Which? research has again highlighted how consumers are still wasting money on products claiming to be healthier than they really are.

Our study of the toddler milk market revealed that parents could save up to £531 a year by switching to cows’ milk. A report on food supplements also found consumers could be throwing away money on products with unsubstantiated claims.

Toddler milks aimed at children between one and three are a growing market. Our survey shows nearly half (46%) of mothers with a child over the age of one said they used toddler milk.

However, when we looked at the most popular brands we found that not only are these milks more expensive, they also contain more sugar and less calcium than cows’ milk. Full-fat cows’ milk contains 4.7g of sugar per 100ml - much less than Hipp organic combiotic growing up milk powder, which has 7.9g of sugar per 100ml. Cows’ milk also has higher levels of calcium.

“Parents could make a saving of £531 by switching to cows’ milk”

Government advice is that toddler milks are unnecessary, as young children can drink cows’ milk from age one onwards. Parents could make an annual saving of £531 by switching from ready-to-serve toddler milk costing up to £593 per year to cows’ milk, which costs just £62.

Although toddler milks contain more iron and vitamin D than cows’ milk, these nutrients can be obtained from a child’s diet and a multivitamin, as recommended by the government.

Which? also looked at claims being made on food supplements. This is also a large market - a third of people in a recent survey said they took supplements regularly. Which? campaigned for many years for independent assessment and approval of claims after repeatedly finding products that were more about marketing hype than health.

EU legislation has introduced a list of approved claims, but our research found that several supplement manufacturers are still using clever wording to suggest health benefits that have been rejected and, in our view, fail to comply with the spirit of the law.

Several products we looked at included additional ingredients such as vitamin C and calcium, which do have proven claims, to imply benefits for other more prominently labelled ingredients that have had claims rejected, such as glucosamine. Consumers are likely to think there are benefits in buying these more expensive products - glucosamine supplements can cost up to £1 per day, while a multivitamin supplement costs as little as 3p.

With probiotic and prebiotic products also found to be on the market making unproven claims, more still needs to be done to ensure that consumers’ interest in making healthier choices is not exploited.

Sue Davies is chief policy adviser at Which?