They are the little blue labels that you will have started to notice appearing on more and more products over the last few years, but while the Health Star Rating (HSR) system has made steps in the right direction to decoding the nutritional profile and value of packaged foods, Nutrition Australia argues that they still have a way to go and are calling for changes to be made.
Nutrition Australia is an independent organisation, “that aims to promote the health and well-being of all Australians” according to their website.
The organisation has recommended a number of changes to the HSR system, such as a need to distinguish between naturally-occurring sugars and added sugars when rating a food and also taking into account the difference between high-fat foods made predominantly from saturated fats, and foods such as olive oil or avocado which could be deemed as ‘healthier fats and oils’.
Designed to make it easier for shoppers to choose healthier options, the Health Star Ratings range from ½ a star to five stars. The more stars a product has, the healthier it is meant to be.
However, Nutrition Australia have noticed some discrepancies in the system which have seen some obviously unhealthy foods rated with more stars than foods which are necessary as part of a balanced diet.
For example, some core ‘healthy’ dairy foods such as yoghurt and cheese receive less health stars than manufactured dairy products such as desserts and processed cheese.
The HSR also doesn’t differentiate between products containing wholegrains and those containing refined grains, such as bread, rice, flour, and breakfast cereals.
Nutrition Australia’s calls for further action come as the HSR system’s five year review is currently underway.
Nutrition Australia Vic Division CEO, Lucinda Hancock, said, “We congratulate the government for establishing the Health Star Rating and for taking feedback since its inception in 2014. The draft report contains many welcome improvements will help improve the products Australians buy and consume every day.”
“It’s imperative that the Health Star Rating makes changes now, to score foods and drinks better so that everyday Aussies can confidently select nutritious options from the five core food groups, and avoid sneaky and misleading unhealthy options
“It’s a complex initiative, but with further changes it will be a convenient, easy to understand tool to assist consumers to make healthier choices.”