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Hungry for the truth

Shoppers want honest food labelling.

lead toddler eating with mother
Last updated: 01 October 2021

A few months ago I celebrated my ninth anniversary with CHOICE. Given how many problems we come across in our day-to-day work, you'd think that by now I might have become a hardened cynic.

For better or for worse, that's not the case. Because for all of the rip-offs and unsafe products that we find, we also find plenty of great ones. There are lots of people out there genuinely trying to come up with new ways of making our lives better. Some businesses even seek our advice about how to improve their products.

That just makes me more disappointed when we come across others who are making products that appear to be deliberately designed to trick people.

There's probably no industry where we see this more than in packaged food, as the article on toddler's snacks in this issue illustrates.

While it's easy to acknowledge that the best snack for a toddler is something fresh like a piece of fruit or vegetables, that's not always practical. I no longer have toddlers in the family but I clearly remember the feeling of relief upon finding a long-life snack at the bottom of the bag when I was out somewhere and one of our kids was about to lose it.

Parents are hungry for the truth, and are fast to dump brands that they think have betrayed them

While lots of parents appreciate the convenience of a packaged snack at times like this, most also really want to do the right thing. And the makers of toddler snacks have an answer!

Using words like 'ideal', 'nourishing' and 'vital', and packages brimming with images of fresh fruit and vegetables, their snacks promise to be the answer to every parent's dilemma. Sadly, of course, they aren't, with most of them using processed fruit as a way of loading up snacks with sugar.

This is just one example of the problems we find across the food market, with too many manufacturers selling products that promise to be healthy but are high in fat, sugar, salt, or all of the above. The Health Star Rating scheme has made it easier to compare some products but it's voluntary, meaning that food businesses can decide to omit star ratings from products that wouldn't score well.

While all of this is frustrating, it doesn't leave me immobilised by cynicism. If anything, it gives me hope. When we publish articles on kids' food online, they are some of our most popular.

Ultimately, that's a force that can't be denied, so I hope more businesses will come to see the opportunity in making products that honestly give their customers what they need.