys SuperGrains Blueberry Pecan. This granola has more sugar and oil than pecans, and more cornstarch than quinoa or blueberries.

3. Nabisco Good Thins. The Potato One Sweet Potato variety contains more white potato flour and cornstarch than sweet potato powder. The Potato One Spinach & Garlic has more potato flour, cornstarch, oil and white flour than dried spinach. The Chickpea One Garlic & Herb contains more white flour and oil than chickpea powder.

4. Oscar Mayer Natural Slow Roasted Turkey Breast. “Some things are full of hormones. We’re not,” said one of the company’s ads in 2016, despite the fact that no brand of turkey has hormones added because they’re prohibited by US federal regulations. Oscar’s Natural labels also claim that its turkey contains “no nitrites or nitrates added except those naturally occurring in celery juice and sea salt”. Translation: you’re getting nitrites and nitrates from the celery juice.

5. M Drive. This dietary supplement was advertised in high-end magazines as a testosterone booster for men. A one-month supply sells for roughly US$40. Containing a concentrated extract of the herb ashwagandha, it promised to “enhance vitality & sexual function”. But in the only two studies, men who took the extract did not have any higher testosterone levels than men assigned to take a placebo.

6. Simply Mixed Berry Juice Drink. “Just simple ingredients. Honestly simple,” claimed ads for Simply Mixed Berry in 2016. Yet the drink is 90% water and added sugar. Simply Tropical is 85% water and added sugar. Simple? Sure. Honest? Not so much, says CSPI.

7. Ocean Spray Greek Yogurt Craisins. Ocean Spray took dried cranberries and “dipped them in real, tangy Greek yogurt”, according to the label. But the Craisins have more sugar and saturated-fat-rich palm kernel oil than Greek yoghurt powder, which explains why each serving has less than a gram of protein.

8. Suja Green Delight. A 350 mL bottle of this ‘green’ smoothie costs about US$4. Its first ingredient is cheap, nutrient-poor apple juice, not the kale, spinach or other veggies that consumers probably expect. Suja’s King of Greens and Easy Greens also have more apple juice than any of their greens.

9. VitaFusion Complete Multivitamin Gummy. Despite being labelled as ‘complete’, the gummy multivitamins are missing nine essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamins B1, B2 and K and the minerals magnesium, zinc, copper and selenium.

10. Brookside Berry Medley Flavors Crunchy Clusters. The packaging features cranberries, blueberries and raspberries, but there are no blueberries or raspberries in the clusters — just juice concentrates. And they contain more chocolate, sugar, palm kernel oil, white rice and about half a dozen other ingredients than cranberries. Plus, the calories, sugar and other nutrients listed on the front label is for a serving size of less than a third of the smallish 140 g bag.

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