One of our lovely AFK community members shared these images with me. These packets look so similar…the colours are similar….the crackers are similar…but when you flip the packet over..there is a vast difference.
The ingredients of the Coles Plain Rice Crackers are:
Rice Flour (95%), Sunflower Oil [Contains Antioxidant (320)], Salt, Sugar, Maltodextrin (From Maize), Flavour Enhancers (627, 631).
The ingredients of the Sakata Plain Rice Crackers are:
Rice (97%), Vegetable Oil, Salt.
What’s the issue?
Consumers are buying this product with the expectation that these crackers are plain. The reality is that these crackers come with additives including flavour enhancers. The presence of flavour enhancers to the reasonable consumers indicates that the cracker is anything but “PLAIN”.
The flavour enhancers (627, 631) in this product come with the following symptoms for the Additive Free Kids Community:
– Allergic reactions
– Behavioural problems
– Heart palpitations
– Skin rashes
Most importantly, these flavour enhancers are prohibited in food for infants. We heard from the AFK Community that these crackers were being bought and handed out in day care centres. There are thousands of consumers purchasing these products expecting them to be plain when they aren’t.
The AFK Community felt that this was very misleading and were eager for me to contact Coles on their behalf to provide our community feedback. First, I was keen to understand if there was any regulation surrounding the use of the word “Plain”.
Findings from the Department of Health
I spoke with the Department of Health (the department responsible for enforcing FSANZ Code). The representative from the department confirmed that the Code is silent on the use of the word “plain”.
Technically Coles had labelled their product correctly according to the code. No additional flavours were used, rather flavour enhancers which enhanced the ‘PLAIN” taste!
The AFK Community, “reasonable consumers” believed that plain crackers should be just salted. Not salted and processed free glutamates added.
As consumers we had the ability to take this to Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and state our views that the use of the word “PLAIN” in conjunction with the use of flavour enhancers is misleading to the reasonable consumer.
As a collective community we chose to contact Coles in the first instance, to see if they would consider relabelling their product, prior to contacting the ACCC.
Feedback from Coles
I must commend Coles on their great Customer Service during all our interactions. Initially the responses were slow…however…once the communication channels were open….they were very quick and very helpful.
The initial response to our feedback was:
“Hi Frankie, thanks for your patience. Our Merch Team have advised the biscuit is still considered to be a “Plain flavoured biscuit’ as no additional flavours have actually been added. The role of the flavour enhancers used in this product are merely to amplify and bring out the already existing flavour of the plain cracker. We hope this info helps.”Coles, 30th October 2019
My response was that this was misleading for the AFK community and that it wasn’t the expectation of a reasonable consumer. Plain crackers would not include any flavour enhancers.
I requested if Coles would consider changing the packaging and expressed the AFK Community’s disappointment. The AFK community wanted me to bring it to ACCC’s attention if there wasn’t a resolution from Coles. The feedback I received:
Together, we spoke…our voice was heard…
“Hi Frankie, we’ve heard back from our Merch Team. We can confirm the biscuits will now be called Coles Brand Original Rice Crackers. We’re also in the process of working with our supplier to confirm a timeline for the packaging change. We’ll get back if we have any more info on that front.”4th November, 2019
The Community were still a little dubious regarding the name change…however…I feel that “Original” is less misleading than “Plain”. There are plenty of other companies that use the word “Original” to represent their “original” seasoning / recipe or the like.
Obviously the community would prefer these ingredients to be removed from the crackers altogether and I did ask Coles if they would consider it. The response I received:
Hi Frankie, thanks for your patience. Our Merch Team have advised that they can propose the option of a Plain Rice Cracker in their next range review. We can also advise that our Health Food section has two similar products that are Organic and Gluten Free so our teams may work together on creating a plain cracker.5th November, 2019
Coles Gluten Free Original Organic Brown Rice Crackers
Coles Gluten Free Organic Brown Rice Crackers with Chia.
We hope this info helps and please feel free to get back in touch if you have any further questions or concerns.
These products are better alternatives to the Coles Plain Rice Crackers. I haven’t reviewed them fully to ensure that they are free from additives at this stage. I have sent off further requests to Coles for more information.
I would love to share a big thank you to every single AFK Community member for every like, comment and share. By coming together, we were able to have a united voice and spurred some change! Let’s keep it up!
As I always say…it is now up to you…it is time to #votewithyourdollar….and make sure you always #flipthepacket!
A year later and where are we at?
A year later and I am reviewing over 40 different crackers on supermarket shelves for our Additive Free Advocates. This package is submitted to be reviewed. I was stunned to see that the packaging hasn’t been updated.
I will tell you that I feel that we were silenced from progressing to ACCC by saying that they would update their packaging! I reached out to Coles again and requested an update and expressed on behalf of the AFK Community the frustration of their inaction. I advised them that these products and the ingredients they contain are being fed to infants when it is in direct contravention to the Code.
Nine days later after repeated prompts I am advised of the following:
Thanks for your patience, Frankie. The intended changeover was impacted due to a potential manufacturer change. However, working to maintain Australian manufacturing on this product range in challenging times throughout COVID, we have come to an agreement. Therefore, the revised date of the packaging changeover is estimated as March / April 2021.Coles
I made them aware again that this product contained ingredients that infants shouldn’t be consuming, and this information needed to be shared. This was their response:
We understand and appreciate your concerns, Frankie. Rest assured, your feedback has been shared with the relevant teams so they’re aware.Coles
What is your opinion. A year later, there has been no change. We have been delayed another 5-6 months. Do you think this should be referred to ACCC in the mean time so that innocent infants aren’t consuming these? Comment below.
Need more help with additive free products?
If you are looking for other plain crackers that have been through the most stringent screening process, you can join the Additive Free Advocates Membership. This membership provides you with exclusive product reviews (over 40 crackers have been reviewed) an online supermarket shopping database (you can search and find where to buy) so that you are provided with all the information you need to make an empowered and informed decision for you family. You can find out about the other amazing benefits and join the waitlist here
Frankie Bell is the Managing Director of Additive Free Kids, a food coach, mentor and is one of Australia’s leading activists against additives in foods.
Frankie is a mum to 5 boys and has personal experience working through the damaging effects of additives to resolve the multiple health issues and behavioural problems in her own children. It became Frankie’s purpose to help other families achieve the same improvements for their families.
These changes can be overwhelming, especially for time poor parents, Frankie has done all the hard work for families to ensure they have access to additive free food, anytime, anywhere. Additive Free Kids specialises in assisting families to live healthy lives free from additives. See how you can work together with Frankie here.