Choice reveals the skinny on low fat desserts
Labels hide the full story
CHOICE says ready-to-eat desserts with low fat claims such as ‘fat free’, ‘reduced fat’ and ’97% fat free’ aren’t always a healthy choice.
In a new review of 31 low fat desserts found in the fridge and freezer section of supermarkets¹, CHOICE found that many contain high sugar and sodium levels.
“Low-fat desserts can be just as high in kilojoules as the full fat variety. The fat may be removed but to make up for the loss of taste, extra sugars are added and this adds to the overall kilojoule count,” says CHOICE spokesperson, Ingrid Just.
Under Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) rules, food labelled as ‘low-fat’ cannot contain more than 3% fat while foods labeled as ‘fat free’ must not contain more than 0.15% fat.
To carry a ‘reduced fat’ claim FSANZ requires the product to contain at least 25% less fat than a product it is compared to; the label must also detail what that product is.
“This means one brand’s reduced fat product could still have more fat than another brand’s regular product,” says Ms Just.
CHOICE’s review of the nutritional content of low fat desserts found the following to be among the healthier options:
Dairy Farmers Dairy Selection Vanilla Lite Pouring custard 99% fat free
Nestle Diet 99% fat free Crème Caramel
Pauls Custard Low Fat Vanilla 99% fat free
Nutritionally, other low-fat desserts reviewed by CHOICE did not rate as well.
“If you are watching your weight, avoid the ‘reduced fat’ or ‘low fat’ fruit pies such as Nanna’s Lite Apple Pie varieties. Whilst some of the sugar comes from fruit, the pastry casing makes them higher in kilojoules,” says Ms Just.
“Weight Watchers Belgian Éclairs have fewer kilojoules but contain high levels of saturated fat and sugar. Whilst they don’t carry nutrition claims, it’s easy to think they are healthy given they are part of the Weight Watchers brand.”
“The Wicked Sister 97% fat free Rice Pudding desserts have lower saturated fat levels but the Luscious Vanilla with Blueberry and Caramel Dulce de Leche score highly on sugar.”
As part of its campaign for Better Food Labeling, CHOICE is calling on governments around Australia to stamp out the selective use of nutrition claims by introducing a nutrient profiling system. The system would ensure all products carrying nutrition claims such as ‘low fat’ comply with a specified level of overall healthiness.
Nutrient profiling is already in place in the US and is soon to be introduced in Europe; it was one of the recommendations handed down by the Independent Food Labelling Review Panel in January 2010.
“Federal, state and territory governments around Australia have committed to responding to the Panel’s recommendations by December. They have an opportunity right now to make it easier for consumers to make healthier choices,” says Ms Just.
To demonstrate the extent of manufacturers’ use of selective nutrition claims, CHOICE is calling on Australians to ‘Shame the Claim’ – to find examples of Australia’s dodgiest food labels. To find out more about ‘Shame the Claim go to www.choice.com.au/shametheclaim.
For more information about CHOICE’s Campaign for Better Food Labelling go to choice com.au/betterfoodlabelling.
Read more on CHOICE’s report into 31 low and reduced fat desserts.
¹Yoghurt and ice-cream were not included in this review as they belong to separate market categories.
• Ingrid Just, CHOICE, Head of Media and Spokesperson: 0430 172 669