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    Health Products Sold via Livestream Not That Healthy: New Report

    A new Shanghai Consumer Council report that surveyed livestreamers selling health foods as sugar-free or sucrose-free found that nearly half the products did not match their promotional claims.

    Raising safety concerns about zero-sugar foods and beverages, which are growing in popularity across China, the Shanghai Consumer Council has warned that some food products marketed in livestreams have been misleading consumers about their sugar content.

    The warning follows a new report by the Shanghai Consumer Council, which monitors goods and services in the city and protects consumer rights, that surveyed the quality of healthy food — those claiming to be low in fat, sugar, sodium, or high in protein — sold by 100 livestreamers on 14 major e-commerce platforms, including Taobao, Douyin, and Xiaohongshu.

    Released ahead of Consumer Rights Protection Day on March 15, the survey tested products sold by livestreamers and compared their nutritional content with claims made in their promotional material.

    According to the report, the livestreamers assessed received an average score of 5.44 out of 10. And among 14 major e-commerce platforms evaluated, the country’s social superapp WeChat ranked lowest with a score of 1.80, underscoring a “severe” shortcoming in consumer rights protection.

    Of the 100 livestreamers surveyed, 83 marketed their products as sugar-free or sucrose-free, targeting specific groups such as babies with diabetes, expecting mothers, or the elderly. However, nearly half the products did not match their promotional claims, with some “sugar-free” items containing high sugar levels, the report found.

    The Council specifically criticized nine livestreamers for their misleading practices, most related to misrepresenting sugar content. For instance, a dried mango product advertised as having no sugar, salt, or additives was found to contain 69.7 grams of sugar per 100 grams.

    According to national food packaging standards, a product can only be labeled “zero-sugar” if it contains less than 0.5 grams of sugar per 100 grams, and “sucrose-free” means no sucrose is added during processing.

    In recent years, sugar-free products in China have surged in popularity, driven by increased health consciousness and concerns over obesity. A report by market research firm iiMedia Research predicts the market for sugar-free beverages will triple from 19.96 billion yuan ($2.8 billion) in 2022 to 61.56 billion yuan in 2025, with more than half of consumers viewing these products as a means to prevent diseases and manage weight.

    The Council also criticized the widespread “zero-additive” marketing claim, suggesting some sellers use it to falsely imply their products lack unnecessary additives like pigments and preservatives.

    Editor: Apurva.

    (Header image: Screenshots showing some of the livestream channels that were criticized for false publicity. From The Paper)