Australian consumer advocacy group Choice has accused food giants Nestlé and Kellogg’s of misusing the Health Star Rating system to make their products seem healthier.
Choice pointed out that Nestlé’s powdered drink Milo could achieve a 4.5 stars rating only when consumed with 200mL of skim milk, whereas it would only have 1.5 stars when consumed on its own. As for Kellogg’s, although its Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes Clusters only score 2 out of 5 stars, an example HSR of 3.5 was displayed on the side of the box.
“Health Star Ratings were introduced to help consumer make healthier choices. 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,” said Choice in a statement.
Claims have been denied by a Kellogg’s spokesperson, according to whom the company is currently in the process of updating all of its cereal packaging so that the health star fact box matches what is shown on front of pack. "This will be completed soon," he said, adding that the example 3.5 star ratings were clearly labelled 'example only'.
Meanwhile, Choice has launched a campaign against Nestlé asking that the current Milo packaging be changed. Anita Catalano, corporate affairs manager of Nestlé Australia, issued a statement refuting the allegations.
"The HSR scheme is based on a formula which assesses foods and drinks as they are consumed, and take a wide range of nutrients into account. For Milo, which has long carried a recommendation that it be consumed in a glass of skim milk, this formula gives it a Health Star Rating of 4.5. Milo powder also adds additional vitamins and minerals to what's already in the milk, such as additional calcium, iron, vitamin D and B group vitamins," she said, adding that over 60 percent of Nestlé's products carry the Health Star Rating on pack.
"Nestlé is committed to 'walk to the talk' on nutritional labelling. For us, adopting a 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."