Food Health Star Rating

This month as part of Year 6 Consumer systems exhibition, Erik A. investigated the Health Star Rating system. We’d like to share his presentation here as part of our monthly blog, as it touches on important issues of healthy eating, which affects our overall and dental health.

Food product labels can be hard to understand, especially when there are many food items on the shelves that are similar. Have you gone to the supermarket and chosen an item because it had a high Health Star rating? The Health Star Rating is meant to make it easier for us to pick the best item, but do more stars really mean that the product is healthy?

As only 30% of consumers actually read the back of the pack nutrition box, most are relying on the stars on the front of the packet to help with their choice. You’ll often see products with a high score which are far from healthy. This is because the rating is based on overall nutritional value, where healthy ingredients are often overshadowed by unhealthy ones.

A 5-star rated product may include beneficial fibre, protein, minerals and vitamins but still be high in saturated fats, sodium (salt) and sugar. Some examples of misleading stars are in ultra-processed foods are:

  • Streets vanilla bean ice cream 4.5 stars
  • Uncle Tobies protein bars 4.5 stars
  • Arnott’s tiny teddies 4 stars

Health Star rating system is voluntary, meaning many companies use it as a false promotional advertising technique. The government is now reviewing how the stars are calculated. Some changes that will be made are:

  • Foods high in sugar and salt getting a lower rating
  • Dairy -containing desserts like custard getting a lower rating
  • Plain water getting 5 stars
  • Unsweetened flavoured waters getting 4.5 stars
  • Fresh fruit and veggies automatically getting 5 stars
  • Soft drinks getting no more than z0.5-2 stars

So next time you’re at the supermarket and looking at the packaging don’t just check the stars, check the nutritional box and all the ingredients to give you an accurate answer as to whether this food is healthy or not!