Health Star Rating – What Do You Think?

Health Star Rating – What Do You Think?

Whilst trawling the supermarket aisles, you may have noticed the The Health Star Rating system on some products that you buy, or consider buying.

The Health Star Rating is a system that uses stars to show the nutritional profile of packaged foods and is on over 10,300 packaged foods in our supermarkets. It assigns a rating from 1/2 to 5 stars and the more stars the healthier it is. That’s the word on the street anyway.

The Health Star Rating is designed to help you make healthier choices on packaged foods by choosing the highest star rating when comparing similar packaged products. It is voluntary, so some products will  not have them displayed.

The Health Star Rating system was developed by the Australian, state and territory governments (and funded by them too) in collaboration with industry, public health and consumer groups. 

The HSR calculation has been performed by the food manufacturers and retailers. This included ensuring consistency of information between the HSR and the Nutrition Information Panel and complying with all relevant legislation and regulations.

The system was implemented in 2014 on a voluntary basis by the food industry and a five year review has just been completed.

Interestingly, the review found that the HSR has been performing well.  A few key findings from the report include:

  • The Health Star Rating system will continue as a voluntary system, with the funding to continue from the Australian and New Zealand state and territory governments.  It is not a paid system nor it is funded by food industry.
  • Changes will be made to the way the Health Star Rating is calculated to better align with the Australian Dietary Guidelines and will now include fruit and vegetables.
  • Minor changes will be made to the governance of the system, including the transfer of the HSR calculator to the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand rather than the manufacturers (good idea).

From my viewpoint, I have mixed feelings on this system.  I don’t use it.  I know that the most accurate information is found in the Nutrition Information Panel and this gives you cold hard facts. But that’s me.

On the flip side, I know that everyone is busy and wants the quickest, easiest way of choosing healthy food.  This means that for some people, this method of rating food does the job.

My colleague and respected Dietitian, Catherine Saxelby recently wrote a review of the HSR and this is what she had to say here.

I would love to know what you think about the Health Star Rating by answering three quick questions in the comments below:

  1. Do you use it?
  2. Do you find it helpful when trying to make a healthy food choice?
  3. Do you know how to read a food label (no shame if you don’t!)

13 thoughts on “Health Star Rating – What Do You Think?

  1. I use this and the food label. The health star Rating just as a quick glance though.
    The Health Star Rating is still helpful, although I read the food labels all the time and find them extremely helpful and sometimes very surprising.

  2. 1. Yes – I do use the HSR in conjunction with reading the label
    2. Yes
    3. Yes as I’m conscious of calories, protein, fat and sugar/carb content

    I have come across one interesting HSR – Woolworths Select Sparkling Mineral Water has a rating of only 2 but Soda Water is a 5… just can’t work out why

  3. Hello Julie
    I do admire your work, and long may you continue to make meaningful improvements in nutrition understanding for lay(wo)men!
    I wish that the info would be in larger, clearer print (along with origin of contents) so that I don’t need to take a magnifying glass with me to do my shopping. Percentages of sugar, fat etc in products is very useful, but also protein, minerals and vitamins. A column for the percentage of these needed daily – in a serving of the product, could be useful too. maybe that is a bit much to ask.
    Best wishes

    1. Thanks very much Marian – I appreciate you being part of my community too! The size of the print is actually hilarious sometimes isn’t it? They could just have magnifying glasses hanging off the shelves…. but then again sometimes the manufacturers don’t actually want you to see whats on there!

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