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'Five a day' the easy way?

Published in The Food Magazine issue 75
24th November 2006

The Department of Health's (DoH) ‘five a day’ logo may have been totally ignored by most food manufacturers, but they've not been slow in piggy-backing the well publicised advice that we should eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

Bottles of Hero's Fruit 2 dayOne such manufacturer is Hero UK, which launched a product called Fruit2day in November last year. Under DoH guidelines fruit juices and smoothies can claim to contribute only one portion of fruit and/or veg to your daily five a day, no matter how many you drink.

So how could Fruit2day boast that it contained ‘2 portions of fruit in a bottle’ in adverts that stressed how real fruit is supposedly ‘inconvenient’ to eat?

Hero UK reckoned that their Fruit2day was a ‘unique’ product, better than a juice drink or a smoothie, because it contained a mixture of fruit pieces, purées and juice, which added up, in their opinion, to two whole portions of fruit, rather than the single portion which a regular fruit juice or smoothie could claim.

Following complaints the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) took a look at Fruit2day's claims and also contacted the DoH, who explained that they had already made clear to Hero, before the product was launched, that in their view Fruit2day could not claim to provide two portions of fruit a day. Having taken expert advice the ASA ruled in October that Fruit2day could no longer claim to supply two portions of fruit towards the recommended ‘five a day’. The ruling rather undermined the massive £4m advertising campaign designed to promote the product as an alternative to eating ‘inconvenient’ fruit and led to the prompt disappearance of Fruit2day from shop shelves. Huge marketing budgets like this reveal the lengths to which manufacturers will go to profit from the concerns of health conscious shoppers.

Label from an Innocent smoothie claiming that 250ml provides An Innocent mistake? The Department of Health says smoothies can only count as one of your recommended daily five portions of fruit and veg – and yet Innocent reckon you can get a full day’s fruit in a single 250ml serving of smoothie. 

Fruit2day isn't the only product to confuse the definition of what comprises ‘five a day’. PJ Smoothies (owned by PepsiCo) are currently claiming that a 250ml serving 'provides you with 2 of your daily portions of fruit and vegetables' and Innocent smoothies state that a single serving equates to ‘your recommended daily intake of fruit.’ Such claims run directly contrary to DoH advice.

The most outrageous five a day claim we have seen comes not from a smoothie manufacturer, but from a supplement seller. Ultralife market a supplement called ‘Fruit & Veg: 5 a day the easy way!’ which they describe as ‘nutrition in a drink – just add water!’ Each sachet is composed of fructose (sugar), maltodextrin (starch), food additives, artificial sweeteners and a sprinkling of various plant extracts and added vitamins.

Like Fruit2day this powdered drink plays on the theory that we have such ‘hectic lifestyles’ and ‘fussy children’ that we can't actually eat real fruit and vegetables because they're so darned inconvenient. After all, peeling a banana or tangerine is just so awkward and fiddly.

The product also appears to make an illegal claim that it can ‘guard against long term disease’ – although it fails to mention which disease it is so effective at protecting us from.

Packet of Ultralife Fruit & Veg '5 a day the easy way!'Are you too busy to peel a banana or bite into a lovely, fresh apple? Help is at hand! For just fifteen quid you can buy 30 sachets of instant ‘fruit & veg’. Just add water for instant nutritional gratification.