Thursday, April 18, 2013

Badvertising: Nestlé Calls Vitamin Spiked Nesquik Plus "Medicinal", Provides "Dose" for Kids

Want more proof corporations don't give one hoot about your health?

Look no further than Nestlé's Nesquik Plus. It's quite literally vitamin fortified chocolate syrup, and it's being marketing to parents as a means to improve the health of their children.

Nestlé is the largest largest food corporation in the world. As such what it does can fairly be considered representative of the food industry as a whole.  The fact that this product exists, let alone Nestlé's marketing of it as containing "medicinal ingredients" replete with "dosage" recommendations and health and function claims, I'd argue is proof positive that the only thing that concerns the food industry are profits.

So who's this product aimed at? Here's copy from Nestlé's 2011 product announcement,
"Enhanced with Vitamins B2, B6, B9, B12, C, D, E, Calcium and Iron and made with less sugar, NESQUIK PLUS is ideal for moms who are concerned about their kids’ diets as it adds even more nutrients to a glass of milk"
Because what could be healthier than multiple daily "doses" of Nesquik Plus where each "dose" contains 3 teaspoons of vitamin-fortified-sugar goodness?

Click on the image to see the "Recommended Dosage" and the "Medicinal Ingredients"
What's also fascinating is that the product is currently being sold on Canadian supermarket shelves. My understanding was that the discretionary fortification of food (the addition of vitamins and minerals to foods at the discretion of the food manufacturer) wasn't in fact legal in Canada, let alone the discretionary fortification of frickin' chocolate syrup.

A few days ago the Canadian government launched a new healthy living program. In the launch video Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq states,
"Today I am pleased to announce that we are building on the momentum of the national Eat Well campaign that helps parents and children adopt healthier eating habits"
Carla Ventin the VP of Federal Government Affairs for the food industry's representative organization Food and Consumer Products of Canada in that same presser stated,
"This is a really important campaign for Canadians because what it does is improve the awareness and provide tools to consumers so that they can make better choices at the grocery stores for their families"
So here's my thought.  Rather than simply improving awareness and providing tools that I sincerely doubt more than 0.1% of Canadians will actually access and utilize, maybe a smarter choice would be to prevent companies like Nestlé from preying on parents with products like "medicinal" chocolate syrup and actually create and police robust labeling laws that in turn wouldn't put the onus on Canadians to carefully investigate each and every product they buy for bullshit? Or maybe at the very, very least, create laws that would deny the food industry the ability to literally add vitamins to candy as a marketing ploy?

Seems to me that the one of the main reasons we might need these campaigns is because either way our government has dropped the ball on protecting Canadian supermarket shoppers from the food industry, and this product's a great example. If Nesquik Plus is actually legal then I'd argue the government truly doesn't give the tiniest of craps for the parents its Eat Well campaign purports to champion. If it's not legal, then they're doing a piss poor job of policing the shelves as according to Nestlé the product's been duping Canadian parents since October 23rd, 2011.

[Hat tip to my undergrad classmate and now stellar intensivist Dr. Hy Dwosh for snapping and sending me the photos]

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  1. Anonymous7:15 am

    Wow, I wasn't sure rather than to laugh or cry when I realized it had daily doasge recommendations exactly like medicine too (1-2times daily X_X) and "medicinal ingridents" Well, the bottle is rather cute though XD

  2. OMG! How did FDA let this happen!?

  3. This reminds me of when Kellogg's had the "Source of [9, 7, 4,etc] Essential Nutrients" on their boxes back in the 80s. Even Fruit Loops had the "Source of..." stamp on it.

  4. Anonymous10:03 am

    The reason this product is legally out on shelves is because it's hoping to be considered a 'natural health product' (NHP)- meaning it doesn't need to follow the 'food' regulations in terms of fortification or claims. (Note: there doesn't seem to be the required Natural Product Number (NPN) on the label - likely because they're still in the application process - which basically allows them to be on the market until the product gets reviewed). It's a win-win for the food industry since the NHP regulations allow them to fortify products and provide them with a coveted 'health halo' by labelling 'medicinal ingredients' and 'dosage' information, which is mandatory under the NHP regulations. As a former regulatory specialist in the food industry, I've seen countless marketing ploys to reformulate food products to meet NHP regulations that ultimately allows them to legally sell crap like this.
    @Yoni - I've been out of the field for a few years now and it is my understanding that the NHP directorate is cracking down on foods misusing the NHP regulations, but I think it's still worth following.

    1. No longer true (though indeed once was). This product is now part of a raft of nonsense that is being punted back from the NHPD to food but in the meantime still preys on consumers.

      Here's the website with the full list:

  5. Anonymous10:11 am

    Funny how they mention vit D & calcium for development of bones & teeth, yet don't mention how it contains SUGAR which leads to the development of cavities in teeth. SHOCKING!

  6. Oof. Appalling. And, after a couple minutes looking at Nestle's website, I'm extra sickened.

    "Backed by more than a century of research and experience, Nestlé Canada’s vision is to be the most trusted and respected Food & Beverage, Nutrition, Health and Wellness company in Canada, bringing Good Food, Good Life to Canadians."

    Also, the product names say enough, e.g. Gerber® Graduates® Toddler Drink, Gerber® Graduates® Yogurt MeltsTM.

  7. Anonymous12:25 pm

    Ever seen a kid put in only 1 1/3 tbsps of that crap in a glass of milk? Me neither.

  8. Anonymous12:36 pm

    That stuff looks tasty. PWO goodness

  9. Disgusting health-washing at its worst. Growing up I had to always dilute my chocolate milk with 1:1 of milk and water because it was too sweet for my taste. Imagine adding more sugar to children's drinks! Horrible.

  10. Marina4:12 pm

    I love that the "dosage" is for ages 13 and up.
    I guess you have to be 13 to be able to accurately measure out that extra 1/3 of a teaspoon.

    Yoni, any chance that government is re-looking at regulations for realistic serving sizes? You've blogged about it before, but I'm curious for an update.

    1 1/3 teaspoons my a$$.

  11. "Just 3 spoon-fulls of sugar helps the medicine go down, the medicine go down, helps the medicine go down in theist delightful way!"