Kellogg’s has instigated legal action against the UK government over new HFSS (high fat, salt or sugar) rules that will restrict the promotion and placement of junk food in supermarkets.
The restrictions come into force from October as part of the government’s war on obesity. For Kellogg’s, it means many of its flagship brands would be banned from featuring in volume-based promotions or be displayed in key sales locations like store entrances, checkouts and aisle ends. Additional online restrictions will also apply.
In their dry form, brands like Fruit and Fibre and Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes are deemed HFSS foods as per the Government calculations set out as part of the new rules.
Kellogg’s, however, is claiming those rules fail to consider that more than 90 percent of people eat cereal with milk or yoghurt. The company argues this alters the nutritional profile of its products and means they can’t be classified as junk food or unhealthy.
“We believe the formula being used by the government to measure the nutritional value of breakfast cereals is wrong and not implemented legally,” said Chris Silcock, UK Managing Director at Kellogg’s.
“It measures cereals dry when they are almost always eaten with milk. All of this matters because, unless you take account of the nutritional elements added when cereal is eaten with milk, the full nutritional value of the meal is not measured.”
Kellogg’s began the legal action against the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) on Wednesday after it tried unsuccessfully to have “reasonable conversations with Government”.
The cereal giant’s attempt to sidestep the Government reforms has attracted widespread criticism from health campaigners.
Caroline Cerny, Alliance Lead at Obesity Health Alliance, told the BBC: “This is a blatant attempt by a multinational food company to wriggle out of vital new regulations that will limit their ability to profit from marketing their unhealthy products.”
Cambridge scientist, broadcaster and obesity expert Dr Giles Yeo, meanwhile, pointed out the following on Twitter: “This is quite the argument from Kellogg’s, that proportion of sugar in cereal should be calculated after the addition of milk. Jam is mostly eaten on toast, should the sugar content of jam only be considered in context with toast?”
The legal action will be viewed as an important test of the new rules, which also include a pre-watershed TV advertising ban as of next year.