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GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)

Horlicks to go HVO free !

GSK informed us on 23 November 2006 that it is completely removing hydrogenated vegetable oil from all Horlicks branded products and the process will be complete by September 2007 and possibly sooner.

The spokesperson also informed us that a typical serving of Horlicks currently contains 0.38 grammes of trans fatty acids.


GSK is mainly known as a pharmaceutical giant. It also sells Horlicks as a "nutritional healthcare" product. Unfortunately Horlicks contains hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO), and the trans fats it contains are of course an 'anti-nutrient'.

Particularly outrageous is that Horlicks is deliberately aimed at pregnant and breast-feeding women - people who should be avoiding trans fats at all costs. For details see here. See this sickening blurb from the GSK website:

Horlicks, ‘The Great Family Nourisher,' is a nutritional drink made from wheat, milk and malted barley and is sold in powdered form. The brand is such an enormous success in its key market, India, that alongside the traditional family formula, there is a special formulation for children between one and three years of age and another for breast-feeding mothers.

A long-standing customer wrote to GSK at in March 2005 as follows:

We have been buying Horlicks (original) for some time now, and are also avoiding the harmful artificial trans fats introduced into foods with the use of hydrogenated vegetable oil / fat. It was with dismay that I discovered that you have changed the formula of "original" Horlicks and are now including hydrogenated fat.

It beggars belief that you have taken this step at a time when many other manufacturers are taking steps to remove, or at least reduce, trans fats from their products. I cannot believe that anyone in the food manufacturing industry is unaware of the problems associated with these fats, especially a company also involved in the medical industry. I suspect, and you may correct me here, that the change has been made to remove the peanut oil content; however this means that instead of being unsuitable for those with a nut allergy, Horlicks is now not safe for anybody.

Hopefully you will be able to tell me that this is a short term aberration and that Horlicks will be re-formulated again soon. On a final note I would ask how you can justify continuing to label the product as "Original Horlicks" when it contains this obviously unoriginal (and unnatural) ingredient.

Regards, Tony Fenton.

Here is the response - so inadequate as to be comical! It fails to answer Tony's questions, and goes on and on about GM crops, something he never asked about:

Thank you for your e-mail regarding Horlicks. We can confirm that the vegetable oil in Horlicks is hydrogenated.

Horlicks contains a selection of added vitamins and minerals. Vitamins A and D are fat soluble and need a carrier to help them blend into the Horlicks mixture during manufacture. The carrier used, be it in minute amounts, is fish gelatine. Therefore Horlicks is not suitable for vegetarians or anyone who excludes fish from their diet.

We can confirm that as far as we are aware, none of the products supplied by GlaxoSmithKline Nutritional Healthcare (Ribena, C-Vit, Lucozade, Horlicks) contain any genetically modified soya or maize, or ingredients derived from these GM foods that necessitate labelling to meet the requirements of EC Regulation 1139/98.

Our position on Genetically Modified Foods is that as one of the worlds leading healthcare companies, GSK's prime objective is to continually explore new areas of research which can be developed to deliver real benefits to people all over the world. GlaxoSmithKline discovers, develops, manufactures and markets pharmaceuticals, vaccines, over-the-counter medicines and health related consumer products, and provides healthcare services including clinical-laboratory testing, disease management, and pharmaceutical-benefit management.

Currently, GlaxoSmithKline is at the forefront of genetic research, discovering medical applications in this new frontier of science that will, in the long term, produce new and potentially life-saving pharmaceutical products. We do not however, market genetically modified food or drink products. GSK will continue to monitor developments in this area and as applicable, work with government and industry associations to ensure the appropriate development and use of products available to consumer.

Regards, Consumer Relations.

If yo have the time, maybe you could email them as well and see if they can come up with a more adequate response!


Post: GlaxoSmithKline plc, 980 Great West Road, Brentford, Middlesex TW8 9GS.
Phone: +44 (0)20 8047 5000 (Consumer Healthcare)


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