Consumer advocacy group CHOICE criticises food companies over canteen certifications

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 19th October 2015

SchoolConsumer advocacy group CHOICE ha hit out against some of Australia’s biggest food companies saying the companies are misleading consumers by using self-made canteen certifications.


Street’s Paddle Pops and Arnott’s Tiny Teddies are among the foods CHOICE say use self-made canteen certifications.


“CHOICE found 17 different industry-made certifications that have manipulated the school canteen guidelines to promote nutrient-poor and processed foods,” says CHOICE spokesperson Tom Godfrey.


“These certifications claiming to be ‘school canteen approved’ are leading parents into believing products with these logos are a healthier option for their kids,” Godfrey said.


The advocacy group stated its research discovered that 43 per cent of parents believed  products with these logos are healthier than similar products without the logo, CHOICE research further said 42 per would be more likely to choose a product with one of of these logos than a similar product without it.


“Our message to parents is simple: don’t trust the claims made by Arnott’s Tiny Teddies and other junk food companies around canteen certification,” said Godfrey.


“School canteen approved logos are essentially acting as health halos for processed, packaged foods. With one in four children in Australia overweight or obese, we need labels that make it easier to make healthier decisions,” Godfrey said.


“These labels aren’t accredited or approved by an independent body, they are created by the food companies themselves. Despite this, 43% of parents believe these logos have been approved by an independent authority or government body, and more than one third think that the use of these logos by food manufacturers is regulated,” Godfrey said.


“We recommend that food companies replace these certifications with health star ratings so that consumers are able to make fair and easy comparisons between food products,” Godfrey said.


In response to the group’s findings, CHOICE has launched a campaign calling for food manufacturers to remove the certifications.


Arnott’s response


In response to CHOICE’s claims Arnott’s told Australian Food News:


“Arnott’s is in the process of updating our Tiny Teddy and Shapes formulations and packs for the first time in many years. As part of this work, we are focusing on the new Government Health Star Rating System and moving away from the Canteen Guidelines. Beginning early next year, references to the canteen guidelines will be phased out on the front of pack for Tiny Teddy and by mid next year will be entirely removed from all Shapes and Tiny Teddy packs.”


Streets Ice Cream response


Streets Ice Cream also responded with the following:


“Streets Ice Cream only uses the school canteen-approved logo on products which meet the independent standards set by the Australian National Healthy School Canteen Guidelines.


Our research shows many parents consider Paddle Pop to be a nutritionally sound treat option for their kids. The school canteen-approved logo enables parents to easily identify products that are designed for kids and meet higher nutritional standards than many alternatives.


As part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, we’re committed to ensuring all of our children’s ice-creams are nutritionally responsible and under 110 calories.”