Junk food giants fined over misleading healthy kids snacks

Photo: The Paddle Pop website showing nutrition information (Source: Unilever)

Two junk food giants have been rapped over the knuckles by the consumer watchdog for claiming their products were suitable for school kids.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has fined Unilever Australia and The Smith’s Snackfood Company $10,800 each for misleading healthy food representations.

Unilever said its Paddle Pop Rainbow ice cream was approved by school canteens and the packaging included a logo on the front, back and one side with the words “school canteen approved” with a tick symbol.

The Smith’s Pizza Supreme Rice Snacks were also described on the packet as meeting school canteen guidelines by using a logo and an image of a sandwich and an apple.

The ACCC said the packaging on both products did have a disclaimer saying the products met the amber criteria of school canteen guidelines, which means the product contains some valuable nutrients but may also be high in energy, saturated fat or salt.

But the watchdog noted that the disclaimer was small and on a different side of the packet to the logos.

ACCC commissioner Sarah Court said the watchdog was ensuring that health claims made by large companies were accurate and not misleading to consumers.

“The ACCC believes both companies were using logos to claim that these products were a healthy option for school canteens to supply to children, when they were not,” Ms Court said.

“School canteen managers, parents and caregivers rely upon product packaging and labelling when choosing healthy snacks for children.”

Unilever and Smith’s have told the ACCC they will stop using the logos on their packaging.

The ACCC took action after a complaint by consumer group, Choice.

The National Healthy School Canteens (NHSC) guidelines were set up by the Department of Health in 2010 to provide training and guidance to school canteen managers.