16:27 20 September 2012
An investigation by consumer watchdog Which? has revealed that some 'healthy' versions of popular food brands contain almost twice as much sugar their standard counterpart, while ‘light’ foods are actually often higher in fat content.
McVitie’s biscuits and popular cheese makers Cathedral City cheddar and Philadelphia soft cheese were cited as brands which while they do have fewer calories were as high in sugar and salt content as the regular version.
Often, if a new product is light in something, it's higher in something else. An example by Which? showed that a 'light' version of a Pizza Express House salad dressing had nearly twice as much sugar as the other version from the brand.
Under government definitions, even many 'light' versions of foods were found to have "high in fat" levels as they contained more than 20g of fat per 100g.
Which? revealed that six out of 10 Brits eat 'lower fat' food each day or a few times a week under the assumption that these variants are healthier.
Which? also uncovered that only one in six people know that 'light' and 'low fat' actually have very different meanings – 'light', 'lite' and 'reduced fat' have to contain 30% less fat/saturated fat than standard products whereas "low fat" means that a product's total fat content is less than 3%.
Executive director of Which?, Richard Lloyd, said: "Consumers are choosing ‘low-fat’ and ‘light options’ believing them to be a healthier choice, but our research has found that in many cases they’re just not living up to their healthy image. Our advice to consumers is to read the nutritional labels carefully"
However, some companies have been quick to respond to this week's findings by Which? McVities, whose chocolate digestives were called into question, hit back that the report was misleading.
Quoted by The Telegraph, their spokesman said: “While it focused on the fact that the Lights variant of the McVitie’s chocolate digestive had only eight fewer calories per biscuit than the standard product, it ignored the fact that the Lights version had 30 per cent less fat.
“It also wrongly suggested that the fat reduction was achieved by reducing the amount of chocolate on the Light variant – this is not the case. The fat reduction has been achieved due to changes to the biscuit dough recipe.”
Which? has stressed that shoppers check the labels for their contents instead of just relying on vague terms such as 'light' and 'diet'.
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