Food star rating system causing confusion

Richard Laycock 20 January 2017 NEWS

Government launches awareness campaign to clarify what those star ratings on your food actually mean.

Have you ever noticed those star ratings down the side of your favourite snack? Chances are you probably didn't quite understand what their purpose was beyond: one star bad, five star good. And you wouldn't have been alone.

The Federal Government is currently running an awareness campaign to clear up any confusion about what those stars actually mean.

“The Health Stars help you to choose between different products within a category (yogurts with yogurts, breakfast cereals with breakfast cereals) and not between categories. It doesn’t make sense to compare, for example, smoked salmon with a breakfast cereal, as that was never intended,” federal assistant minister for health Dr David Gillespie explained.

But that is where much of the confusion for consumers has stemmed from, with many people assuming that the star rating was just a general guide of how healthy a product was.

The ratings system grades packaged and processed food on a grading system from a half star to five stars to provide consumers with a quickly identifiable measure to grade the nutritional value of a product.

Currently, more than 115 companies have opted into the Health Star Ratings program, which represents more than 5,500 products on supermarket shelves. These 5,500 products represent roughly 45% of the 12,000 packaged foods on the market. finder.com.au spoke with Dr David Gillespie who said that he didn't envisage health star ratings becoming compulsory for all packaged products. However, his hope is that as more companies adopt the ratings system it'll create an environment where displaying health stars becomes the norm and not doing so will be a negative point of comparison for consumers.

Apart from clarifying the ratings system, the campaign is designed to draw attention to growing obesity rates in Australia, with two-thirds (63%) of Australians either overweight or obese, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW)Healthy Communities: Overweight and obesity rates across Australia 2014/15.

This trend is due to a number of factors. According to the AIHW, 93% of us don't get the recommended daily intake of vegetables.

And while many of us have good intentions when heading to the grocery store, 60% of us are likely to buy unhealthy food and drinks if they are on sale, according to public health organisation LiveLighter.

Below is a guide that shows the proportions you should be eating each day from the five food groups.

Visual representation of how much you should be eating from the five food groups each day

Source: https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/guidelines/australian-guide-healthy-eating

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Picture: Shutterstock

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