A report by National Food strategy accuses Marks & Spencer of 'false virtue' for the packaging of Percy Pig, its famous pink sweets.
Marks & Spencer (opens in new tab) have been accused of "wilfully misleading" consumers with the packaging of its famous Percy Pig sweets.
The brand's trademark soft sweet were singled out in the National Food Strategy (opens in new tab) review, for their claims of containing "real fruit juice" and "no artificial colours of flavourings"; thus leading parents to believe they are a healthy snack (opens in new tab) for children.
The review was led by Henry Dimbleby, the founder of healthy fast food chain Leon.
Speaking at the launch of his National Food Strategy, the restauranteur had some choice words about the iconic British sweets, which he admits have been a "bug bear" of his for a long time.
“I just think that is not right. I think that is genuinely misleading,” he said.
The strategy report begs the question, "How many parents take the time to check the ingredients list?
“If they did, they might be agog to find that the three largest ingredients by weight are glucose syrup, sugar and glucose-fructose-syrup.”
The report insists it chose to single out Marks & Spencer "not because it is the biggest sinner, but because it is such a well-trusted company".
It continued, "A British institution, M&S has the pledge ‘we always strive to do the right thing’ as one of its guiding principles. If M&S – which is a great deal more scrupulous than many food companies – is guilty of such trickery, you can be sure the practice is ubiquitous."
READ MORE: What is the 12-week government obesity plan 2020 and how will it affect you and your family? (opens in new tab)
The report, which also calls for the expansion of free school meals, blasted food and drinks companies for false claims on their packaging.
"The words ‘free from’ and ‘less’ are sprinkled around without context. ‘Free from’ refined sugar, but rigid with fruit sugars? Nutritional values – calories, salt, sugar etc – are given ‘per portion’, even when a portion bears no resemblance to the quantity on offer.”
M&S issued a rebuttal of the report's criticisms, with a spokesperson for the company insisting, “All our products have clear labelling so that customers can make informed choices about what they buy.
"All our Percy Pigs are made with natural fruit juices and no artificial colours or flavourings and last year we also introduced a range of Percy Pigs with one third less sugar.”
Fans of the sweet were also quick to jump to the supermarket's defence, with one Twitter user writing, 'Seems to me like there are bigger villains than poor. And I’m pretty sure that setting your sights on M&S isn’t going to solve the nation’s obesity problem. But what do I know?'
'Honestly #PercyPig and #colincatapillars are two of a very few things keeping me sane right now. If anything happens to them..." wrote another fan.
Meanwhile another Twitter user posted a picture of the sweets decorating a chocolate cake, joking, 'Eat Percy Pigs responsibly....'
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Kate McCusker is a freelance writer at Marie Claire UK, having joined the team in 2019. Her remit is broad, and she feels incredibly lucky to cover everything from women’s empowerment to sustainability (with a regular helping of celebrity news thrown in for good measure).
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