A major independent five-year review into the Health Star Rating system will be released today. The study concluded Australian diets are so poor, all fruit and vegetables need to be labelled with a five-star health star rating to encourage more consumption of whole foods and tackle the obesity crisis. All packaged fruit and vegetables would be encouraged to display the rating.
Health Star Rating is a voluntary front-of-pack labelling scheme that rates the overall nutritional profile of packaged food and assigns it an interpretative rating from 0.5 to 5 stars.
Harsher calculations for total sugars, sodium and a redefining of dairy categories is another recommendation by the review that would see hundreds of products potentially downgraded. These include some yeast spreads such as Vegemite, breakfast cereals like Nutri-Grain and Milo, muesli bars, sugary yoghurts and other discretionary items.
“The proposed changes would see decreases to the (health star ratings) of approximately 8 per cent of products … and increases to the (health star ratings) of 15 per cent of products,” the report states.
Today’s draft report, which will be open until 25 March for final soundings, is the result of extensive consultation, including public forums and the consideration of 483 stakeholder submissions.
1. The Health Star Rating system be continued
2. All products need to display the star icon, rather than some being allowed to now just display the energy graphic, to ensure consistency and ease for consumers to compare products
3. Governments, industry, public health and consumer bodies to invest in increased promotion of the health star rating system over the next two years to dispel confusion and increase awareness of how it can help healthy eating
4. Changes be made to how health star rating is calculated to better align with dietary guidelines. These include — all fruit and vegetables be given a 5 health star rating, total sugars more strongly penalised — lowering the HSR of 5 per cent of products, a redefining of dairy categories, increasing HSRs for healthier oils and oil-based spreads, jellies and water-based ice confections have HSRs lowered.
5. Changes to the calculation for non-dairy beverages to better discern water and drinks similar in nutritional profile from high energy drinks
6. Joint funding by federal, state and territory and New Zealand governments to continue for a further four years
7. Minor changes to the governance of the health star rating system to improve consumer confidence
8. Enhance the critical infrastructure to support implementation and evaluation of food and nutrition-related public health initiatives.
9. Governments set a clear uptake target of 70 per cent of products by 2023
10. Two existing guides on the Health Star Rating system be combined, revised and strengthened.