Generically branded food could cost consumer health

The National Heart Foundation has warned that buying generically branded food could be at the cost of consumers’ health.

Early results of a foundation analysis that compared generic products with branded goods showed the cheaper in-house brands generally contained significantly more salt, saturated and trans fats and more calories than branded products.

Concerned that the big supermarkets are increasingly filling their shelves with home brands as consumers tighten their belts, the foundation analysed 5000 packaged food products, including canned food, margarine, breads and breakfast cereals.

The Heart Foundation’s chief executive Dr Lyn Roberts told the National Press Club recently that more than 60 per cent of consumers said they had switched to cheaper supermarket brands.

“But for the consumer, the savings at the checkout may be costly for their health,” she said.

Dr Roberts said if the rising incidences of obesity, diabetes and physical inactivity continued, cardiovascular death rates could begin to rise, after years of decline.

One reason was the pressure on shoppers to be influenced by clever marketing.

The number of products with the Heart Foundation tick had failed to increase at the same rate as the number of choices confronting supermarket shoppers.

“Cheaper foods often equal cheaper, less healthy ingredients such as cakes, biscuits, and fried chicken cooked in cheap imported palm oil laden with saturated fat,” Dr Roberts said.

Palm oil, used for frying and in products such as biscuits, ice cream and chocolate, contained 55 per cent saturated fat, compared with about 12 per cent in sunflower-canola blend oil.

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