Australia's consumer watchdog takes food company Heinz to court

Canberra: Australia's consumer watchdog on Tuesday said it was taking the H.J. Heinz Company to federal court, alleging it was guilty of misleading and deceptive conduct under the country's consumer laws. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in a statement detailed the case against Heinz, which worldwide employs more than 32,000 employees, Xinhua news agency reported. The ACCC alleges the company's Little Kids Shredz products feature images and statements that misrepresent the nutritional value of the food aimed at children aged between one and three years. "The Shredz products' packaging features prominent images of fresh fruit and vegetables and statements such as '99 percent fruit and veg' and 'Our range of snacks and meals encourages your toddler to independently discover the delicious taste of nutritious food'," the statement said. "The ACCC alleges that these images and statements represent to consumers that the products are of equivalent nutritional value to fruit and vegetables and are a healthy and nutritious food for children aged one to three years, when this is not the case." ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the case would be taken to court in order to set a precedent that misleading young parents, and children who cannot choose their own nutritious food, is unethical. "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," Sims said on Tuesday. "These products contain over 60 percent sugar, which is significantly higher than that of natural fruit and vegetables -- for example, an apple contains approximately 10 percent sugar. "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 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." The ACCC said it was seeking for the products to be described accurately, as well as a monetary fine, corrective notices and costs of the legal proceedings.