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Consumer advocate calls out food brands

choiceConsumer group CHOICE has accused popular brands of ‘health washing’ on popular drink and cereal products.

CHOICE criticised Nestle and Kellogg’s for trying to “manipulate” the federal government’s newly implemented Health Star Rating system, rather than help consumers make an informed choice.

The group took specific aim at Nestle’s powdered drink Milo as well as a number of Kellogg’s cereals suggesting the brands are “sugar-coating the truth” to game the system.

“Health Star Ratings were introduced to help consumers make healthier choices. We’re disappointed that food manufacturers are abusing the system to promote nutrient-poor foods as a healthier option,” an article on the CHOICE website said.

“We congratulate these companies for getting on board with Health Stars, but it’s not useful to consumers when they game the system to make their products seem healthier.”

In a statement, Nestle defended it’s position. The company said Milo has long carried a recommendation that it be consumed in a glass of skim milk, which gives the product a Health Star Rating of 4.5.

“To date, more than 60 per cent of our products carry the Health Star Rating on pack and we’re continuing to roll it out to all our applicable products,” the statement read. “For us, adopting the Health Star Rating scheme is not about selling more products, it’s about living up to our responsibility to help our consumers adopt a healthy and balanced diet.”

Kellogg’s also strongly defended its use of the rating. “Kellogg’s is not gaming the Health Star Rating system,” a spokesperson for the organisation said.

“The star rating for all of our cereals is shown on the front of pack. Information is also available on our website. An explanation of the Health Star Rating system is shown on the side of our packs and is clearly labelled ‘example only’. This uses 3.5 stars regardless of the product – a 5 star food such as All Bran also shows 3.5 stars on the side.

“We are in the process of updating all of our packaging so that the example matches what is shown on front of pack. This has already been done for brands such as Nutri-Grain and Sultana Bran, with changes progressively rolled out across the range.”



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