Health Star Ratings are a quick and easy way to compare
the nutritional profile of packaged foods. These are the
voluntary front-of-pack labels, designed to help people make healthier
The current health-star ratings system is being reviewed to
consider whether it could be improved.
Diabetes Queensland dietitians were asked by Diabetes Australia
to submit their views on the Australian Health Star Rating
Our dietitians' submission focused on three issues they believe
will improve the HSR system.
- Apply an individual colour to each of the six
categories to highlight to consumers that the system is designed to
compare foods within a given category, not foods between
For example, all fruit and vegetables may display a health star
rating (HSR) with a green background while dairy products have a
blue background and discretionary items have a red
Consumers may currently compare a muesli bar and yoghurt both with
3.5 star rating and assume they have the same nutrition
This would need to be accompanied by a marketing campaign to
inform consumers they can only compare products with the same
colour background on the HSR label.
- Review manufacturer's 'as prepared' rule and implement
an 'as sold' rule
Products are not always prepared according to manufacturer's
For example, formulated supplementary food like Milo could be
mixed with low-fat or full cream milk, water, sprinkled on ice
cream or eaten out of the tin.
Most manufacturers choose to display only the most nutritious
option in the 'serving suggestion', which may inflate the overall
- HSR on tinned/canned vegetables and fruits, and fresh
and deli meats
On top of the fresh and frozen vegetables/fruits with no additives
being suggested to have the HSR, we believe tinned vegetables and
fruit, fresh and deli meat should also be required to have a
Tinned vegetables labeled as 'no added salt' often have added
sugar, which needs to be reflected in the HSR. Applying the HSR to
tinned fruit will also help highlight products that have added
sugar/syrup compared to fruit in its juice.
Deli meats are often heavily processed and high in added salt,
however, consumers often perceive such choice are equivalent to the
"It's not a perfect system but it is helpful," says
Diabetes Queensland dietitian, Dale Cooke on the current HSR
"We need to use it as a tool. But always remember the less
processed a food is, it is always going to be better," she
The findings of the review will be provided to the Australia and
New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation in mid-2019.
Meanwhile, Professor Bruce Neal from the George Institute for
Global Health in Sydney has reviewed more than 34,000 packaged
foods with health-star ratings.
And found that seven out of 10 packaged foods contain added
sugar that is not clearly identified by nutrition labels.
- 70 per cent of packaged foods contain added sugar not
identified by nutrition labels
- Food manufacturers are only required to list total sugar,
including natural and processed
- Consumers must read "complex product ingredient lists" to
identify added sugar
Read more about the
In the US, labels on packaged foods have been amended to reflect
new scientific information, including the link between diet and
chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease.
From 2018, US food manufacturers will have to include both total and added sugars on food labels.
Professor Neal said Australia should follow suit.