Food labels can help you make choices about food, however words on the front of the pack often focus on the positive features of the product and doesn't give the whole picture of what’s in the food.
There has been a lot of talk in the media about the new voluntary food labelling system – the Health Star Rating, some positive, some not so positive.
A simple food labelling system plays a crucial role in helping people identify healthier choices and ultimately reducing obesity and diet-related chronic disease rates.
Food companies love to put all kinds of marketing claims on their products to appeal to the customer, however this can be very confusing and hard to decipher. The nutrition information panels on the back or side of the pack can be complex to read and understand not to mention time-consuming during your weekly shop. The Health Star Rating is an easy way to compare similar products.
How does the Health Star Rating work?
The Health Star Rating system was introduced by the State and Federal Governments in June 2014. It is being implemented by the food industry on a voluntary basis over the next five years in both Australia and New Zealand, with a review currently underway.
The star ratings are designed to provide shoppers with convenient, relevant and easy-to-understand nutrition information on the front of packaged food. The system rates the overall nutritional profile of packaged food and assigns it a rating from ½ star to 5 stars, with more stars representing the healthier choice.
Let’s take muesli bars as an example. It is easy to think that a muesli bar is a fairly healthy lunch box snack, however not all muesli bars are created equal. Many are packed full of sugar and contains minimal nutrients – so look out for 3½ or more stars to know you’re choosing a healthier option.
Health Star Ratings allow shoppers to compare packaged products within a food category and make informed and healthier food choices. You won’t find any stars on fresh fruit or vegetables as they are generally not packaged, however they would automatically get five stars from us! When using the Health Star Rating to compare packaged items, still watch portion sizes and remember a healthy, balanced diet consists mainly of minimally processed food.
For more information, visit www.healthstarrating.gov.au