As we approach the two year mark for implementation of the Health Star Rating (HSR) system, it's timely to reflect on how we got here, and the successes of the HSR system to-date.
Over 3000 products, from at least 75 companies, have implemented the HSR system as at March 2016. This is a huge increase from less than 100 products displaying the HSR in December 2014. From an estimated 12,200 products that would be eligible to use the HSR system (remembering that it is not permitted, or intended, for some food products), this is about 25%.
This is a great result and all companies who have implemented the system, particularly those who have made a commitment to implement it on all products, regardless of the rating, are to be commended.
HSR won’t solve everything – it has always been just one piece of the puzzle. If HSR labelling helps consumers think about what they’re eating, or choose a healthier option between similar packaged products; if it encourages companies to increase beneficial nutrients / ingredients, and decrease risk nutrients in their products, then this surely is a good thing.
It’s important to remember that the HSR system is voluntary for industry to implement. The HSR system took two years to develop, in a collaborative process involving public health and consumer organisations, food industry, and governments. This was a response to the recommendations of Labelling Logic – the Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy, and to consumer demand for a front-of-pack food labelling (FoPL) system which would make it easier to identify healthier foods. Importantly, Australia has a single, agreed FoPL system which has been endorsed by food Ministers, rather than different companies and retailers each doing their own thing – something that would just lead to more confusion.
HSR is rather unique amongst FoPL systems internationally, as it provides informative (the nutrient icons), as well as an interpretive elements (the star rating and the terms high / low/% daily intake). Certainly there are a number of countries, and international companies watching to see how HSR unfolds in Australia.
The Health Star Rating system uses stars, from half to five stars; to provide an at-a-glance comparison between similar packaged processed food, such as between two cereals or two muesli bars.
So just remember on your next shopping trip, the more stars on the front of pack, the healthier the choice.
To better understand the importance of healthy eating and for more information on how to use the Health Star Rating system, visit the Health Star Rating website.