Monday, April 02, 2007

Red faces at the Ribena factory

Parents all over NZ have long been pleasantly mystified by why their children LOVE the drink Ribena. After all, it's soooo healthy, say the advertisements. It's made from Blackcurrants, which have four times the Vitamin C content of Oranges. Ooops. It turns out that commercial ready to drink Ribena not only has virtually no vitamin C, but it also has more sugar than Coca Cola!

More than year ago, two teenagers discovered this in a school science project, but the finding was completely quashed. I mean, schoolgirls.. what do they know, huh? Ribena just quietly started removing the health claims from their packaging and nobody really noticed until the Commerce Commission suddenly took an interest last week. I'd say that the $200,000 fine will just be the start once the irate parents start piping up. Nobody likes to be mislead, and most people feel quite strongly about trying to do that best for their kids.

Here is the story, and here is the media statement up on the Ribena site (no doubt, temporarily so have a quick look while you can). The UK Ribena people have taken the more subtle approach, blaming the testing method and the natural breakdown of Vitamin C.

I was raised on my Grandmas home brewed Ribena (actually she's always labelled it as 'Rubena' and nobody dare correct that), and never warmed to the commercial stuff. Grandmas Ribena has minimal additives, requires extreme watering down and makes you suck your cheeks in and make the 'Rubena face'. Mass produced Ribena tastes like sugar. Now we know why.

Get your vitamin C from raw fruit and veges. Ascorbic Acid (vitamin C) breaks down at about 100 degrees celcius. If it's heated above that, then it's not high in Vitamin C, no matter what you may be lead to believe. Also, it degrades with exposure to air, meaning that you are unlikely to get any significant vit C from any processed food or juice or food that has been in storage.


  1. Honestly, did anyone REALLY think that Ribena was "good for you"?

    Surely the sickly sweet taste was a bit of a hint.... I'm the world's meanest mother and gave my toddlers nothing but water and plain milk. They don't seem to have suffered any particular mental anguish from being so deprived.

  2. I was too friggin poor to be able to give my kids Ribena as wee kids, and I wished then that I could, cos it was so good for them! Friggin hell, how duped were we!!! It is amazing they got away with it for soooo long, and I think the fine they got was nowhere near enough! Yes Kek, I did think it was "good for you", dumb woman that I am, and totally ignorant (back then) to reading the ingredients etc on the packaging.

  3. Bugger, forgot to say "HI" to ya Sara, and thanks for the lovely comment on my blog.

  4. Well, who knew that being poor would turn out to be a blessing, Chris? :p

  5. The real issue was that Ribena heavily marketed the drink on it's Vitamin C content and 'naturalness'. They really went overboard with it on TV ads, having an animated blackcurrant bouncing around exclaiming it's high vitamin C content.

    You know, in Italy, I had an argument with the hostess of my B&B over the healthfulness of Nutella. In Europe, Nutella is marketed as a superior healthfood for children and most eat it every single morning! Not that I was complaining.. you know, holidays and all that...

  6. I remember when DD #1 was a baby checking out Ribena and being blown away that the main ingredient was sugar! BLows my mind!

    Liz ;)

  7. My sister replaced all her drinks with Ribena when she was pregnant because she thought it was all high in vitamins and so on. Now she feels a bit offended..


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