Business Maverick

EASY, TIGER

Jungle Oats pulled back into line over health claims on its labels

Jungle Oats pulled back into line over health claims on its labels
Illustrative image | Jungle Oats’ range of beverages. (Photo: Supplied)

You might want to think twice when food companies make outlandish claims about the supposed health benefits of their products.

Need a quick immunity boost? What about something to improve focus? Or perhaps give the old ticker some love? You might have to look elsewhere for a health boost because food producers in South Africa are forbidden from making health claims about their products. 

The Health Department, following a complaint against Tiger Brands’ non-compliant labelling for its Jungle Oats range of drinks, has forced the FMCG giant to relabel its products. 

The five Jungle Oats range of beverages variously declared some benefits for heart (“heart wellness”), digestion (“digestive well-being”), focus (“brain support”), immunity (“immunity support”) and protein (“energy boost”).

 Such statements are prohibited under various sections of the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act, specifically section 9, labelled “prohibited statements”, which says subject to the provisions of the Medicines Act, the words “cure”, “restore”, “heal” or any other medicinal or therapeutic claim which, through words, graphics, pictorials or other representations, suggest or imply that a food or substance of a food can “cure, diagnose, treat, mitigate, modify, prevent, restore or correct any disease, abnormal physical or mental state or somatic, psychic or organic function in man, including the symptoms thereof; excluding those explicitly permitted by certain health claims”.

The Jungle Oats Drinks were heavily promoted in the media, with product giveaways on radio and specials in stores.

‘Valuable feedback’

When asked about the health claims, Tiger Brands at first told Daily Maverick that they had received “valuable feedback from stakeholders on our new Jungle Oats Drinks product range and we are actively reviewing the feedback received to enable us to take appropriate action.

“Tiger Brands takes compliance with food labelling regulations very seriously and is committed to principles underlying our food law and regulations. We do not in any way condone product labelling which does not support these principles.”

It did not respond to a follow-up question about how a food corporation could release such a product without knowing that health claims like these were non-compliant, because entire teams are tasked with product development and labelling, which would be signed off by a senior member of staff.

This week, Tiger Brands revealed that, after interaction with the Department of Health, Jungle Oats had reviewed the packaging design of its Jungle Oats Drinks range. 

“The new packaging is in the process of being rolled out and will be available on shelves in the coming weeks.

jungle oats health claims

The new Oat Drink labels are devoid of health claims, stating simply their flavours and vitamin content. (Photo: Jungle Oats)

Azure Fey, the spokesperson for Tiger Brands said Jungle Oats’ primary objective was to inform consumers about the health benefits of its products using simple and unambiguous language on the front of the pack. 

“Additionally, comprehensive details regarding the functional vitamins and minerals contained within the products are provided on the back of the packaging to ensure transparency and understanding for consumers.” 

The old packaging was stopped in December, she added, so consumers should start seeing it come through on shelves very soon. DM

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