A local consumer who sent in photographic evidence to the Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) to show that Parmalat yoghurt contained less than half a teaspoon of real fruit pieces in a tub of low fat yoghurt has won his case.
In a recent ruling the regulatory board ordered Lactalis South Africa (Pty) Ltd to amend its packaging within three months and to “stop disseminating the offending packaging within three months”.
Consumer Dr Harris Steinman did not hold back in proving his complaint to the ARB to which he provided photographic evidence.
Steinman conducted this experiment by diluting the yoghurt with water and putting it through a teacup sieve.
He found less than half a teaspoon of real fruit pieces and told the ARB that he was of the opinion that the product labelling contained deceptive claims and was misleading.
Steinman said he had purchased the product specifically on its claim that it contains six percent mixed fruit.
“There was an almost absence of fruit pieces even when the product was diluted with water and put through a teacup sieve,” said Steinman.
In their response Lactalis South Africa (Pty) Ltd said the yoghurt had a mixture of diced fruit pieces and fruit puree in the blend.
“During the pasteurisation process the softer flesh fruit pieces are broken down by the shearing nature of the process, as well as the high heat treatment required for effective pasteurisation for food safety standards,” it said.
Lactalis further argued that the total fruit content will remain in the preparation, just not with as many visible fruit chunks.
“The resultant finished product is a fruited yoghurt product with a fruit content of six percent and not six percent of fruit pieces,” it added.
They concluded that fruit pieces in each tub of yoghurt would vary, and that the six percent of fruit content should not be misconstrued by consumers to be suggesting that each tub of 175g of the said product contains six percent of fruit pieces.
In its ruling, the ARB found that the packaging created the impression that if you are a consumer wanting pieces of fruit in your yoghurt, this is the product you should choose.
“Based on the Advertiser’s submissions, it appears likely that most consumers will not receive a significant number of fruit pieces and will therefore be misled,” the ARB ruled.
In addition to making the order, the ARB said that there will be a subsequent sell-through period of packaging already on the shelf.