Federal Court judge declines to taste disputed Heinz snack

Heinz in court over Shredz snack

Food giant Heinz has faced the federal court over claims a product it marketed as a healthy snack for toddlers is actually full of sugar.

A Federal Court judge has rejected a request for him to taste a kids' snack food at the centre of a legal stoush over its nutritional value.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has taken food giant Heinz to court alleging the company engaged in false and misleading representations in relation to its Little Kids Shredz products.

Before closing the ACCC case on Tuesday, Tom Duggan SC asked Justice Richard White to taste one of the products, made from dehydrated fruit and vegetables as well as concentrated fruit juice and fruit paste.

Nutritionist Rosemary Stanton told the hearing in Adelaide that while the snacks contained a number of nutritious ...
Nutritionist Rosemary Stanton told the hearing in Adelaide that while the snacks contained a number of nutritious ingredients they were more like confectionery. Photo: AAP

But Justice White refused the application on the basis that any conclusions he reached by eating the snack would be subjective and not capable of being analysed or scrutinised by anyone.

He said it seemed to him the application was asking the court to "carry out some form of experimentation".

The judge said he was also unhappy with the idea of him at least partly destroying an exhibit in the case.

The ACCC case centres on allegations Heinz made three representations on its packaging including that the snack had the same nutritional value as fresh fruit, that it was a nutritious food for children aged one to three and that it would encourage healthy eating habits.

The ACCC is seeking pecuniary penalties, corrective notices and costs against Heinz.

In evidence on Monday, nutritionist Rosemary Stanton told the hearing in Adelaide that while the snacks contained a number of nutritious ingredients they were more like confectionery.

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Dr Stanton said in her opinion the Heinz products should be placed in the discretionary category, only to be eaten on occasions and resembled confectionery.

She said the snacks did not look, taste or feel like fruit and vegetables and "stuck in my teeth like jubes".

"Sure there are some positive nutrients in there, just as there are positive nutrients in a Big Mac," she said.

Screenshot showing a box of Heinz Little Kids Fruit and Veg Shredz
Screenshot showing a box of Heinz Little Kids Fruit and Veg Shredz Photo: Supplied

In a statement before the hearing, Heinz said it strongly rejected claims about the packaging of the snacks.

"The Shredz products had a similar nutrition profile to dried apple or sultanas. Heinz stands behind the Shredz products and their packaging," the company said.

Counsel for Heinz, Rowena Orr QC, said the presence of a number of nutrients in the Shredz snacks, including vitamin C, beta carotene, fibre, potassium, magnesium, and the omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, meant the products could not be considered "nutrient poor".

She told the court on Tuesday none of the packs contained anything like the representations alleged by the ACCC.

"The ACCC case has to fail at the threshold," Ms Orr said.

The case continues.

AAP