Whole grains - healthy or hype?

There are five good reasons to include more wholegrains in your diet.
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  • Updated:7 Aug 2008

05.Contradictory definitions

The Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) food regulations’ definitions of wholegrain and wholemeal are clear: In a recent change to the food regulations, ‘wholegrain’ can now include ground-up grains, which is the same as wholemeal. Previously, wholegrain meant whole, unbroken grains only.

The definition is of the cereal itself and can be used for ingredients such as wholegrain/wholemeal flour. However, there’s no definition of how much wholegrain ingredient a mixed food must contain to be described as ‘wholegrain’. And that leaves things open to interpretation.

FSANZ says that to promote a product as exclusively ‘wholegrain’, when it contains ingredients that don’t use the whole of the grain, could breach the Food Standards Code and fair trading law in relation to misleading and deceptive conduct. FSANZ is developing a new standard that includes provisions on wholegrain claims.

It's proposed that a serve of a product only needs to contain 10% of the amount of wholegrains that the manufacturer deems is beneficial to health, in order to make a claim about the presence of wholegrain. The industry-based group, Go Grains Health and Nutrition, encourages manufacturers to use wholegrain claims only on foods that have at least 10% wholegrain content, or at least 4.8 g wholegrains per serve — though it encourages manufacturers to also say exactly how many grams of wholegrains a serve contains and how this relates to a daily target.

Confused? That’s not surprising. We found a whole range of different approaches to wholegrain labelling and claims on foods — see Labelling buzzwords. In the end, a judge would probably need to decide what a shopper might think the claims mean, and whether they were likely to be misled.

What do we want?

CHOICE thinks the proposed FSANZ regulation of wholegrain claims certainly could mislead consumers about the wholegrain content of foods, and that it doesn’t go nearly far enough. We think consumers would expect a product carrying a wholegrain claim to be substantially made from wholegrain ingredients.

In addition, we’d like to see factual ‘% wholegrain’ claims that tell consumers exactly how much whole grains are in a food. In the meantime, all you can do is check the labels — if there’s a claim about wholegrain, it should tell you the percentage in the ingredients list.


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