Consumer advocate CHOICE is urging Australia’s health ministers to take action on Health Star Ratings to avoid misleading consumers on high sugar foods.
Choice suggests introducing added sugar labelling on all packaged foods and to ensure that added sugar is more heavily penalised, while ratings on those with natural sugar contents are raised.
“The Health Star Rating System is meant to help people glance at a group of products to understand which options are healthier than others. Health Stars are a good system but they need to be stronger to really help people make easy decisions,” said Choice food expert Linda Przhedetsky.
“Choice’s own modelling has found that increased penalties for added sugar could significantly impact the Health Star Ratings that products are given. Some products containing added sugar would lose as much as 2.5 stars. However, healthier products that contain naturally occurring sugars – like fruit and dairy – gain stars.
Modelling completed by CHOICE based on a public submission from The George Institute based on best available data.
|CATEGORY||PRODUCT||CURRENT HEALTH STAR RATING||POTENTIAL HEALTH STAR RATING*||DIFFERENCE|
|Cereal||Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain cereal||4||1.5||-2.5|
|Cereal||Uncle Tobys Plus Protein||4||1.5||-2.5|
|Kids snack||Little Bellies Organic Gingerbread Men||2||1.5||-0.5|
|Snack bar||Emma and Tom’s Cacao & Orange Life Bar||1||1.5||0.5|
|Yoghurt||Gippsland Dairy Natural Yoghurt||4||4.5||0.5|
“Right now, the Health Star Rating algorithm treats all sugars the same. The system doesn’t distinguish between the extra sugar that’s added to foods like breakfast cereals and the naturally occurring sugars in dairy or fruits.”
Australia and New Zealand introduced the voluntary Health Star Rating system in 2014 to provide consumers with an overall signal about a food’s healthiness. Governments are now conducting a review of the system, five years on.