Since the health star rating was introduced in 2014 it has led to some confusion and controversy. This front of pack labelling was initiated to assist consumers in comparing similar packaged foods by rating the overall nutritional profile and giving a product a rating from ½ to 5 star. The rating is based on a 100g or 100ml serve to ensure an accurate comparison.
The number of stars is determined by using the Health Star Calculator which is specifically designed to assess ‘positive’ and ‘risk’ nutrients in food. Positive nutrients are considered good for health and risk nutrients have been linked to overweight/obesity, some cancers, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
It is the responsibility of the food manufacturers and retailers to ensure they accurately and correctly use the health star system as the numbers used in the calculator should be consistent with the Nutrition Information Panel and comply with all relevant legislation and regulations.
Ratings are calculated based on:
- Total energy (kilojoules)
- Risk nutrients: saturated fat, sodium (salt) and sugar content.
- Positive nutrients: fibre, protein, fruit, vegetable, nut and legume content.
The health star rating can be found on over 10,300 packaged foods and as a general rule the higher the rating the ‘healthier’ it is. The rating does not take into account nutrients with claimed or potential health benefits and if you are trying to avoid certain sugars, fats, preservatives, the ingredients list should also be considered and don’t forget to use your own judgement. If you have always considered a product to be more refined and processed it probably is, however it still meets the criteria and therefore choose the less processed alternative.
If in doubt, check the ingredients list as this will show what type of sugars, fats and salt have been used and don’t forget to review the Nutrition Information Panel. If you need help with navigating labels make an appointment with our PPN dietitians to help you better understand how to read labels.
For more information on the health star rating go to: www.healthstarrating.gov.au.