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Food firms parry criticism as healthy promotions launch

By Rod Addy+

03-Jan-2014

Nestlé, Kellogg and Asda are among those criticised by consumer group Children’s Food Campaign (CFC) for not doing enough to promote healthy eating as a government-backed scheme designed to do that launches.

Public Health England launched the Change4Life Smart Swaps scheme, which offers shoppers who sign up vouchers for money off healthy food and drink purchases, yesterday (January 2).

A total of £840,000 worth of vouchers is available, which can be exchanged at Aldi, Lidl, Asda and Cooperative Food stores in England.

However, CFC coordinator Malcolm Clark claimed Asda was the UK retailer doing the least to help consumers make healthy choices in stores, mainly because of its policy of promoting confectionery at checkouts.

Traffic light labelling

Nestlé had opted not to run traffic light nutrition labelling, which he believed was the clearest system, on its breakfast cereals, made by General Mills joint venture Cereal Partners UK, he said.

And General Mills, Kellogg, Coca-Cola and Dairy Crest had failed to ascribe to traffic light labelling altogether, he pointed out. Last summer, the Department of Health backed a hybrid system incorporating red, amber and green coding to denote high to low levels of fat, saturated fat, salt, sugar and calories.

However, in a statement issued to FoodManufacture.co.uk responding to Clark’s points, a spokeswoman for Nestlé said:  “We are in ongoing discussions with our joint venture partners (General Mills in Cereal Partners and Lactalis in Lactalis Nestle Chilled Dairy) about the system and we hope that all Nestlé branded products in the UK will apply the system in the future.”

A spokesman for Kellogg also responded: We have gone on record many times as saying that putting a colour on a label doesn’t help people make an informed decision about what to put in their shopping trolley.

‘Completely voluntary’

“It’s for these reasons we’ve decided not to adopt the new scheme – a scheme which the government has gone on record as saying is completely voluntary.”

Coca-Cola Enterprises, Dairy Crest and Asda were in the process of responding to Clark’s complaints when this article was first published.

In a statement coinciding with the launch of Smart Swaps, Clark said: “There is nothing smart about Public Health England partnering with the food industry without expecting more in return. 

‘Refused to sign up’

“Yet Nestlé, General Mills, Kellogg's, Coca-Cola and Dairy Crest – the manufacturers behind many of the sugary cereals, sugary drinks and high fat cheeses and butter that we are being told to swap away from – have refused to sign up to the new traffic light labelling scheme. 

“And Asda, one of the supermarkets chosen to front up the Change4Life voucher scheme, ranks bottom of our list for making healthy choices easier in store.”

He also said he believed manufacturers and retailers should promote healthy food throughout the year, not just in January, the focus of the Smart Swaps campaign.

The voucher scheme will urge consumers to switch from sugary drinks and cereals to low sugar alternatives, from full fat milk, cheese, butters and spreads to lower fat options. TV adverts will highlight the campaign.

“We know how difficult it can be to make big changes to your diet which is why this new Change4Life campaign suggests small changes as a step in the right direction,” said public health minister Jane Ellison.

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