Generic Food

Reporter: Helen Wellings

Are generic foods healthy? The National Heart Foundation says no. That's a critical issue for shoppers. In tough times almost half of all shoppers are choosing generics.

The priority for shoppers now ... save money - sales of generic products have soared - 1 in 4 items we buy at the supermarket are the home brands. On an average weekly shop of $110, you could save $30 or $1500 a year but now the question is - are generics as healthy?

The National Heart Foundation's Dr Lyn Roberts says "Cheaper foods often equal cheaper less healthy ingredients. Ingredients such as cakes biscuits, fried chicken cooked in cheap imported palm oil and laden with saturated fat."

The Heart Foundation says generics could cost us our health. After analysing 5,000 packaged food products - from tinned products to cereals, the Foundation is claiming that overall, generics have more salt, bad fats and more calories than branded products. But do they really?

The industry's furious because the Foundation refuses to name one single product.

With the Heart Foundation's reluctance to name even a single product on their generic blacklist we asked Dietician, Sharon Natoli from Food and Nutrition Australia to analyse and compare some popular brand name foods with generics.

Sharon Natoli believes you can't conclude that generics are worse or better than brand names.

Pies - in our tests on 8 different brands, the generics, You'll Love Coles and Woolworths Home Brand had the LEAST FAT of all - only 11 to 12 gms a pie compared with up to 23 gms, 4 and a half teaspoons, in branded pies.

We're aware that Woolworths Home Brand orange juice is made by Berri, Home Brand Sliced Beetroot - Golden Circle, Home Brand tinned fruit - SPC, Home Brand Cheese Devondale, Wheat Biscuits and Weet-bix - both Sanitarium.

"We would like supermarkets to ensure that private label products are no less healthy than the more expensive foods." But Dr Roberts would say that. The Heart Foundation's own survival depends on these little ticks and companies pay a licence fee to display them. McDonalds has them on nine of it's meals.

"It's pretty hard to label the whole generic market as being worse without providing any of the detail of who the specific offenders were." Dr Andrew Cavanagh from the Australian Centre for Retail Studies questions the National Heart Foundation's motives. "We need to be very careful about understanding why the Heart Foundation are making the claims they are making... there may be a commercial motivation for it but without talking to the Heart Foundation it is hard to make a judgement on that."