Have you been noticing anything new on your food packaging? Perhaps something like this?
It’s the new front-of-pack labelling system that is being introduced on packaged foods and drinks. It is a rating system that gives a product a certain number of stars, depending on how healthy the product is. So the more stars the product has, the healthier it is.
The Nitty Gritty: How are the stars calculated?
A specially designed calculator assesses the nutrients in the food. The calculator takes into account risk nutrients such as the kilojoules, saturated fat, sodium and total sugars along with dietary fibre and protein percentage content. The baseline points for the Health Star Rating is given according to the amount of risk nutrients and points are subtracted for the amount of positive nutrients it contains. The lower the score, the higher the Health Star Rating.
Who calculates the Health Star Ratings?
If the food manufacturer decides to use the health star ratings, it is up to them to calculate and provide a correct and accurate Health Star Rating that reflects the Nutrition Information Panel.
Where you won’t see the Health Star Rating
- Alcoholic drinks
- Products made specifically for infants and young children
- Non-nutritive condiments such as vinegar, herbs and spices
- Non-nutritive foods such as tea and coffee
Here comes the BUT….
The Health Star Rating is still voluntary and food companies can decide whether or not they want to use it. So it means that you can only compare similar foods that both use the Health Star Rating, which won’t be all of the products! You will still need to use the Nutrition Information Panel to compare the products using the per 100 g/100 mL column. The use of the Health Star Rating on some products and not on others may make us automatically choose the food product that has the Health Star Rating when there could potentially be another product that is better.
|Nutrition Information Panel
(per 100 g)
|Freedom Vanilla Crunch (3.5 Stars)||Goodness Apple Honey Cereal Bars|
|Energy||1650 kJ||1455 kJ|
|Protein||4.3 g||6.7 g|
|Fat Total||8.2 g||10.7 g|
|Saturated fat||3.6 g||1.3 g|
|Carbohydrates||70.8 g||43.2 g|
|Sugars||20.5 g||15.1 g|
|Dietary Fibre||8.6 g||26.3 g|
|Sodium||80 mg||28 mg|
The Freedom Vanilla Crunch bars with 3.5 stars actually has higher saturated fat, carbohydrates, sugars, sodium and a much lower dietary fibre than the Goodness Apple Honey Cereal Bars which does not currently have a Health Star Rating. So, it can be difficult to compare foods just by looking at the Health Star Rating alone.
Watch the portion size
A 5 star rating does not mean that you can eat the whole packet or a large amount of it! You still need to consider your portions. It may be handy as a quick reference when you are busy but looking at the Nutrition Information Panel and ingredients list may be more helpful if you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes and need to know quantities of carbohydrates, fibre, sodium, fat.
On a positive note…
If the Health Star Rating system is well accepted by consumers (you) then it may encourage the food industry to reformulate their food products so that it has a higher health star rating. And perhaps one day we may see it as a mandatory food labelling requirement.
Don’t forget about the Nutrition Information Panel! The Health Star Rating is ANOTHER tool we can use to help us choose a healthier product.
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