‘Misleading’ health claims on HFSS products to be a ‘national scandal’

Over half of UK ‘flagship’ products across five global food companies are high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS), some packaged with misleading health claims, according to a recent survey.

Conducted by expert group, Action on Salt with charity, ShareAction, the research found that over one third of the HFSS products looked into, displayed misleading nutrition and health-based claims.

Of the five companies surveyed, which included Unilever, Nestle, Kelogg’s, Danone and Kraft Heinz, Unilever and Kellogg’s were found to have the highest number of HFSS products at 14 of 20 items each.

Additionally, Kellogg’s was found to add health and nutrition claims to 10 of its HFSS products.

Within Nestle’s product range surveyed, 10 had salt targets, all of which are currently met and Danone was seen to have just two of 20 products deemed as ‘unhealthy’.

Following positive results from the report, Danone commented: “We urge the rest of the industry to join us in putting health first, going beyond just meeting regulatory standards, and actively working to make healthier choices the easy option.”

READ MORE: Walkers launches HFSS guide to support retailers with upcoming regulations

With an aim of tackling HFSS products and promotions, Action on Salt and ShareAction has called on major food businesses to increase their range of healthy products and to stop making health claims on unhealthy products.

Also urging the government to intervene, the next HFSS restrictions set to hit UK stores will arrive in October of this year with  ‘unhealthy’ products banned from aisle ends. Other restrictions which were set to be implemented at the same time have been delayed until October 2023, due to setbacks caused by the cost-of-living crisis.

“It’s a national scandal that most of these big food companies are blatantly contributing to the number of people dying and suffering unnecessarily from strokes and heart disease, which remains the biggest cause of death in the UK,” Action on Salt chair, Graham MacGregor said.

“Fundamentally, we need these companies to be more responsible and for the Government to take full control with strict measures to include mandatory targets for reformulation, well enforced marketing and promotions restrictions (including shortening the delay to ban multi-buys and advertising) and better food-labelling requirements.”

ShareAction head of health, Ignacio Vazquez added: “The impact of obesity on a healthier society is clear and investments in companies over-reliant on the sales of unhealthy foods are fast becoming stranded assets.

“We have seen the UK retail market respond to these issues by setting clear targets to increase their sales of healthy foods over time. Shareholders of food manufacturers need to call on them to do the same.”

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