14 February 2016
Consumer advocacy group CHOICE has uncovered health washing on a popular Nestle powdered drink and a number of cereals from Kellogg's, as the food giants try to manipulate the Federal Government's Health Star Rating scheme.
"It probably comes as no surprise that some food companies would try to game the Health Star Rating system. Clearly the desire to roll out Health Star Ratings on some of their products was more marketing trickery than a genuine attempt to help consumers make an informed choice," says CHOICE spokesperson Tom Godfrey.
Nestle's Milo displays a Health Star Rating of 4.5 stars but closer inspection reveals the rating is based on the product made up with skim milk. Without milk, Milo only gets a 1.5 star rating.
"Nestle calculates the Health Star Rating of Milo by assuming that Australians add three teaspoons of the mix to 200mL of skim milk," Mr Godfrey says.
"Do they really think this is how most Australians consume Milo? Calculating the Health Star Rating of Milo with skim milk is not helpful for consumers, especially for Aussies who eat their Milo with full cream milk, or even straight out of the can or on ice-cream.
"With 11 teaspoons of sugar per 100g, Nestle's 4.5 star rating on its Milo product is hard to swallow.
"Health Stars are a great system that can help consumers but the guidelines need tightening up. Clearly, the Health Star Rating rules need a review to make sure unhealthy products can't make themselves appear better than they really are," Mr Godfrey says.
CHOICE says Kellogg's is also sugar-coating the truth with their low-rating breakfast cereals by including a prominent display of an 'example Health Star Rating' of 3.5 stars on the side of their boxes.
For example, Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes Clusters, which only score 2 stars, have an 'example Health Star Rating' of 3.5 stars on the side of their boxes. Interestingly, their All Bran cereal, which scores 5 stars, has an 'example health star rating' of 5 stars.
"Health Star Ratings were introduced to help consumers make healthier choices. It is disappointing that food manufacturers are abusing the system to promote nutrient-poor foods as a healthier option," Mr Godfrey says.
"While we congratulate these companies for getting on-board with Health Stars, it is not useful to consumers when they game the system to make their products seem healthier."
The Health Star Ratings take into account kilojoules, protein, salt, sugar and saturated fat per 100 grams, allowing consumers to choose healthier options within a category without you having to seek out each of these details.
Six major food companies are still refusing to place health stars on their products including McCain, Mars, Mondelez, PepsiCo, Goodman Fielder and George Weston. CHOICE is running a campaign calling on these companies to get on board with the system: www.choice.com.au/healthstarratings.