Added sugar needs to be included in Health Star Rating says researchers

Posted by Andrea Hogan on 26th July 2017

A leading Australian health research body is calling for added sugars to be declared on food packaging.

The George Institute of Global Health is also calling for added sugars to be a part of the Health Star Rating’s (HSR) front-of-pack labelling system.

Under the current system, only total sugar needs to be reported on food labels and used in the HSR calculation.

Researchers from The George Institute of Global Health have called for the changes after conducting a study which found around 70 per cent of packaged foods in Australian supermarkets contain added sugar.

Need to differentiate between added and total sugars

Professor Bruce Neal from The George Institute of Global Health said there was a clear need to differentiate between added sugars and total sugars.

‘’Good sugars are an integral part of a healthy diet and we need to be able to separate sugars naturally present in dairy, fruits and vegetables from sugars added during manufacturing,” Professor Neal said.

‘’Added sugars are empty calories and a major contributing factor to the obesity epidemic and tooth decay. Australians would be much better off if they could quickly and easily see how much sugar has been added,” he stated.

Researchers from The George Institute analysed more than 34,000 packaged foods – 18,350 discretionary and 15,965 core foods – to discover how the HSR could be improved if added sugars were used in the algorithm.

Using Australian Dietary Guideline definitions, the researchers found 87 per cent of discretionary foods included added sugars, compared to 52 per cent of core foods.

Discretionary foods had on average, almost four times the amount of added sugar than core foods like cheese, milk, bread, yoghurt or plain cereals like oats.

HSR not aligning with Australian Dietary Guidelines 

Co-author of the study, Dr Sanne Peters, said the study results showed using added sugar instead of total sugars to calculate the HSR resulted in much better alignment between core and discretionary foods.

“One of the key criticisms of the HSR has been that it doesn’t always align with Australian Dietary Guidelines,” Dr Peters said.

“Using added sugars instead of total sugars means it does a much better job of this,” Dr Peters stated.

The research will be submitted to the Government’s current scheduled five year review of the HSR system.

“The HSR gives great advice most of the time”

Professor Neal described the HSR as a “world-leading food labelling program”, but acknowledged it was not a perfect system.

“The HSR gives great advice most of the time but has been criticised for a few high-profile anomalies,” Professor Neal said.

“One of the key challenges relates to added sugars and we have shown here how it can be fixed.  We’d encourage food manufacturers to start labelling added sugars and government to provide the framework,” Professor Neal stated.


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