Camilla Barnard

We’ve just been pulled up for making an unauthorised claim on one of our cereals. They’re right; it isn’t an allowable claim, and of course we’ll change the copy. The funny thing is, it isn’t allowable, but I believe it is true.

We said that oats keep you fuller for longer. The EU Health Claims register said: “Non-compliance with the Regulation because on the basis of the scientific evidence assessed, this claimed effect for this food has not been substantiated.” One of the reasons I eat oats for breakfast is that I’m more likely to make it to lunch without needing a snack. Clearly my personal experience doesn’t constitute evidence, but try Googling ‘oats’ and ‘fuller for longer’ and you’ll find food brands and research studies all making the same claim.

I know, I know, not everything you read in the papers is true, but it’s almost impossible to find a dissenting voice when it comes to oats and satiety. One of the sources is a guide - The Eatwell Plate published by Derbyshire Community Health Services, an NHS body - that states: “Try to include at least one food from this group [the ‘yellow’ group, which includes oats] at each meal. Wholegrain varieties contain fibre, which we digest more slowly helping us feel fuller for longer.”

I’ve conducted a sophisticated consumer research panel to test consumer beliefs of oats (ie: asked a few friends and customers if they eat oats, and if so why). Interestingly those that do all referred in some way to feeling full, staying full or not snacking. The good news for us is that if all our consumers already believe this, then it’s no loss to anyone if we don’t mention it on pack.

The question for me is whether the claims system works. On the one hand, we can’t make claims that are in line with the government’s dietary advice, and on the other hand, it is allowable to say ‘no added sugar’ on a porridge pot that contains 15g of sugar per 100g, when oats contain about 1% sugar per 100g. It’s allowable because the ingredients are 73g oats and 27g of skimmed milk powder per 100g.

Rather than tear my hair out in frustration, which isn’t a good look, I’m taking the view that Rude Health is not about specific health claims, it’s about all-round general health from eating a wide variety of foods - including wine, a glass of which I’m about to take for medicinal purposes.