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Ministers must act on sugar labels

Health Ministers must ensure foods high in added sugar receive lower Health Star Ratings, says CHOICE

Consumer advocate CHOICE says that Health Ministers must improve food labels so that foods high in added sugar receive lower Health Star Ratings. This call comes as new modelling shows how a Health Star Rating algorithm that factors in added sugar would penalise products like Nutrigrain and increase ratings for products with naturally occurring sugars.

Health Stars Nutri Grain

Product examples (from brands such as Nutri-Grain, Milo and Uncle Tobys) available here as an embeddable infographic for media use: https://infogram.com/1pe5wnklejeqj5bmp56z6g9k56bld35jpyl?live

“The Health Star Rating System is meant to help people glance at a group of products to understand which options are healthier than others. Health Stars are a good system but they need to be stronger to really help people make easy decisions,” says CHOICE food expert Linda Przhedetsky.  

CHOICE's own modelling has found that increased penalties for added sugar could significantly impact the Health Star Ratings that products are given. Some products containing added sugar would lose as much as 2.5 stars. However, healthier products that contain naturally occurring sugars – like fruit and dairy – gain stars,” says Ms Przhedetsky.

“We're calling for Health Ministers to introduce added sugar labelling on all packaged foods and to ensure that added sugar is more heavily penalised in our Health Star Rating System” Ms Przhedetsky says.  

“Right now, the Health Star Rating algorithm treats all sugars the same. The system doesn't distinguish between the extra sugar that's added to foods like breakfast cereals and the naturally occurring sugars in dairy or fruits.”

CHOICE is calling on Health Ministers to: 

  • Strengthen the Health Star Rating by properly penalising added sugars which are not currently required to be clearly listed on food labels.
  • Make Health Stars mandatory to ensure that people can make informed choices about the food and drinks that they buy.
  • Ensure that food labelling policy development and oversight is free from undue industry influence.
  • Take action on a number of other key changes called for by State Health departments and nutrition experts.

What would happen if the Health Star Rating considered added sugar?

CATEGORY

PRODUCT

CURRENT HEALTH STAR RATING

POTENTIAL HEALTH STAR RATING*

DIFFERENCE

Cereal

Kellogg's Nutri-Grain cereal

4

1.5

-2.5

Cereal

Uncle Tobys Plus Protein

4

1.5

-2.5

Kids snack

Little Bellies Organic Gingerbread Men

2

1.5

-0.5

Snack bar

Emma and Tom's Cacao & Orange Life Bar

1

1.5

0.5

Yoghurt

Gippsland Dairy Natural Yoghurt

4

4.5

0.5

*Modelling completed by CHOICE based on a public submission from the The George Institute based on best available data. The Potential Health Star Ratings are calculated using an algorithm that references added rather than total sugar. It uses energy intake guides from the World Health Organisation and the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

Media contact: Jonathan Brown, 0430 172 669, media@choice.com.au

Embeddable infographics available for media use here.

CHOICE's article on proposal to include added sugar information is available for viewing here.

CHOICE's submission to the Health Star Rating Five Year Review is available for PDF download here. 

Health Stars Milo

Health Stars Plus