Kellogg’s loses UK legal case against high-sugar cereal rules11 Jul 2022
US cereal manufacturer Kellogg has lost a UK High Court case that challenged regulations intended to restrict the promotion of high-sugar breakfast cereals in supermarkets.
The case revolves around UK plans to introduce regulations limiting the promotion of foods that are “high in fat, salt and sugar” (HFSS) in supermarkets and other large retailers, as part of its efforts to curb obesity.
Kellogg’s claimed new regulations, which will restrict promotional offers and the prominent placement of high-sugar cereals that are classified as ‘less healthy’, was unfair.
As well as restrictions on offers, such as buy-one-get-one-free and TV advertising, the regulations also ban online or app promotions, including putting HFSS foods on website homepages or displaying them when consumers are looking for other items.
Should milk count towards the nutrient profile?
A major argument brought forward by Kellogg’s in the case was that the nutritional content of breakfast cereals should be assessed with milk, and not on a dry weight basis, with the multinational arguing that the UK government had failed to consider this point when making the regulations.
Furthermore, the company argued on several more technical legal points, including the fact that the UK Parliament was not given the opportunity to properly scrutinise the UK Nutrient Profiling Model (NPM) and its application because it is included in a technical guidance document and not in the actual legislation, and that the regulations go beyond the legal powers that the 1990 Food Safety Act was originally intended for.
However, in a UK High Court judgment on Monday, Mr Justice Linden dismissed the claim, concluding that that the addition of milk would not affect the fact that the cereal was high in sugar. He also rejected the claim that the government did not consult the UK Parliament fully or properly.
UK Court: A ‘wholly unconvincing’ argument
“Kellogg’s argument is not that its products are themselves lower in fat, sugar or salt; it is that they should be assessed in combination with other foods and ingredients, namely semi skimmed milk,” noted Linden in his concluding statement.
“The suggestion that “Frosties” should not be regarded as a ‘less healthy’ product because of the nutritional value of the milk with which they may be consumed is surprising,” he said.
Justice Linden noted that the proposition that other Kellogg products including ‘Krave Choc Nut’ and ‘Crunchy Nut Clusters Milk Chocolate Curls’ ‘”somehow” become healthy products if they are consumed with milk, is “wholly unconvincing, as the addition of milk does not alter the nutrition profile of the products themselves.”
Kellogg’s ‘disappointment’ at court ruling
Kellogg UK managing director, Chris Silcock, said the company was disappointed with the verdict, adding that Kellogg has “always supported Government’s obesity strategy and work to tackle obesity.”
“We brought this legal challenge because we believe the formula used to measure the nutritional value of food is wrong when it comes to breakfast cereals, and we believe it is right to stand up for what we believe in,” said Silcock.
He that Kellogg still believes it is important that cereals are measured in a way which reflects how most people eat them (with milk) and that it remains concerned at the way the UK government introduced the regulations.
“While disappointed with this judgement, we respect the decision of the Courts and do not intend to appeal,” commented the UK managing director.
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