It is no secret that some food manufactures stretch the truth about how healthy their products are but are they really as bad and some people claim?

Health/nutrition professionals refer products that are perceived to be healthier than they are, as a “health halo”. “Health Halo” are products that do not have the evidence to back up their health claims. This results in misleading shoppers.  These products do have the required government labeling, that is not in question.  The problem stems from the product making false promises and presenting misleading labels.

CBC Marketplace investigated five popular “healthy” products.  Here is what they found and what lessons we should take away from it.

Vector by Kellogg’s:

One of the most misleading labels is the “high protein” claim on the box of Vector meal replacement cereal.  The claim is that it contains 13 grams of protein but in reality, according the nutritional information on the side of the box, one serving only has 5.7g of protein.  Consumers will only get the full 13 grams when they add 200 ml of skim milk.  This means that the majority of protein comes from the milk not the Vector product. It is written (in small font) the actual nutritional values when 200 ml of skim milk is added.  How do they get away with this misleading communications?  The product is listed as a meal replacement, not a cereal, so the labelling rules are different and allows for this.

Garden Veggies Straws by Sensible Portions:

The claim on the company’s website about this product says that it is a better snack for you because of the “garden grown potatoes, ripe vegetables, and no artificial flavours”.  However, the product is mostly potato starch, potato flour, cornstarch, tomato paste, spinach powder, and cane sugar.  In fact, this product is more highly processed than potato chips and has little nutritional value.

Mixed Fruit Snacks by Welch:

Large lettering on the box claims that “Fruit is our first ingredient” and that it is “made with real fruit”. When looking at the ingredients list however, it shows that the product is mostly fruit puree.  Unfortunately, this means that the fruit has gone through processing that removes most of what makes it healthy.  To your body this is nothing more than candy given it is 10 grams of sugar per serving.  There is some small text on the side of the box that indicates, “This product is not intended to replace real fruit”.  Real fruit provides a good source of fibre, vitamin C, and potassium.  The nutritional information on the packaging admits this product is not a significant source of fibre, vitamin A, or Vitamin C.

Blue Goodness Beverage by Bolthouse:

The label on the Blue Goodness beverage highlights the blueberry and blackberries that the product is based on.  Blueberries and blackberries are high in antioxidants and fibre and therefore very good for you. However, this product is nothing more than a sugary drink. The top two ingredients are apple juice from concentrate and banana puree. Further, down the list you will find blueberry, black currant, and blackberry juice from concentrate listed.  The bottle also claims that 250 ml provides 21% of the daily requirement of fibre.  However, the fibre is not coming from the berries (remember they only use the concentrated juice) it is coming from a chicory root fibre supplement called inulin.  This drink has a huge amount of sugar in it.  Almost 7 teaspoons of sugar to be exact which is 27 grams of sugar.  Bolthouse has claimed that the label will be changed for next year and the reason for using juice from concentrate was to keep the costs down.


Chocolatey Fudge Brownie by Fibre 1:

Fibre 1 packaging claims that each brownie provides 5 grams of fibre or 20% of your daily requirement. Once again, much of the fibre comes from the chicory root supplement (inulin) which can be hard to digest especially if you suffer from GI issues.  In the company’s response to CBC’s report, they added that some of the fibre also comes from cane sugar.

Although it is clear that regulations regarding packaging and nutrition claims needs to be reviewed and revised, there are things that consumers can do to be more aware of what they are truly eating.

  • Be aware that the front of the packaging is designed to draw you in and buy the product.  Brands will use the latest trends on healthy eating to persuade consumers to buy their product.
  • Read the ingredients and nutritional values.  Ingredient are listed according to the amount used from most to least.
  • Look for any additives or suppleness its that may cause digestive or allergy problems