Where is the Fruit? – Freshfel report shows there is still misleading consumer information
The image and name of fresh fruit is still often being misused by other food sectors. This is the main finding of the new edition of Freshfel’s ‘Where is the Fruit?’ study. There are still too many products that are displaying fruits prominently on their packaging, despite little to no actual fruit content, confirming the main findings of a previous study in 2010. Out of the 188 products investigated from 13 EU Member States (covering 80% of the EU population), only 20% had a fruit content of 50% or more. Another 7% of products contained no fruit at all. To complete the figures, another 34% contained less than 10% of fruit and another 34% contained between 11% and 50% of fruit. These findings show that business practices of food operators are inconsistent with the objectives of the EU Regulation on food information to consumers, as well as the EU Regulation on nutrition and health claims.
Freshfel, the European association for the fresh fruit and vegetable sector, has conducted a new edition of its ‘Where is the Fruit?’ study. The report analyses the fruit content as indicated on the label of a variety of food products that use an image or a reference to fruit on the outer packaging, without targeting any particular food category or brand. The outcome of this ‘Where is the Fruit?’ report confirms that there is still misleading information reaching the consumers. Some consumers might think they are making a healthy choice because of the use of healthy images such as fruits, whereas in reality they might be deceived and disappointed.
EU Regulation 1169/2011 on food information to consumers outlines that ‘food information shall not be misleading’, while EU Regulation 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims, includes in the claim definition ‘pictures, graphic or symbolic representation, which suggests that a food has particular characteristics’. Both Regulations state that it is not allowed to make false claims, or be misleading to consumers. Consumers need truthful information when they purchase a certain product, even more so in the current environment of increasingly health-conscious consumers and rising levels of obesity. The outcome of this ‘Where is the Fruit?’ report confirms that there is still misleading information reaching the consumers. Some consumers might think they are making a healthy choice because of the use of healthy images such as fruits, whereas in reality they might be disappointed. According to Daphne van Doorn, Freshfel’s Policy Advisor for sustainability and health: “This ‘Where is the Fruit?’ report shows that there are still gaps in the EU legislation that can lead to consumer confusion concerning food. Consumers shouldn’t be misled by fruit pictures, whilst there is little to no fruit in the final product.”
One way to overcome the current situation would be to finally fully implement the nutrient profiles within the claims Regulation. For a product to be able to use the pictorial/ graphic or symbolic image of fruit, it should contain a minimum of 50 gram of fruit per 100 gram of finished product, while not exceeding maximum thresholds of salt, sugar and fat. Fruit and vegetables are important components of a healthy diet. There is a lot of research (e.g. via the WHO) that states that a sufficient daily consumption of fruit and vegetables could help prevent major diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers. This report outlines that there is a need for more consumer protection, as well as a need to promote the eating of whole fruits and vegetables.