Consumer NZ 'Bad Taste Awards' 2020 highlight inaccurate 'health food' claims

Choosing 'healthier' food items can be an absolute minefield, with supermarket aisles filled with products claiming to be "low fat", "no sugar" and of course that absolute classic: "organic". 

It's often tough to resist such clever marketing - but of course when checking the nutritional labels it becomes clear that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. 

Each year, Consumer NZ releases the winners of its 'Bad Taste Food Awards' which highlight product claims it says "are hard to digest". 

Consumer NZ chief executive Jon Duffy said this year's winners podium featured products promoted as "97 percent fat-free" or packed with "whole grain" goodness.

"However, when you check the back of the pack, you discover they're loaded with sugar or sodium," Duffy said.

"We also found sugary products that carried a raft of other claims, including 'no artificial colours or flavours' or touted their vitamin and mineral content."

Consumer NZ's chosen 10 winners of this year's awards are:

Nestle Milo Protein Clusters

Nestle boasts its cereal contains whole grains, "fibre", "8 vitamins and minerals" and will "give your child sustained, low GI energy to keep them going for longer". But check the small print and you'll find this cereal is also 26.5 percent sugar.

Uncle Tobys Plus Protein Peach, Sultanas & Oat Clusters

Uncle Tobys' cereal delivers "protein" and "fibre from whole grain to support healthy digestion". It also delivers a lot of sugar: 22 percent. Sugar is the next largest ingredient after wheat and oats. There's extra sweetness from fruit puree, golden syrup and honey.

Nice & Natural Probiotic Oat Bars

These cranberry and coconut bars claim to be the "right way to activate your day". They boast they're a "good source of fibre" with "no artificial colours or flavours". The less savoury fact: they're also 22 percent sugar – that's two teaspoons in each bar.

OSM Almond with Vanilla Bites

OSM's bites are promoted as "nutritionally balanced", a source of protein, fibre, 10 vitamins and six minerals. Eat the recommended serve and you'll be getting 30g of sugar too – that's seven teaspoons.

Glaceau Vitamin Water

"Power", "iron" and "low calories" are on offer in a bottle of dragon fruit-flavoured Glaceau Vitamin Water. But along with the vitamin-enhanced water, there's 22g of sugar: one 500ml single-serve bottle delivers five teaspoons.

Edmonds 97 percent Fat-Free Vanilla Cake

Edmonds boasts its cake mix is "97 percent fat-free" and contains "no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives". But this 97 percent fat-free cake mix is also 55 percent sugar. That means there's more sugar than flour in the cake.

Woolworths Chocolate Flavoured Creamed Rice

This creamed rice also carries the "97 percent fat-free" claim. It contains "no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives" and even manages a 3.5-star health rating. It may be low fat but it's not low sugar: there are five teaspoons in every serve.

Beehive Shaved Champagne Ham

The front of the pack declares Beehive's ham is "97percent fat-free" as well as "gluten-free", "soy free" and "MSG free". What you won't find on the front is that the ham is also high in sodium: 1200mg per 100g! This information is only in the fine print on the back.

Pams Fruit Zoo Vines

"Wow, 65 percent fruit juice," Pam's fruit vines brag. They contain "no artificial colours or flavours" and are "gluten, dairy and nut free!". You may also want to know they're almost 55 percent sugar. Along with reconstituted fruit juice, the vines contain sugar and glucose syrup, adding to their sweetness.

Lewis Road Creamery Collagen Milk

Lewis Road released its collagen-infused milk this year claiming collagen is "scientifically shown to regenerate joint cartilage". But the evidence for collagen supplementation is far from conclusive. What's more, the company's claims weren't approved under the Food Standards Code. Lewis Road dropped the claims when Consumer NZ called it out.