In a statement on Friday the advocacy group said the junk food giants had been ‘slow to swallow Health Stars’.
“These global food giants have changed their packaging many times since the Health Star system was launched 2 years ago,” said CHOICE’s head of media Tom Godfrey.
“There is no excuse for them hiding the health information their customers crave.”
The call came after CHOICE research found that 76 per cent of Australians refer to the Health Star Rating regularly when choosing processed foods.
“The Health Star Rating is a great initiative from the federal government that allows consumers to quickly compare the nutritional value of packaged foods within categories,” Godfrey said. “With more than three quarters of Australians referring to the Star Ratings when making decisions in the supermarket, we can only assume the confectionery companies’ failure to adopt the system is because they are embarrassed about the nutritional value of the food they sell.”
CHOICE’s research also found the system is recognized by 72 per cent of Aussies, with a staggering 85 per cent are young Australians who are aware of Health Star Ratings when shopping.
“Our research clearly shows the Health Stars are working, 74 per cent of Australians strongly agree front of pack labels help them make healthier food choices,” said Godfrey. “People are using the system to make better choices and they want to see the ratings on more products. Our research shows 79 per cent of people strongly agree they would like Health Stars to appear on more products.”
The Health Star Rating is currently voluntary and many major retailers including Coles and Woolworths have already used the system on all their products. Godfrey commends these companies who are taking a positive step to help consumers make informed food choices.
“Coles confirmed to CHOICE they now have Health Stars on more than 1500 Coles brand products including packaged salads, our grill meat range for the BBQ, breakfast cereals, muesli bars, some groceries, milk and juices,” he said.
“It seems clear Mondelez’ reluctance to roll out Health Stars is because they are embarrassed by the nutritional profile of their products. When you consider Mondelez’ ‘all natural’ Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese, would only display 1 Health Star compared to Coles Cream Cheese’s 3 Health Stars, the motivation to hide the rating is plain to see.”
He said it’s about time companies like Mars, Mondelez and Goodman Fielder to roll out Health Stars on all their products, following the lead of Coles and Woolworths.
In response to CHOICE’s statements, Mars Food’s Research & Development Director Peter Crane confirmed the company is committed to introducing the Health Star Rating system.
“Customers will start to see the Health Star Rating appear on Mars Food Australia products across its Dolmio, MasterFoods, KanTong & Uncle Ben’s brands from early 2017,” Crane said. “With more than 500 products which meet the Health Star Rating criteria, relabelling will be phased and will be complete by 2018.”