You may have noticed a new star rating logo on some of your favourite grocery items in the supermarket. Wondering what it’s all about?
What are Health Star Ratings?
This is a voluntary front of pack rating system that is funded by state and Federal Governments. The aim of these ratings is to highlight healthier food options to consumers, in an attempt to reduce chronic disease in Australia.
The idea behind the star rating is to highlight positive and at risk nutrients within a particular food.
How does the Health Star Rating work?
Foods deemed to be healthy by the rating system will receive 5 stars as the highest rating, with 0.5 stars being the lowest rating. The following nutrients are considered when allocating points – energy, saturated fat, sugar and sodium
Additional positive nutrients such as fibre and protein are also considered, as well as the whole food content of ingredients such as fruits, nuts, legumes and vegetables.
Let’s look at the Nutrition Information Panel (NIP) of a cereal as an example of a 5 star rating.
Using the parameters listed above, we can see that per 100g this product meets the requirements for Saturated Fat (0.5g/100g), and has quite a substantial amount of fibre (29.5g/100g), making this cereal almost one third fibre, not bad. Although it has three times the sodium amount recommended above (360mg/100g) and sugar is greater than 5g/100g (16.7g/100g), the high fibre and low saturated fat still weigh heavily enough to give it 5 stars.
Is it basically, the more stars the better? Well, sort of. This system is successful at highlighting foods that contribute positive nutrients, that can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. As with any rating system however, the stars are not without limitation.
4 star rating example – Coles Almond Milk
Ingredients: Water, Ground Almonds (2.5%), Maltodextrin(Corn), Natural Vanilla Flavour, Mineral Salt(170), Vegetable Gums (418,415), Salt, Vegetable Emulsifier(322) (Sunflower). (Source: Shop.Coles.com.au).
This product is low in Saturated Fat (0.1g/100mL), Sugar (0.3g/100mL) and Sodium 45mg/100mL). It also contributes Calcium (70mg/100mL). However, if you look closer at the ingredient listing, you will see that water is the first ingredient. In addition, almonds only make up 2.5% of the product. Although almonds are a nutritious food, Almond Milk is little more than almond flavoured water, with some additives thrown in.
Reduced fat cow’s milk (5 stars) offers much more in the way of calcium (145mg/100mL) and protein (4g/100mL) compared to just 0.4g/100mL if you drink almond milk. Although there is only 1 star between these two “milk” products, there is a significant difference in what these products are offering in nutrition to your diet.
- This is a voluntary system, brands can chose to adopt the front of label packaging (FOPL) or not. Just because a brand does not display FOPL, does not necessarily mean it is an unhealthy or healthy product. This would require you to check out the NIP further.
- Items that have a high number of stars may be nutritious, however this is not a green light to over-consume this item, it should still be enjoyed with other food groups.
For more information on the Health Star Rating, including an online calculator to assist with assessing your own products, click here.
Thanks for stopping by, Madeleine (THG).
This article was first posted by Madeleine on That Healthy Girl. https://flipsidenutrition.com.au/2015/05/17/health-star-ratings-a-guide/
DISCLAIMER: This blog post is my personal professional opinion. I have no affiliation with or receive any benefits from companies or organisations mentioned in this post.