Health Star Ratings

March 22, 2015 BY: LISA

The Health Star Rating System

The new health star rating on food labels is a government initiative designed to make choosing healthy foods a little easier. It started at the end of 2014 and food manufacturers are encouraged to take up this voluntary initiative. The program will run in this format for 2 years and then be assessed for its effectiveness.

What does it look like?

The star system uses a pictorial ranking from ½ star to 5 stars – the more stars the healthier the food.

Health Star Ratings can appear on packs in two general ways. The first shows just the star rating of the product; the second can show the star rating plus additional specific nutrient content of the product.

health stars

 

http://www.healthstarrating.gov.au/internet/healthstarrating/publishing.nsf/Content/How-to-use-health-stars

The ratings are all based on 100grams or 100ml of the particular food- in this way you can directly compare products just as if you were looking at the food label.

How are the foods ranked?

It is based on the particular foods content of:

  • Energy
  • Saturated fat
  • Sugar
  • Sodium (salt)

The label may also include the following positive nutrients:

  • Positive nutrients – dietary fibre, protein and the proportion of fruit, vegetable, nut and legume content.

Why will the star ratings vary?

The health star rating could vary quite a lot between the same type of foods. This is because the saturated fat, sugar and sodium levels vary between products. For example one cereal may receive ½ star but another could be 5 star. The higher stars will mean the food has less saturated fat, sugar and salt. The amount of fruit, vegetables, nuts and legumes and sometimes dietary fibre and protein can also increase the star rating.

ABC news online made this comparison:

health star rating abc.net.au

Will all food products display the Health Star Rating label?

The Health Star Rating system is voluntary and will only appear on packaged food products at the discretion of food manufacturers and retailers (such as supermarkets). There are some food products which are not expected to display the Health Star Rating, which include:

  • fresh unpackaged food (such as fresh fruit and vegetables);
  • alcoholic beverages;
  • formulated products for infants and young children;
  • non-nutritive condiments (such as vinegar, herbs and spices);
  • non-nutritive foods (such as tea, coffee);
  • single ingredient foods not intended to be eaten on their own (such as flour)

 

No star rating doesn’t mean the food isn’t a good choice:

You would not get a health star rating on fresh fruit and vegetables BUT you can certainly consider these to be very healthy choices. The formula for assessing the star rating is based in the Australian Guide to Health Eating which recommends you have 2 fruit and 5 serves of vegetables each day.

A healthy diet is mainly sourced from the outside edges of the supermarket – this is where the fresh produce is usually located – often these won’t have a star rating.

Then again…

This initiative is designed to help consumers make healthier choices but sometimes the healthiest choice will be not buy the processed food in the first place.

For example- the manufacturers of sweet biscuits may choose not to put a health star rating on their food product because these foods certainly won’t get a high rating. Even if one sweet biscuit does get a mid-range ranking it doesn’t mean this makes it a good everyday food- sweet biscuits are sometimes foods.

biscuits

Word of warning:

“Don’t lose your common sense over what is an everyday food and what is a sometimes food.”

Lisa APD

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