Food packaging ‘increasingly littered’ with ‘misleading’ nutritional information

A new report has claimed that food packaging is ‘increasingly littered’ with ‘boasts’ that are ‘misleading’.

Marks and Spencers’ Percy Pig sweets were singled out as a product with such packaging, in the National Food Strategy report by Henry Dimbleby. The initiative will look to give an independent review of England’s food system, with the hope of delivering a better system.

Mr Dimbleby wrote in the report, “One of the most egregious sins of the modern food industry is its habit of clothing itself, and its products, in false virtue.”

He continued, “‘No artificial colours or artificial flavourings’ trills the packaging for Percy Pig, the “soft gums made with fruit juice”. These can be found near the tills at Marks & Spencer, within spontaneous reach of tiny hands. How many parents take the time to check the ingredients list? If they did, they might (assuming they know how ingredient lists work) be agog to find that the three largest ingredients by weight are glucose syrup, sugar and glucose-fructose-syrup.

“I single out Marks & Spencer here, not because it is the biggest sinner, but because it is such a well-trusted company. A British institution, M&S has the pledge “we always strive to do the right thing” as one of its guiding principles. If M&S – which is a great deal more scrupulous than many food companies – is guilty of such trickery, you can be sure the practice is ubiquitous.

“Food packaging is increasingly littered with boasts that, if not quite lies, are at least wilfully misleading. “Low fat” often means high starch, but it never says so. The words ‘free from’ and ‘less’ are sprinkled around without context. ‘Free from’ refined sugar, but rigid with fruit sugars? Nutritional values – calories, salt, sugar etc – are given ‘per portion’, even when a portion bears no resemblance to the quantity on offer.”

A Marks and Spencer spokesperson said in response to the comments from Mr Dimbleby, “All our products have clear labelling so that customers can make informed choices about what they buy. All our Percy Pigs are made with natural fruit juices and no artificial colours or flavourings and last year we also introduced a range of Percy Pigs with one-third less sugar.”