Heinz Biscotti screengrab

Heinz has agreed to stop promoting its Biscotti finger biscuits for infants as a ‘healthy snack’.

The supplier and advertising watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority reached an informal agreement that Heinz will no longer use the claim in its marketing following a complaint by the Children’s Food Campaign.

The CFC challenged whether references to ‘healthy snacks’ in three ads – for Heinz Golden Multigrain Biscotti, Chocolate Biscotti and Organic Biscotti – on the brand’s website condoned or encouraged “excessive consumption of a food, poor nutritional habits or an unhealthy lifestyle in children, and damaging oral healthcare practices in children”.

Following an approach by the ASA, Heinz agreed to remove references to the products being ‘healthy snacks’ or ‘snacks’ from its advertising, and to remove or to amend health claims in line with previous ASA rulings.

Heinz told The Grocer it took its responsibilities as an advertiser very seriously. “As soon as we were made aware certain elements of our website copy may not have met the high standards we demand, we took immediate action to make changes,” said a spokesman. “The matter was resolved to the satisfaction of the ASA.”

The Biscotti contain at least 24g of sugar per 100g, and the CFC claimed Heinz had been caught “red-handed trying to mislead parents into believing sugary biscotti are an appropriate and healthy food to give to babies”.

“However, there is little cause to celebrate yet, as Heinz’s changes are merely cosmetic – they are now simply using different wording,” added CFC co-ordinator Malcolm Clark. “This case reveals the limits of existing advertising rules, the relative powerlessness of the regulator, and the impunity of Heinz to continue spending millions promoting sugary babyfoods.

“That may be a satisfactory resolution for the ASA, but it is not for us, or the many health professionals, early years specialists and parent groups who support our campaign. We urge the government to robustly address marketing and reformulation of less healthy food and drink in its forthcoming childhood obesity strategy.”