Trying to make a healthy choice when you're buying food can feel like a real challenge at times. Packages proclaim that they're 'healthy' and 'good for you', when the actual nutritional data may tell a very different story.
The good news is that the Health Star Rating (HSR) system started rolling out this year. The HSR promises to convert complex nutrition panels to simple,
at-a-glance labels with the basic theory being that the more stars you see on the pack, the healthier the food inside. (For all the details of the scheme, see our story on the HSR rollout.)
Video: Get behind our Health Stars campaign
The scheme has been active since July and some heavy hitters in the food world have embraced it, such as Uncle Toby's, which has agreed to roll out the stars on all of its
popular breakfast products. But a number of major food companies are still refusing to place Health Stars on their products, and the
scheme is currently voluntary.
With 60% of Australians now obese or overweight, clear information about what is in our food is more important than ever, but there is still plenty of confusion in the supermarket aisles for consumers trying to make the right choice.
Compare the pair
Take the example of two Coles-brand mueslis that don't carry health stars on the packaging. While they look and sound similar, when we crunched the
numbers to give each product a Health Star Rating, one would have a rating of two stars while the other would have four.
Not so similar after all.
At CHOICE, we believe that the Health Star Rating system will only work properly if all packaged products carry the stars so you can compare products with in a food category – essentially, apples with apples (or in this case, mueslis with mueslis).
CHOICE wants the system to be improved so it's clear which products are the healthier choices, and for all packaged products to carry stars. Right now, the Victorian Citizen's Jury of Obesity is calling for submissions on how Australians can tackle obesity and CHOICE has made a video submission (view it above) about how access to at-a-glance information via health stars can help people make healthier choices, clearing up the confusion.
If you'd like to help call for an
end to the confusion join our campaign for a healthier change.