Lower fat may mean more of the sweet stuff

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So-called low fat foods can contain a similar number of calories as the standard versions – and might have more sugar, according to a study.

Which? found six out of 10 consumers eat low-fat and light foods several times a week, thinking they are a healthier option.

But a ‘snapshot sample of 12 low-fat, reduced and light products, compared with their standard counterparts, found some minimal differences in calorie content, the consumer watchdog said.

The magazine found misconceptions among consumers about the meaning of the terms reduced fat and light, with 16 per cent of people correctly responding that products carrying the label had to contain 30 per cent less fat than the standard alternative.

Labelling regulations define low fat as containing less than 3 per cent fat, the terms reduced fat, light and lite mean 30 per cent less fat than the standard or original product, and more than 20g of fat per 100g makes a product high in fat.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd says: ‘Consumers are choosing low-fat and light options believing them to be a healthier choice, but our research has found that in many cases they’re just not living up to their healthy image. Our advice to consumers is to read the nutritional labels carefully.’

Which? has campaigned for clearer food labelling and is calling on Morrisons and Iceland, the two remaining supermarkets yet to adopt the traffic light system, to do so as soon as possible.