Consumer watchdog Choice has employed the new Health Star Food Rating calculator to compare products from food giant Mondelez against its leading competitors' offerings.
Choice says that products from Mondelez, the parent company behind brands such as Kraft, Cadbury, Oreo and Nabisco scored less than its competitors in three separate product comparisons.
Choice Campaigns manager, Angela Cartwright said that of the three comparisons undertaken, the Health Star Rating ‘shot down the Mondelez product each time’.
Cartwright also emphasised that Mondelez had openly criticised the Health Star System, claiming that it was ‘ill-founded’.
“Choice decided to take a closer look at Mondelez after the company attempted to discredit the Health Star Rating Scheme, claiming the scheme was ‘ill-founded, unscientific and confusing’, when in fact it was considerably informed by market research showing strong support for it," said Cartwright.
“By providing a star rating, the new scheme will give consumers information they can use to make healthier choices at-a-glance. Choice questions whether the real reason Mondelez doesn’t like the system is that it would show consumers that some of their products are less healthy than the alternatives?”
Cartwright says that many other companies are behind the Health Star Rating and that the industry as a whole needs to get behind the system to ensure that consumers can make more informed purchase decisions.
“Our health star snapshot shows that it is possible to have considerably healthier versions of the same type of product. CHOICE thinks the Scheme will not only give consumers information they can use at-a-glance but spur companies to improve their product offerings, creating a healthier food supply in the long term.”
Of the products that Choice tested, Mondelez’ Kraft Strip Cheese scored two stars in comparison to Bega Stringers which came out with four stars.
Sanitarium’s natural peanut butter scored five stars while Mondelez’s Kraft peanut butter scored only three, and Mondelez-owned Ritz came out with only half a star while Arnotts’ Jatz scored two.
A spokesperson for Mondelez International said that the Health Star Rating system is ‘confusing’ and that the algorithm which produces the star rating is in need of ‘more work.’
“Given the health star rating shows that Philadelphia Cream Cheese is healthier than an apple, we believe more work needs to be done,” the spokesperson told SMH.
“The algorithm which determines the number of stars on a product has changed numerous times and is expected to change again, so the results should be used with caution.”
The Health Star Rating System has gained a spate of media attention in the last few weeks after the official website for the scheme was pulled offline after launching only eight hours prior.
Assistant Health minister Fiona Nash’s chief of staff, Alastair Furnival – whose wife is the head of lobbying company APA which represents Mondelez – allegedly ordered government officials to pull the website down.
A spokesperson for the health department said that the website was a draft’, and made live in “an inadvertent error”, claims that were widely refuted by public health groups who say that the website was pulled down due to industry influence.
Furnival, who is also a co-owner in his wife’s lobbying firm, has since resigned from his position as further conflicts of interest to his position have surfaced including revelations that Furnival is connected to the alcohol industry and played a key role in cancelling the funding of the Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia.