Heart Tick running out of ticker, overrun by Health Star Ratings
Introduced to Australians as an easy way of knowing if a food was a ‘healthier’ choice and was endorsed by the Heart Foundation, today more than 2000 products carry the tick across 80 categories.
National CEO for the Heart Foundation, Mary Barry, said however that the introduction of the Australian Federal Government’s new Health Star Rating System, would mean the tick logo is no longer needed.
“Over the past few years, the Heart Foundation has worked with the Federal Government and other stakeholders to develop the Health Star Rating system (HSR), which was launched in December 2014,” Ms Barry said.
“Since the launch, the HSR system has been well received by food manufacturers (more than 1500 products now carry the HSR) and is becoming sufficiently well established, and understood by shoppers. We feel we can now safely begin to retire the Tick,” she said.
The Heart Foundation said it will now work with food manufacturers who use the Tick to help remove it from labelling, packaging and other communication materials. It is expected that all Ticks will be removed by the end of 2017.
The Tick saw the introduction of nutrition information panels on the back of package foods 13 years before the panels were mandatory in Australia. The Tick did however draw controversy over the years.
Previous criticisms of the Tick
- In order to display the Tick food manufacturers had to pay a fee to the Heart Foundation, unlike the Federal Government’s HSR which is free for all food manufacturers to use. The Tick received criticism over its licencing fee as critics pointed out that consumers could be missing out on a healthy product just because the manufacturer chose not to pay the fee.
- The Heart Foundation attracted criticism for the ‘Healthy Heart Tick’ not always being related to heart health. Despite its name, the Heart Foundation advertised the Tick as merely a way of “making overall healthier choices” and that it encouraged food manufacturers to reformulate their products to become healthier. The Heart Foundation had previously conceded that the Tick was not necessarily connected with heart health. Some critics therefore were of the view that the heart Tick logo was misleading.
- By the end of the Tick program, there were 80 different food type categories as part of the Tick certification system. Different food categories had different criteria for assessment in an effort to encourage manufacturers of processed foods to reformulate products using healthier recipes. This meant that some processed foods had a Tick whilst some more natural and healthier wholefood producers who did not pay for the Tick, missed out being recognised for their healthier alternative products.
- When the Tick program was first introduced there were five categories: bread, breakfast cereals, cheese, sweet biscuits nut and seed bars. Wholegrain breakfast cereals (for example whole oats) were however excluded from the breakfast cereal category and put in a separate “grains – plain” category which drew some criticism from commentators. The critics included Joe Lederman of the food regulatory consultancy FoodLegal in his “FoodLegal Bulletin” April 2009 edition article “Heart Foundation Tick criteria re-assessed” and later an article entitled “Heart foundation Tick raises further concerns” published in the March 2011 edition of FoodLegal Bulletin.
- One of the biggest criticisms the Tick received was the endorsement it gave in 2007 to McDonald’s Australia restaurants. Although salads and fruit sold by McDonald’s were in meals that received the Tick endorsement, this also meant that some meal combinations that included deep fried chicken nuggets and burgers also received the Tick. At the time, the Heart Foundation said it gave McDonald’s Australia the Tick in order to help Australians make better choices if they were treating themselves to fast food. However, in 2011 the Heart Foundation changed its position and ceased to provide a Tick for meal items of takeaway food outlets.
How much will the loss of the Tick cost the Heart Foundation?
Annual Reports for the Heart Foundation do not reveal exactly how much revenue the Tick has brought in to the Heart Foundation coffers. However, it is expected that the organisation will have taken steps to broaden its donor and sponsorship sources of income to reduce the impact of lost income on account of the termination of the scheme.
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