Manufacturers encouraged to follow Monster lead on Health Stars
The Cancer Council Queensland has urged the State’s food manufacturers to adopt Health Star Ratings, with the first products containing the voluntary front-of-pack labelling hitting shelves nationally recently.
Australian Food News reported in April 2014 that Australian company Monster Health Food Co. was the first to adopt the voluntary front-of-pack scheme, releasing their four star muesli range to supermarkets around the country last week.
The Health Star Rating Scheme features ratings from half a star up to five stars and includes nutritional information about saturated fat, sugar, sodium and energy content in food products.
The scheme was designed to help consumers make healthy, nutritional choices at a glance, and applies to all manufactured, processed and packaged goods.
Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift said Health Star Ratings were crucial in helping consumers make quick, informed choices about their food.
“Star ratings will help Queenslanders choose healthy food and avoid unhealthier options that increase the risk of obesity and cancer,” Ms Clift said. “The system is simple, easy to understand, and improves on the current standard which often makes product information confusing for consumers,” she said.
“We hope more Queensland food producers will follow this lead, adopting and fully complying with all aspects of this new system,” Ms Clift said. “Effective front-of-pack labelling has the potential to reduce consumers’ intake of kilojoules, saturated fat, sugars and sodium – leading to reductions in obesity rates and a range of chronic diseases,” she said.
“Rolling out the healthy star rating system at a state level will ensure Queenslanders have the best possible chance of choosing healthy foods for their entire family,” Ms Clift said.
The Cancer Council Queensland said eating a poor diet could lead to being overweight or obese and increase the risk of a range of chronic diseases, including some cancers. Queensland has the highest rate of adult obesity in Australia, being 10 per cent higher than the national rate, according to the Cancer Council Queensland. It said that research showed “up to one-third of all cancers are preventable through lifestyle changes including eating healthily and maintaining a healthy weight”.
Health Star Rating debate
The effectiveness of the Health Star rating system, which was developed by food and beverage industry bodies, public health and consumer experts, has been the subject of an ongoing debate.
The Health Star Rating scheme was signed off by Federal, State and Territory food and health ministers in June 2013 and was expected to be implemented under a voluntary code run by the grocery industry body the Australian Food and Grocery Council.
However, implementation of the system has not been smooth sailing. In February 2014, Australian Food News reported that CHOICE had used the system to rate popular supermarket products after a Federal Health Department-sponsored website to list the Health Star Ratings of foods was taken offline on the day of its launch. In the days that followed, Alastair Furnival, Chief of Staff to Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash resigned, after it was revealed he held shares in Australian Public Affairs (APA), a lobby group whose clients include Cadbury, Kraft and the Australian Beverages Council. Senator Nash denied that Mr Furnival’s links to presented a conflict of interest.
In March 2014, Australian Food News reported that consumer group CHOICE had also used the Health Star system to rate popular lunchbox food products.