A CHOICE investigation has found that manufacturers behind products such as Paddle Pops, Tiny Teddies and Shapes are misleading parents by using self-made school canteen certifications on packaging to imply that their junk food is a good option for school lunchboxes.

“CHOICE found 17 different industry-made certifications that have manipulated the school canteen guidelines to promote nutrient-poor and processed foods,” says CHOICE spokesperson Tom Godfrey.

“These certifications claiming to be ‘school canteen approved’ are leading parents into believing products with these logos are a healthier option for their kids.”

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“School canteen guidelines exist to inform canteen managers on how to prepare their menus. Now we have food in supermarkets promoting an ‘amber rating’, which in a canteen setting means they should be ‘selected carefully’. Without the context of the guidelines, these claims are pushing unhealthy options.”

CHOICE’s research found that 43% of parents believed that products with these logos are healthier than similar products without logos. And 42% would be more likely to choose a product with one of these logos than a similar product without the logo.

CHOICE found that these logos predominantly appear on processed snacks with little or no nutritional value. Many products with these logos, such as Arnott’s 100s & 1000s Tiny Teddies, Monster Noodle Snacks and Parker’s Pretzel Snacks only get a health star rating of two or less.

“Our message to parents is simple: don’t trust the claims made by Arnott’s Tiny Teddies and other junk food companies around canteen certification.”

“School canteen approved logos are essentially acting as health halos for processed, packaged foods. With one in four children in Australia overweight or obese, we need labels that make it easier to make healthier decisions.”

“These labels aren’t accredited or approved by an independent body, they are created by the food companies themselves. Despite this, 43% of parents believe these logos have been approved by an independent authority or government body, and more than one third think that the use of these logos by food manufacturers is regulated,” Mr Godfrey says.

“We recommend that food companies replace these certifications with health star ratings so that consumers are able to make fair and easy comparisons between food products.”

CHOICE has today launched a campaign calling on food manufacturers to remove these self-made certifications off their products: choice.com.au/dodgylogos

Dr Kieron Rooney, nutritionist and Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Health Sciences at University of Sydney has been vocal in his criticism of how food companies are using canteen guidelines to market products.

According to Dr Kieron Rooney: “It is inappropriate for food manufacturers to take a government policy that was put in place to supposedly protect children’s health and manipulate it an attempt to health wash their discretionary food product.”

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