Dutch dairy manufacturer FrieslandCampina has been cautioned about the use of a healthy foods logo from packs of its reduced fat ham and cheese.
The logo, introduced last year, in a joint initiative by Stichting Ik Kies Bewust (the Dutch affiliate of the Choices International Foundation) and the Albert Heijn retail chain, is aimed at enabling consumers to make healthy selections more easily and rapidly, but is also aimed at encouraging supermarkets and manufacturers to further improve their products.
Jan-Willem ter Avest, a spokesperson for FrieslandCampina, told FoodNavigator.com that its Slankie brand of spreadable cheese with lean ham contains a small amount of added sugar - 0,05 grams per cup. He said that the company does not add in the sugar to the final product but the sugar is present due to the way the Dutch group’s supplier processes the meat.
“But strictly speaking, the product no longer meets the requirements of the ‘Ik Kies Bewust’ logo,” said the FrieslandCampina spokesperson.
The dairy group, he said, is currently in consultation with the Foundation in regards to the appropriate action.
The FrieslandCampina spokesperson said consumer advocates Foodwatch drew the attention of the dairy company to the 'added sugar' aspect of the ham. "It was not clear to us until then that the sugar is added to the meat due to the way the supplier processes it."
“FrieslandCampina maintains its position that Slankie 20+ Mager Ham is part of a sound diet,” said ter Avest, who stressed that all other Slankie spreadable cheeses are in compliance with the requirements of the Stichting Ik Kies Bewust standard.
Léon Jansen, a spokesperson for the Choices International Foundation, said the organisation saw the disqualification of the FreislandCampina product as a stimulus to improve the regulations of the foundation. "For products with the logo in the product group of cheese, no sugar may be added. In this case a very small amount of sugar is added to the cheese because it is used as a technical substance in the production of ham. The amount of this added sugar is many times lower compared to the naturally sugar present from milk," notes Jansen.
He also points out that, from a nutrition perspective, the sugar from the ham in the cheese "is not relevant".
"However our criteria for cheese do not define a maximum of this carryover of added sugar to cheese. Therefore I will ask the scientific committee to come forward with a regulation concerning the maximum quantities of carryover of these kind of nutrients," added Jansen.
Independently assessed criteria
Two versions of the Dutch logo exist. A green stamp (pictured) represents the healthy choice within a category of basic products like bread, milk, fruit and vegetables. A blue stamp is for healthier options within non-basic categories like snacks, soups and sauces.
The logo does not relate to health claims for added health benefits, but for nutrition claims relating to energy (calorific value), nutrient content and reduced/increased levels of nutrients. Its criteria were drawn up by an independent scientific committee and are in line with the Official Dutch Guidelines for Food Choice published by The Netherlands Food Centre.
The stamp is a merger of two previous healthy foods logo schemes - the Dutch version of the Choices logo and retailer Albert Heijn’s clover logo, with Stichting Ik Kies Bewust and the retail chain spending two years developing the common healthier foods standard for products that are below threshold levels of sugar, salt and saturated fat.
A spokesperson for Albert Heijn told this publication at the time of the new logo’s launch last March that the development process was challenging as both groups were using different criteria for determining what constitutes a healthy product in the various food categories.