Marketplace Tests 5 Popular Foods With Healthy-Sounding Claims That May Be Too Good To Be True |  CBC News

Marketplace Tests 5 Popular Foods With Healthy-Sounding Claims That May Be Too Good To Be True | CBC News

Their packaging promises big health benefits—high fiber, high protein, real fruit and more—but CBC Marketplace Research reveals what’s really hidden in five popular foods whose labels may sound healthier than they are.

“The ‘health halo’ is basically the idea that a food is better than it’s made out to be, with very little evidence to support it,” said Toronto-based registered dietitian Stefania Palmeri.

Rosa Marchitelli (left) and registered dietitian Stefania Palmeri can mislead consumers into thinking they are healthier than they are, according to experts. (CBC)

“When I see products like this, it’s frustrating as a nutritionist because I see consumers falling victim to it.”

While most labels meet government labeling requirements, Palmeri and childhood obesity expert and endocrinologist Dr. Robert Lustig agree that the following products do not meet the promised packaging. They question whether Canada’s labeling rules adequately protect consumers from potentially misleading labels.

WATCH | Marketplace tests food labels:

Marketplace tests food labels

CBC Marketplace takes a closer look at five popular foods whose labels make health claims that may be too good to be true.

Worried vector

Most misleading, these nutritionists say, is the bold “high protein” claim on the front of Kellogg’s Vector meal replacement — found in the cereal aisle.

The box says “high protein” with “13g protein” in bold. But a close look at the nutritional information on the sidebar shows that the product has less than half of that – 5.7 grams per serving.

Consumers only get the full protein listed on the package if they add 200 milliliters of skimmed milk – meaning most of the protein doesn’t come from Vector itself.

Kellogg’s says Vector is a meal replacement, not a cereal, so the labeling rules are different. (Jenny Cowley/CBC)

Palmeri calls it “marketing manipulation.”

“Calling a cereal ‘high protein’ but only with milk is silly,” Palmeri said. “Almost like an ad for high-protein bread, but only with peanut butter.”

Vector has a little disclaimer saying skim milk needs to be added to achieve the protein claim.

Because it’s called a meal replacement, not a cereal, Health Canada’s labeling rules allow it.

Vector’s nutrition label indicates that the product has less than half the amount of protein advertised on the front of the box when not combined with 200 milliliters of skimmed milk. (CBC)

The product’s marketing often targets active people who want to increase their protein intake, such as Swimming Canada athlete Kate Hulford, who eats Vector as a dairy-free snack because she is lactose intolerant.

She was surprised when Marketplace revealed that it wasn’t getting the full 13 grams of protein per serving advertised on the front of the box.

“It’s misleading,” Hulford said Marketplace. “Especially if you’re targeting athletes who want to get high protein.”

Canadian swimmer Kate Hulford (left) and her teammates routinely turn to Vector for their high-protein diets, believing the product contains 13 grams of protein per serving before milk is added. (CBC)

In a statement, Kellogg’s said Vector’s labeling is “factual and transparent.” The company also said it went beyond Canadian food labeling requirements by adding milk and non-milk protein content information on the side of the box.

“Vegetables mostly just by name”

Sensible Portions Garden Veggie Straws’ website says “the combination of garden-grown potatoes, ripe vegetables and no artificial flavors provides a better-for-you snack.” But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a healthy choice, nutritionists say.

The produce is “mostly a vegetable in name only,” said Shannon Crocker, a registered dietitian based in Hamilton. The product consists mainly of potato starch, potato flour, corn starch, tomato puree, spinach powder and cane sugar.

Despite the label, nutritionists say Garden Veggie Straws don’t have the benefits of whole vegetables. (CBC)

“When I talk to people about snacks, they often mistake it for a healthier salty snack compared to a potato chip,” she said, “but it’s even more processed and low in nutrients.”

Hains Celestial, which owns Sensible Portions, declined to comment.

“Nothing but candy,” says the doctor

Welch’s Mixed Fruit Snacks features pictures of fruit on the box and bold lettering that advertises “fruit is our first ingredient” and “made with real fruit.”

However, experts point to the ingredients listed as showing that the product is mostly fruit puree, a method of processing fruit that can remove much of what makes it healthy.

The Welch package says “fruit is our first ingredient” and “made with real fruit.” (Jenny Cowley/CBC)

“This is nothing more than candy and should be advertised as such,” said Dr. Robert Lustig, an endocrinologist and professor emeritus of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, noting that there are 10 grams of sugar in one serving.

A small label on the side of the box reads: “Not intended to replace fresh fruit in the diet.”

