How can I use the system when I am comparing products?

The Health Star Rating system is based on comparing products within similar food categories and allows us to quickly compare the general nutritional profile of foods within that category. For example, we can compare one breakfast cereal with another, one muesli bar with another or one margarine spread with another. The system is not designed, for example, to compare yoghurt with frozen lasagne or canned chickpeas with breakfast cereal. Health Star Ratings can help you choose between similar products which are typically displayed together (e.g. whole grain bread and white bread) or used interchangeably (e.g. stock powder with liquid stock).

The Health Star Rating system is one tool to assist you in following a healthy diet and make healthier choices. People should not eat a greater proportion of certain food products or eat larger portions of these products, just because they have stars. A high star rating also doesn’t necessarily mean the product: provides for a complete and balanced diet; should replace other healthy foods; can be eaten often or in large quantities.

To better understand the importance of healthy eating and for more tips on what constitutes a healthy diet, visit the Eat for Health website..

Do unpackaged products, like fresh fruit and vegetables or meat, have a Health Star Rating?

The focus of the Health Star Rating system is processed packaged products. Fresh, healthy foods – like fruits and vegetables or lean meats – are a vital part of a nutritious diet. However, as they are often not packaged, they generally won’t have a Health Star Rating applied.

Some companies have chosen to use the Health Star Rating on packaged varieties of healthy foods, such as canned, dried and frozen fruit and vegetables, which can play an important role in the diet where fresh is not an option.

Who calculates and is responsible for applying the Health Star Rating system?

Food manufacturers and retailers are responsible for the correct and accurate use of the Health Star Rating system. This includes, but is not limited to, correctly calculating the Health Star Rating, accurately displaying nutrient information, ensuring that the information is consistent between the Health Star Rating and the Nutrition Information Panel, and complying with all relevant legislation and regulations.

Do food manufacturers and retailers pay to display the ratings on their products?

No. There are no application costs and companies don’t pay to use the system. The system is completely voluntary and manufacturers and retailers can adopt and remove the system at any stage. Companies will, however, bear costs such as producing new packaging to include the Health Star Rating.

How do I know if the stars on a product are accurate?

Food companies are best placed to calculate Health Star Ratings for their own products. The calculations require information on individual ingredients that may not be included on the Nutrition Information Panel, such as the fruit, vegetable, nut and legume content. Calculating or attempting to check the rating without all the necessary information may produce an inaccurate result. Questions about the accuracy of ratings for specific products should be referred to the manufacturer / company in the first instance, as they have all the product data used to calculate the star ratings.

However, the National Heart Foundation of Australia has been engaged to monitor the implementation of the Health Star Rating system in Australia. As part of this work, the Heart Foundation assesses the accuracy of the star rating for a random sample of products across representative categories. For further information about the monitoring activities undertaken, see the Monitoring page.

The Health Star Rating Advisory Committee addresses concerns relating to the Health Star Rating system. It is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the system and assessing and resolving disputes. Queries or disputes can be sent to frontofpack@health.gov.au.

How was the Health Star Rating system developed and who pays for it?

The Health Star Rating system was developed through a collaborative process between Australian, state and territory governments, the food manufacturing and retail industry, public health organisations and consumer representatives.

The calculator for the Health Star Rating Calculator was developed in consultation with Food Standards Australia New Zealand and other technical and nutritional experts.

The implementation of the system (including support for administrative processes and official monitoring, evaluation and social marketing) is entirely and solely funded by contributions from the Australian, state and territory and New Zealand governments.

How does the ‘form of the food’ affect star ratings?

The labelling of some products under the Health Star Rating system includes consideration of the ‘form of the food’. Some products are not intended to be consumed ‘as sold’ – they are meant to have something added to them and there are instructions on the pack for how to make up the product, e.g. cordial or powdered soup mixes have water added to them, canned condensed soups have instructions about adding water or milk, some canned products need to be drained and meal bases have a recipe for use in creating the meal. It is on this modified ‘as prepared’ form of the food that the Health Star Rating may be based on.

In essence, that means that the star rating reflects how the manufacturer intends for you to consume the product (providing you follow the on-pack instructions). Making up the product using more or less milk, full fat milk, adding water, adding extra ingredients etc. would create a different nutritional profile and a different star rating. However, some consider that consumers may not be able to appropriately and accurately consider the nutritional value of a product, displaying a Health Star Rating ‘as prepared’, when the product is not prepared according to the on-pack instructions.

As such, the ‘form of the food’ rules were reappraised in 2017 and 2018. Following considerable stakeholder consultation, Australian and New Zealand Ministers with responsibility for food regulation agreed that these rules will be changed.

The new rules will mean that the Health Star Rating system will be limited to the product ‘as sold’. That is, the Health Star Rating should be calculated and displayed on the basis of the product as it appears on the shelf. Specific exemptions will apply for products which must be rehydrated with water, diluted with water, drained of water or drained of brine. This change will be implemented in the future, alongside and in the context of the recommendations of the five year review.

How do we know whether the system is working?

Official monitoring of the implementation of the Health Star Rating system includes collecting and analysing data on uptake, compliance with system guidance, consumer use and understanding, and nutrient status of products carrying the system. The National Heart Foundation of Australia has been engaged to monitor the Health Star Rating system in Australia and the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries conducts monitoring in New Zealand. For more information, see the Australian monitoring page and the NZ monitoring page.

In addition, an independent review of the Health Star Rating system after five years of implementation is under way. The review commenced mid-2017 and is due to report to Australian and New Zealand Ministers with responsibility for food regulation mid-2019. Further information is available at the five year review page.