Consumer New Zealand says there are big problems with the health star rating, as it outs so-called healthy foods in its annual 'bad taste' awards.
There are three breakfast cereals on the list that are more than 20 percent sugar, and a hot chocolate powder that despite having a 4-star health rating is 62 percent sugar.
Consumer NZ head researcher Jessica Wilson said the health star-rating, a voluntary New Zealand-Australia scheme, was flawed because it let good nutrients in food products offset the unhealthy, so the product, overall, could be marketed as healthy.
Giving a few examples, she said changes need to be made to the scheme.
"We've got one cereal on our list from a brand called Freedom Foods which claims its product is low fat, a source of fibre and a nutritious way to start your kid's day. However, it turns out this nutritious cereal is also 22 percent sugar but you won't find that displayed on the front of the pack," she told Morning Report.
"We've also got another cereal from a brand called I love breakfast which claims not to contain any refined sugar and to be sweetened with the natural goodness of dates, but when you actually look at the ingredients list, unrefined sugar is the second largest ingredient in this product."
Over the weekend it announced the winners of its 2019 Bad Taste Food Awards.
Ms Wilson said this year's winners included products claiming to be "wholesome" or "nutritious", despite being more than 20 percent sugar.
"Low fat", "naturally sweetened" and "whole grain" claims also featured on sugary foods.
"Our demands are modest, we'd like manufacturers to clean up their act," she said.
"We also want some tougher rules in the food standards code to make sure manufactureres can't make these claims on sugary products or products high in sodium."
The recipients of this year's Bad Taste Food Awards are:
- Nestle Milo Duo: The label claims this cereal provides "energy + calcium", "vitamin D for growing bones" and is "whole grain guaranteed". But on the ingredients list this cereal is nearly 28 percent sugar.
- Freedom Foods XO Crunch: The label claims "the goodness of three grains", "low fat", and a "source of fibre". But also contains 22 percent sugar.
- I Love Breakfast Cocoa Magic Crunch: The box claims no trace of "no refined sugar" and naturally sweetened with dates. However, "unrefined sugar" is the second largest ingredient - ahead of the 4.5 percent date puree. The cereal's total sugar content is 25 percent.
- Countdown's Instant Drinking Chocolate: The product features a 4-star health rating and according to the label it contains "no artificial colours, flavours, or preservatives". However, the nutrition information panel reveals this product is 62 percent sugar.
- Maggi 2 Minute Noodles Chicken Flavour: The claim is that they're "made with wholegrain" and are "99 percent fat free". But one serving contains 935mg of sodium. That's almost half the 2000mg daily limit suggested for an adult.
- Tasti Fruit and Nut Snak Logs: Tasti claims its snack bars are "wholesome" and "nature's power pack". But they contain five different sweeteners - sugar, brown sugar, glucose, honey and apple juice concentrate. With the added sweetness from dried fruit, these bars are 38 percent sugar.
- Fry's Turkish Delight: The pack boasts this chocolate bar contains "60 percent less fat". It's also 51.8 percent sugar - on par with other bars - and nearly 5 percent saturated fat.
- Horleys Protein 33 Chocolate Fudge Flavour Energy Bar: The 20g of protein highlighted comes with 20g of sugar - that's five teaspoons in every bar.
- Mammoth Supply Co's Iced Original Coffee: The label says it contains 45g of protein. But each 600ml bottle, also contains three teaspoons of added sugar.
- Primo Sublime Lime: Like Mammoth, every 600ml bottle of this flavoured milk also comes with three teaspoons of added sugar.