Do higher food star ratings always mean a healthier choice?

Posted by Maria Lennartz on Thursday, August 18, 2016


The Federal Government's health star rating system for food products has attracted much controversy since its unofficial unveiling in February 2014.

·         The claim: The Federal Government says its health star rating system for food and drink products is simple and "the more stars, the healthier".

·         The verdict: Whilst experts agree that the system is valuable and useful when comparing foods within the same category, it produces anomalies when comparing products in different categories, such as comparing yoghurt and fruit juice. More stars does not always mean a healthier product.

The slogan is: "The more stars, the healthier the choice."

 Because of the way it assigns weightings to nutrients, the ratings system has produced some peculiarities

.

Full-cream unsweetened natural yoghurts can score lower than sugary fruit yoghurts, while fruit juices score four or five stars despite being high in sugar because they receive positive points for fruit content.

Rosemary Stanton, a nutritionist and visiting fellow at the University of New South Wales, told Fact Check the algorithm used by the ratings calculator needs a bit of tweaking to fix these kinds of anomalies.

 Coles home brand Greek-style yoghurt received one and a half stars "even though it is clearly healthy" while the supermarket chain's home brand strawberry flavored soft licorice received two and a half stars.

Foods in different categories

Stars only allow for comparisons between similar products, and they are meant to be considered along with the dietary guidelines. I think it surprises people to find Coco Pops have the same number of stars as Nutri Grain and that is what it is designed to do.

Take home message they are good to compare products of the same food group is useful …. Use common sense and if you are eating real food instead of packaged food you can’t go wrong.


Tags: healthy food star