Culture clash: frozen yoghurt

The cold facts on froyo chains' health claims
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01.Frozen yoghurt health claims


Frozen yoghurt – or froyo, as it’s commonly called – is the latest hot trend in cold snacks. To distinguish their products from other chilly treats such as gelato, froyo shops often market them as a low-fat, low-kilojoule, high-calcium healthy treat, spruiking their fresh fruit toppings, beneficial active cultures, antioxidant-rich goji or acai berries, and even omega-3.

But just how true are these health claims? It’s difficult for consumers to know, because the nutrition information in many shops is non-existent or incomplete, as we discovered when we visited five froyo shops in Sydney.

Not only is it hard to determine the basics, such as fat and sugar levels, it’s impossible to know, for example, how many active cultures and which strains, or how much omega-3 is in the food. One chain, Noggi, couldn’t even tell us which of its products contain omega-3, despite laying claim to this health benefit on one of its stores' websites.

According to Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), takeaway shops selling unpackaged food should be able to provide nutrition information on request - and if a nutrition or health claim is made about the food, a nutrition label should be available. Of the five shops we visited, only two displayed very basic nutrition information. WowCow, an Australian company started in 2006, was the only one able to produce nutrition information in-store when asked, as well as an ingredients list on their website.

Yogurtland, a US chain, displays measurements in fluid ounces for each flavour, despite the fact that the Food Standards Code requires measurements to be expressed as kilojoules per number of grams or millilitres. The chain also only shows calories, protein, and total carbohydrates for each flavour, leaving out useful information such as fat, saturated fat, and sugar.

Some chains display nutrition information on their websites for their yoghurt flavours, and a couple also provide information about their toppings. But they only show information per 100g, which isn’t much help when you’re in the store, faced with a variety of cups which are not labelled by weight and which can range from 90g to 500ml.

We also found some questionable nutrition information on offer. Noggi’s analysis claims 100g of strawberries provides 1kJ of energy, when in fact it's closer to 100kJ.

Wacky health claims

While some yoghurt stores make claims we can’t verify due to lack of nutrition data, Yogurberry goes one step further, with some frankly wacky health claims.

In-store posters say the yoghurt contains “vast quantities of bifidus lactobacillus [sic]” that is not only “excellent for your digestion” but can also “aid weight loss and significantly lower the risk of coronary heart disease”.

Yogurberry’s in-store pamphlet claims “calcium is known to have slimming effects” and that “live yoghurt cultures… can slow the ageing process of the body”.

New laws that take effect from January 2016 will regulate health claims on labels or in ads. In the meantime, a transitional standard prohibits claims that a food is slimming or has intrinsic weight-reducing properties, and must not refer to the prevention, diagnosis, cure or alleviation of a disease. As a result of CHOICE's enquiries, Yogurberry’s claims are being investigated by NSW Food Standards.

Next page: Is it really yoghurt?



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