Many of the fermented milk-based drinks touted as health drinks in Taiwan are in fact high in sugar and low in dairy content and lactic acid bacteria, according to a survey released by the John Tung Foundation yesterday.
Some of the worst offenders contain 36g, or almost 8 teaspoons worth of added sugar in a 200ml drink, the foundation said.
"That's almost enough calories to get you all the way up 101 [tower]!" said Sheu Huei-yu (許惠玉), the foundation's chief of nutrition intervention and evaluation, at a press conference held in Taipei.
According to Sheu, diluted fermented milk products marketed towards the health-conscious have been making a big splash in the country's beverage market, but many do not live up to their claims.
"First, people have to remember that low fat does not equal low calorie. Also, some products that are marketed as low in calories are still full of sugar -- they're lower in calories because they contain almost no dairy," he said.
The beneficial effects of lactic acid bacteria is a selling point for many fermented milk-based beverages, he added, but according to the foundation's new report, the majority of fermented milk-based beverages only contain a tenth of the bacteria found in traditional yogurt.
Consumers are advised to scrutinize labels carefully.
"Many products labeled `original flavor' still contain added sugar", warned Sheu, "and many `lactic acid' beverages contain no live bacteria at all."
In order to help consumers make informed choices, the John Tung foundation sampled nearly 60 fermented milk and yogurt products available on supermarket shelves around the country.