Both companies complained separately about the Dispatches programme broadcast on 26 October 2009. The programme featured the nutritional content of breakfast products, including levels of salt and sugar, and the marketing techniques used by the industry, in particular health claims, used by manufacturers to sell their breakfast cereals, drinks and bars.
The reporter examined evidence to support some of the health claims made by a range of products, and the content of some breakfast cereals together with the proposed rules governing the claims that were permitted for products.
She also looked at some products endorsed by HEART UK, a cholesterol charity, and questioned the system of endorsements.
The cereal manufacturers’ complaints focused on claims that 30gm portions of three-quarters of the most popular children's cereals had as much sugar per serving as a jam doughnut.
The programme also featured the Clucas family who experimented with new breakfast foods in preference to traditional breakfast cereals. Nestlé was mentioned in this part of the programme.
But the media regulator ruled that the cereal manufacturers had not been treated unfairly. “The programme did not unfairly portray Nestlé as manufacturing products that were bad for health, of making misleading health and nutrition claims in its packaging, or of targeting children inappropriately,” according to the Ofcom ruling.
Also, it was not unfair to Nestlé for the programme, in its discussion of salt and sugar content, to omit to refer to fat and energy levels in the different products featured, continued the judgment. And there was no suggestion in the programme that parents should replace breakfast cereals with chocolate cake or jam doughnuts.
The programme did not unfairly imply that Heart UK’s endorsement of Nestlé’s products was inappropriate, said Ofcom.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Kellogg’s told BakeryandSnacks.com: “We are constantly reminded that we’re held to high standards and we feel the same should go for programmes such as Dispatches.
“We’ve always been more than happy to answer our critics but, to do that, we must have a fair crack at the whip. The makers of Dispatches didn’t give us that so we complained and we weren’t the only ones. However, we’re very pleased the ruling recognised there was no suggestion of wrongdoing or duplicity on our part and that we weren’t being accused of ‘shovelling sugar into children’.”
Nestlé declined to comment on Ofcom’s ruling.