Kellogg’s to challenge new UK rules for high-sugar cereals in court

Restrictions on promotion of junk food products part of government’s plan to tackle childhood obesity

Kellogg’s, the owner of brands from Coco Pops to Special K, has launched a legal action against the UK government over new junk food rules that will ban some cereals from being prominently displayed on supermarket shelves.

The cereal-maker, whose portfolio also includes Cornflakes, Nutri-Grain and Crunchy Nut, is fighting the restrictions on promoting products high in fat, salt, sugar and salt (HFSS) that come into force from October as part of the government’s plan to tackle childhood obesity.

The in-store promotion of junk food products will be limited, meaning they will not be allowed to be featured in high-profile locations such as checkouts, store entrances, aisle ends and in prominent positions in supermarket apps and websites.

Kellogg’s argues the rules fail to take into account the fact that 92% of people eat cereal with milk or yoghurt, which changes the nutritional profile of its products and means they would not be classified as junk food.

“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, which begins its legal action against the Department of Health and Social Care on Wednesday, said it had turned to the courts after attempts to “have a reasonable conversation with government” failed.

The case marks an important test of the rule changes, which also include a ban on junk food advertising online and before 9pm on TV from next year.

The government stands by the new regime and is fighting the Kellogg’s action to stop a precedent being set that could allow other brands to circumvent the restrictions.

“Breakfast cereals contribute 7% – a significant amount – to the average daily free sugar intakes of children,” said a spokesperson for the DHSC. “Restricting the promotion and advertising of less healthy foods is an important part of the cross-government strategy to halve childhood obesity by 2030, prevent harmful diseases and improve healthy life expectancy, so we can continue to level up health across the nation.”

The spokesperson added that obesity costs the NHS more than £6bn a year and is the second biggest cause of cancer in the UK.

Kellogg’s has a history of challenging regulations against the promotion of junk food. In 2018, the company successfully overturned a ban handed down by the advertising regulator against a Coco Pops TV ad targeting children, despite criticism from health campaigners.

Caroline Cerny, from the Obesity Health Alliance, said the latest move by Kellogg’s was a “blatant attempt by a multinational food company to wriggle out of vital new regulations”.

“It’s shocking that a company like Kellogg’s would sue the government over its plans to help people be healthier rather than investing in removing sugar from their cereals,” she said.

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