The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has accused Kraft Heinz’s local arm of “misleading” consumers by suggesting the company’s Little Kids Shredz products are a “healthy and nutritious” food for children aged one- to three-years “when this is not the case”.

The ACCC revealed today (21 June) it is bringing a case against the food giant before the Australian Federal Court. 

“The ACCC has brought these proceedings because it alleges that Heinz is marketing these products as healthy options for young children when they are not. These products contain over 60% sugar, which is significantly higher than that of natural fruit and vegetables – for example, an apple contains approximately 10% sugar,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said. “We also allege that rather than encouraging children to develop a taste for nutritious food, these Heinz Shredz products are likely to inhibit the development of a child’s taste for natural fruit and vegetables and encourage a child to become accustomed to, and develop a preference for, sweet tastes.”

The Shredz product range includes three varieties: peach apple and veg; berries, apple and veg; and strawberry and apple with chia seeds. It has been available in Australian supermarkets since 2013. 

The Shredz products’ packaging features images of fresh fruit and vegetables. It also carries statements such as “99% fruit and veg” and “our range of snacks and meals encourages your toddler to independently discover the delicious taste of nutritious food”.  According to the ACCC’s assessment, this constitutes “false and misleading representations” in relation to the “nature, characteristics and suitability of these products”. The ACCC concluded Heinz engaged in “conduct liable to mislead the public”. 

Sims said the ACCC is targeting misleading health claims that are being made by “major companies”. He explained: “The ACCC wants to make clear that major companies have an obligation under the Australian Consumer Law to ensure products’ health claims do not mislead the public. As part of the ACCC’s current focus on consumer protection issues arising from health claims by large businesses, we are particularly concerned about potentially misleading health claims for products being marketed for very young children.”

In its case against Heinz the ACCC is seeking declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, corrective notices and costs.

Heinz could not be reached for comment at time of press.