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Last Updated: Monday, 25 February 2008, 00:29 GMT
Flavoured foods 'lacking fruit'
Bowl of strawberries
Not necessarily found in strawberry-flavoured foods
A consumer pressure group says that shoppers are being misled into buying fruit-flavoured products which contain little or no fruit.

The Food Commission said that too many products have images of fruit on the label, but often none inside.

It is calling on companies to reduce the number of artificial flavourings, which it said were used instead.

Some of the companies named insisted that their products met all legal and labelling requirements.

Describing a product as strawberry flavour and plastering the packet with pictures of strawberries, when that product contains just a tiny percentage of strawberry or even no real fruit at all, is misleading and deceptive
Ian Tokelove, Food Commission
St George's University of London

The Food Commission campaigns against the use of artificial additives in food, and said that these should not be used to replace an ingredient which might be more beneficial to health.

It produced a long list of strawberry-flavoured products available in British supermarkets which it said could potentially mislead customers.

These included strawberry jelly and milkshakes which contained no strawberry element whatsoever.

One strawberry fruit bar had 0.5% strawberry, and was actually made almost entirely from apples.

Premier International Food's Angel Delight: None
Nestle's Nesquik milkshake: None
Sainsbury's Cranberry, Strawberry and Raspberry tea bags: 0.2%
Premier International Food's Hartley's Jelly: None
Asda Great Stuff milkshake: 0.6%

Another own-brand strawberry fruit tea contained 0.2% strawberry.

Ian Tokelove, from the Food Commission, said: "Flavourings allow companies to cut costs at the public's expense.

"With thousands of cheap flavourings to choose from, many food manufacturers can now flavour their products using these specialist additives instead of real ingredients.

"Describing a product as strawberry flavour and plastering the packet with pictures of strawberries, when that product contains just a tiny percentage of strawberry or even no real fruit at all, is misleading and deceptive.

"Unfortunately it is also legal and the practice is widespread."

'Consumer demand'

A spokesman for the Food Standards Agency said that food manufacturers did have an obligation not to mislead customers about the content of their products.

He said: "However, we would tend to focus on manufacturers clearly describing what is in their food, rather than what isn't in it."

He said there was no reason to avoid flavoured drinks that were low in natural products, so long as they were part of a healthy balanced diet which included plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.

A spokesman for the Food and Drink Federation, which represents the industry, said: "Food and drink manufacturers rely on the trust of consumers to buy their products every day and do not set out to mislead.

"All ingredients used in food or drink products, including flavourings, must be labelled by law.

"Manufacturers make a wide range of foods to suit consumers' varying tastes and pockets. In response to consumer demand, companies are increasingly using natural flavours."

A spokesperson for Nestle said: ''The ingredients used to make Nesquik are clearly labelled on the pack to ensure that consumers can make informed choices

"In line with our long-term reformulation programme, we are currently working on a move to use a natural colour in Strawberry Nesquik Magic Straws."

A spokesman for Premier International Foods, the makers of Angel delight and Hartley's Jelly, said: "As in any kitchen, we sometimes add flavours to bring out the taste and aroma of food.

"Hartley's Strawberry Flavour Jelly and Strawberry Flavour Angel Delight are both made without artificial flavours; the pack fronts do not feature pictures of fruit and the products are clearly described as 'fruit flavour'."


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