“When you eat fruits and vegetables, you would expect more fiber, you would expect more vitamin C, more potassium,” Palmeri said. Instead, according to the nutrition facts, Welch’s Fruit Snacks “are not a significant source of … fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C.”

Dr. Robert Lustig is a professor emeritus of pediatrics, division of endocrinology, at the University of California, San Francisco, specializing in childhood obesity and diabetes. (David McIntosh/CBC)

Welch’s has been in the news before for the US Litigation over its “true fruit” and nutritional claimsbut those lawsuits were either dismissed or settled.

The company wrote Marketplace that it stands by its label and “all brand communications” and its customers “understand” that the snack is not intended to replace fresh fruit in the diet.

“sugar bomb”

The packaging of Bolthouse Blue Goodness drink has loads of antioxidant and fiber-rich blueberries and blackberries on the front of the bottle, but diet experts say don’t be fooled.

Much of the fiber in Bolthouse Farms Blue Goodness comes from inulin, a fiber supplement. (Jenny Cowley/CBC)

The two main ingredients are apple juice from concentrate and banana puree, followed by blueberry, blackcurrant and blackberry juice from concentrate.

The bottle says 250 milliliters has “21% daily value of fiber,” but experts say much of the fiber comes not from the berries on the package, but from a chicory root fiber supplement called inulin.

“I think some people may perceive that all the fiber is coming from the beautiful berries on the label,” said Toronto-based registered dietitian Leslie Beck, “and in that sense it’s misleading.”

“It’s a bit of a ploy to trick people into thinking that by adding inulin to increase the fiber content of fruit juice, the juice is as nutritious as the whole fruit,” Beck continued, noting that Health Canada now wants Canadians to cut down on fruit juice. in their diet.

Canada’s Food Guide no longer classifies juice as a “serving of fruit.” (Stephanie Matteis/CBC)

As of 2019, the Canada Food Guide considers juice to be “sweetened drink” and recommends that Canadians replace sugary drinks with water. According to the guide, consumption of sugary drinks is associated with an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay.

Lustig calls Bolthouse Blue Goodness a “sugar bomb” with a whopping 27 grams of sugar — nearly seven teaspoons per cup.

Add to that, the product claims to have “7½ servings of fruit” per bottle, but Marketplace found that Health Canada no longer allows this type of claim. The Canada Food Guide no longer classifies juice as a “serving of fruit”.

After Marketplace asked Bolthouse about it, the company said the label would change next year.

As for the added inulin, the company wrote that it’s for the fiber benefits and the juice from the concentrate keeps the product affordable.

Fiber brownies ‘too good to be true?’ asks the nutritionist

Marketplace also looked at Fiber 1 Chocolatey Fudge Brownies, which says on the package that it contains five grams, or 20 percent of the daily fiber.

According to Health Canada, women need 25 grams of fiber per day and men need 38 grams per day.

Much of the fiber in Fibre1 comes from added inulin (

Much of the fiber in this product comes from inulinor chicory root fiber, which has some digestive benefits but can also cause discomfortespecially those with gastrointestinal problems, Palmeri said.

Deni Ogunrinde suffers from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-C), a condition that can cause recurring abdominal pain, constipation or both, so she watches everything she eats.

When doctors told her she needed more fiber, the Toronto woman tried a variety of products, including some foods with fiber 1. She said her stomach aches were so severe that she now completely avoids any inulin products.

“This is the type of fiber that would not only not help me, but would actually make my symptoms worse,” Ogunrinde said.

General Mills, which owns Fiber 1, did not directly respond to Ogunrinde’s response to inulin. The company wrote that it complies with Health Canada’s Food and Drug Regulations for all fiber labeling and claims, and clarified that some of the added fiber comes from sugar cane, as does inulin.

Calls for clearer labels

Dr. Lustig believes it will take a “public outcry” before Health Canada, which is in charge of developing food labels, changes the rules.

Both Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) declined to be interviewed or comment because “the questions are focused on product compliance.”

The CFIA, the agency charged with enforcing food labeling regulations, wrote that consumers who believe a particular food product is non-compliant or believe the food label is misleading can use the following link complain.

The CFIA says it will review reports of non-compliance and take appropriate action if necessary.

Palmeri offered this advice to consumers:

  • Know that the front of the package is marketing designed to get consumers to buy.

  • Read the nutrition facts sidebar to see what the main ingredients are. They are listed according to the amount in the product – from the most to the least.

  • Look for any ingredients or supplements that may cause digestive problems.

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