Have you noticed something different on the front of some food products lately? You’re not the only one! We brought you the scoop on the Health Star Rating System in this post last year. But now we are lucky enough to have a dietitian working with one of our iconic food brands update us on how the scheme is rolling out and what it means for your shopping decisions.
About our expert:
Trish Guy is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and the Corporate Nutrition Manager at Sanitarium Health & Wellbeing. Trish has been involved with the new Health Star Rating System introduction at Sanitarium Health & Wellbeing who have just launched the HSR labels on Weet-Bix and UP&GO products. She’s also a busy mum of 2 who is passionate about plant foods, a lover of tofu…and chocolate. Connect with Trish on twitter @TrishGuy.
What are Health Star Ratings?
The Health Star Rating system is a government-led initiative designed to provide shoppers with convenient, relevant and easy to understand nutrition information on pre-packed foods. The system provides a scientifically sound and simple visual snapshot of the nutritional credentials of food products, allowing you to compare similar foods and make informed and healthier food choices.
How does the Health Star Rating system work?
Health Star Ratings are determined using a specific calculation based on the amount of energy, saturated fat, sugars, sodium, protein and fibre in a product, along with values for the fruit, vegetable, nuts and legumes content, sometimes called ‘FVNL’ content. Products displaying Health Star Ratings have been ranked on a scale of 0.5 to five stars, with five stars representing the most nutritionally-sound options.
What does a Health Star Rating label look like?
A full Health Star Rating label displays an overall rating and nutrient information across a range of key elements, but smaller packs may have fewer icons or just show the overall rating.
Where did the system come from?
The Health Star Rating system was introduced by the State and Federal Governments in June 2014, and labelling will be implemented on a voluntary basis by manufacturers over the next five years, with a review of progress after two years.
Will all products have a Health Star Rating label?
It’s up to each manufacturer to voluntarily put the Health Star Rating on their products and some types of products are excluded. All Sanitarium products will use the Health Star Rating system, and we are pleased that many other leading manufacturers are also supporting the scheme, so in time you’ll definitely see more and more stars on food packs.
How should you use the Health Star Rating?
The intention of the system is to allow people to compare similar products to assist in making healthier food choices to help reduce the consumption of nutrients associated with chronic diseases, such as heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes.. While the visual representation of the star rating appears the same or similar across all food categories it is not intended that the system is used, for example, to compare a can of soft drink with a serving of breakfast cereal. Here’s the brand new video guide:
In addition, the system is not intended to guide people on how much of a particular food to consume. So, if a product scores 5 stars, this does not mean that it can be eaten freely or in large portions. Likewise, if a food scores a low star rating, it does not necessarily mean that small amounts cannot fit within a healthy diet. Rather, the system aims to enable people to identify the healthier option within a particular food category.
Where can you get more information?
You can find Health Star Ratings for Sanitarium products on the Sanitarium website, along with further information on the rating system.
Thanks for the update Trish. I think it’s so important that the education phase of this new system be rolled out rigorously so shoppers, the media and health professionals know it’s designed to compare similar products, not products from different categories. I also like your point about portion control still needing to be factored in! I think it’s very hard to get a perfect system when you are talking about nutrients and not foods, but overall I’m excited to see the eventual research and evaluation of this new Front of pack labelling System. I hope it helps with nutrition confusion and I’m pleased to see Australia taking a uniform approach to food labels. What say you lovely readers?