Food giant Heinz has denied misleading consumers over the nutritional value of a snack food for kids.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has taken the company to the Federal court alleging it engaged in false and misleading representations in relation to its Little Kids Shredz products.
The ACCC claims the snacks, made from dehydrated fruits and vegetables along with concentrated fruit juice, were suggested to be nutritious for children aged one to three by the use of certain statements and images on the packages.
But counsel for Heinz, Rowena Orr, told the court on Tuesday that none of the packs contained anything like the representations alleged by the consumer watchdog.
“The ACCC case has to fail at the threshold level,” Ms Orr said.
She said it would require an “unrealistic” interpretation of the wording on the packs to reach the conclusions alleged.
Heinz dietitian Kathryn Hodson told the court that while the Shredz snacks contained a relatively high proportion of sugar, she did not consider they were a discretionary food.
The snacks did not pass some internal company dietary guidelines but Ms Hodson said those guidelines were “never developed with Shredz in mind” and were more appropriate for baked goods.
She said the guidelines were only a “first security check” and a dietitian would always make a more detailed assessment before a product was brought to market.
Also on Tuesday, Justice Richard White rejected a request from the ACCC for him to taste one of the products, ruling that any conclusions he reached would be subjective and not capable of being analysed or scrutinised.
He said the application was asking the court to “carry out some form of experimentation.”
In evidence for the ACCC on Monday, nutritionist Rosemary Stanton told the hearing in Adelaide that while the Heinz snacks contained a number of nutritious ingredients they were more like confectionery.
Dr Stanton said in her opinion the Heinz products should be placed in the discretionary category, only to be eaten occasionally.
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 commission is seeking pecuniary penalties, corrective notices and costs against the company.