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Superjuice claims slammed down under

Companies' over-reaching hype draws a wave of criticism from watchdog organisation

AUSTRALIA Claims being made about superfruit-juice products in Australia and New Zealand are being scrutinised by food authorities after the Australian consumer watchdog organisation, Choice, investigated several and found the claims to be spurious.

Juices such as açai, goji, noni and mangosteen are all being marketed on their boosted antioxidant levels. Some were claiming to help in the treatment of cancer, diabetes, drug addiction, heart disease and Alzheimer's disease, a clear breach of Australian and New Zealand food marketing law. One juice claimed it could outperform prescription and over-the-counter drugs used in treating depression, arthritis, high cholesterol and heroin addiction.

Both the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the New South Wales Food Authority have been informed of the potential transgressions and are planning to investigate.

Choice said some of these juices sold for up to $70 per litre, and contained only 10 per cent of the antioxidant capacity of a single apple.

"It is a breach of the Food Standards Code to make health and therapeutic claims for food, but it is clear from marketing hype around superfruits that these regulations are not being effectively enforced," said Choice spokesman Christopher Zinn.

"You get a novelty fruit, call it a super- fruit, throw in a secret Himalayan mountain or Chinese valley with mist on it, or a Pacific island with traditional healers who live to 150, and it's a very potent brew. Then if it costs a lot, people assume it must be rare and very good for you."

Market researcher Datamonitor issued a cautionary note in a recent superfoods report when it stated: "The notion of superfoods has already been subject to fierce criticism and consumers are savvier and seeking to consume — if not always managing — a nutritionally balanced diet from a diverse range of food types.

It is therefore important not to promote nutrient rich [superfoods] as a magic-bullet, quick-fix solution."

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