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Fixing the Health Star Ratings

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Fixing the Health Star Ratings

Heathy or not?

Heathy or not?

Photo by Chiko Miti

Heathy or not?

Photo by Chiko Miti

Photo by Chiko Miti

Heathy or not?

Chiko-Martin Miti, Reporter

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Health Star Rating (HSR) is a method of labelling food to help people make wise choices in  buying the right food, but consumer group Choice is claiming that some companies are gaming the system.

Choice is calling on members of the public to sign up to their campaign while a government review of the system is underway in order to:

  1. Make sure food high in sugar, fat or salt can’t get a high rating
  2. Make health stars appear on all products, or at least all that are marketed to children
  3. Make sure companies can’t claim high ratings based on a recommendation to mix their product with something more nutritious
  4. Make sure that companies include added sugar in their health star ratings
  5. Make sure health stars promote whole foods and not their processes alternatives

The system ranks packaged foods on a rating scale from 0.5 to 5 stars.

The Health Star Rating System was developed by the Australian State and Territory Governments in collaboration with the Public Health Association of Australia and Consumer Groups to provide a general healthiness rate of food.

It requires food companies to be honest when labeling their products and to use a standard 100g measure, so they can’t trick the system by basing the ratings on tiny servings (although 100g is a small bowl of cereal).

In 2016 and investigation by CHOICE revealed that some global food brands like Nestle and Kelloggs were ‘health washing’ when it comes popular powered drinks Milo and various cereals respectively, in a bid to manipulate the Health Star Rating scheme. The trick with Milo involved calculating the health rating based on the assumption the consumers always mixed Milo into skim and not full cream milk.

As a result of the exposure by Choice, Neslte agreed to chainge Milo’s 4.5 star rating.

The term ‘health washing’ refers to when a company or group position themselves as upholding healthy eating ideas, while actually undergoing practices that may be contributing to poor health.

In 2016 CHOICE, also found that Kelloggs cereal boxes displayed misleading health star ratings on the sides of their packaging. All Bran cereal scored a 5 star rating on the scale, and thus that was displayed on the box. However Crunchy Nut Clusters on score a 2 star rating, but displayed a 3.5 star rating on the box with small print saying it was an “example only” in small writing. This obviously misled customers, and encouraged them to buy unhealthier food options.

According to a survey conducted by HSR, Australia has one of the highest rates of obesity in the world, with 63% of adults and one in four children being overweight.

This is quite significant as obesity can lead to various chronic-diseases such as cancers or diabetes.

Defending the system Choice said: “The system is independently monitored, while the algorithm behind the health stars was developed in consultation with Food Standards Australia New Zealand, alongside other technical and nutrition experts.”

But they added: “As anyone involved in politics and policy knows, progress is rarely perfect.”

Coles dry goods manager, Will King said that the company is aware that some food companies try to manipulate the Health Star Rating System.

‘’Marketing can be a complex and comprehensive process in the food industry depending on the product being marketed especially food products, but as for our company, we follow the standards of HRS to help consumers make informed decisions. Star ratings are very useful, and they provide customers with information to know what exactly they are buying.”

To eat and stay healthy, the Federal Government recommends you follow the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. This guide focuses on the five food groups and how you need to eat a balance of each group in order to get the different nutrients that are found in different foods.

The Five Food Groups include:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables and Beans
  • Milk, yogurts, cheese (reduced fat)
  • Grain (cereal) foods, high in fibre varieties
  • Lean meats and poultry, eggs, fish, nuts

To find out more about this Choice campaign and other click here.

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About the Writer
Chiko-Martin Miti, Reporter

Chiko is a young aspiring journalist doing a Bachelor of Media and Communication with a passion for media. He is a flexible team player who loves documentaries,...

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Fixing the Health Star Ratings