Illegal labels are rampant, but checks are running low. We spoke to Franca Braga from Altroconsumo
Recalling on food labels fresh milk, when the precious ingredient is not present, is a deceitful commercial practice. On the milk-sounding phenomenon we’ve collected the opinion of Franca Braga, responsible for Nutrition and Health at Altroconsumo, the first consumers association in Italy which is also part of BEUC, the European Consumers’ Network.
Milk sounding, appeal to the jury
The deception that exploits the good reputation of fresh milk is spreading. Over the last months Great Italian Food Trade has reported two cases either to IAP, the Self-regulation Advertising Council, and to the Italian Antitrust authority. The Galatine candies and the ‘Fettine di Latte’ (lit. ‘Milk Slices’) melted cheese dossiers. Misleading advertising and unfair commercial practices.
While awaiting for the rightful censorship of the reported advertisements, new cases of milk sounding have occurred. The latest regards Sangemini’s mineral water, whose publicity suggests the false equivalence between drinking water and consume milk or yogurt.
Illegal labels, Franca Braga’s view
The deceitful abuse on recalling milk has not escaped the first consumers association in Italy. Altroconsumo had already reported the Milk Slices case to the Italian Antitrust Authority, that however did not follow up.
‘It’s a clear case, the name ‘Fettine di Latte’ (Milk Slices) is deceitful. We are talking about a melted cheese, with many ingredients and additives that have nothing to do with fresh milk. The reference to a valuable food like milk is totally unfair.’
Great Italian Food Trade has also reported Galatine, sweets whose advertisement recites ‘equivalent to 80% of fresh milk’, while rather sugars are of such. A case full of other improprieties that we have reported to the IAP (Self-regulation Advertising Council).
‘Writing that Galatine sweets contain 80% of fresh milk is absolutely deceitful. The issue is serious, as we are talking about candies, not exactly an inevitable foodstuff in one’s diet. Putting these claims on the label so to let them pass as a genuine product on a par with fresh milk is a completely unacceptable practice.’
In both cases communication seems to be intended to make moms believe that they can feed children and teens with melted cheese and sweets as substitutes of milk. What do you think?
‘I believe it’s extremely serious, because it is absolutely not true. It’s a wrong and anti-educative communication, because it moves away from a correct food model for children and young people even before parents. Besides pushing to consume candy is never ok, on the other hand it must be clear that these are products suitable to be consumed only occasionally. The same goes for melted cheese. It isn’t a bad product, but it cannot be certainly compared with fresh pasteurized milk.’
What expectations do you nourish, as Altroconsumo – an Italian consumer organization – towards IAP and the Antitrust authority?
‘Over the years we have had numerous reports adopted by IAP and Antitrust. And these events of Galatine sweets and Slices of milk presented as equivalent to fresh pasteurized milk are extremely critical, absolutely deceitful. We hope that the reports and complaints by Great Italian Food Trade have the much needed attention they deserve.’
As it seems, these are also food frauds. How can an ingredient used in concentrated form be presented as equivalent to fresh pasteurized milk?
‘It is absolutely deceitful and anti-educational. The name of the food and the claims on the front label are at the basis of purchase choices. Because consumers aren’t used to read the ingredients list, even if we encourage them to doing so. On the other hand we cannot expect the average consumer to to have the time or inclination to read everything. Instead we must demand that responsible operators provide meaningful and transparent information. By duly following the rules on naming and claims above all.’
What else to say on the Sangemini’s water case? ‘Calcium at a high organic value’ is the same for milk and yogurt, as the ad claim states?
‘Here too the publicity is unacceptable. There are rules we’ve been working on for many years. The regulatory framework is crystal clear and appropriate, even on Nutrition and Health Claims (NHC). Authorities must enforce it, and apply deterrent sanctions.’