Mars courts row over health claims

Mars uses new logo on packaging to exploit finding that cocoa beans can reduce heart disease

Confectionery giant Mars is taking on the functional food market by promoting the benefits of its chocolate-making process, which it claims can reduce heart disease.

The company is currently sponsoring research in the US, which has made preliminary claims that cocoa beans used to make chocolate contain naturally-occurring polyphenols – plant compounds that can reduce the risk of heart disease.

Mars has created a Cocoapro trademark to promote the findings and is repackaging its confectionery range with a new logo.

The company says it has developed a process which retains polyphenol when chocolate is made.

But food watchdog the Food Commission has hit out, saying the move is just another way of selling more chocolate bars.

Spokesman Ian Tokelove says: “Mars is claiming this ingredient can reduce heart disease, but keeping fats and sugars hidden in the small print. We would call that misleading. It is another way of gaining an edge in the market.”

The Cocoapro symbol – a chocolate-coloured hand clutching a cocoa bean – already appears on chocolate and peanut M&M’s packets and is set to appear on Galaxy, Bounty, Twix and eventually the Mars Bar.

A Mars spokeswoman says: “The Cocoapro logo is a promise that the chocolate has been made using cocoa beans that are specially handled to preserve their natural goodness.”

A research paper provided by the company states chocolate has been used in some countries for more than 500 years to treat medical complaints including kidney stones, tuberculosis and anaemia.