What are Health Star Ratings?
Food product packaging is often confusing or distracting, particularly when there are so many different options available on supermarket shelves. This can make it hard to understand the nutritional value of products.
The Health Star Rating system is a front of pack labelling system which helps you quickly and easily compare the nutrition of similar products that you typically see in the same part of the shop. The system provides a rating from a half to five stars – the more stars, the healthier the choice. When looking for the stars, remember that they are meant to provide a comparison within similar product categories only. For example, the system helps choose between one breakfast cereal and another, not between yoghurt and pasta sauce.
The system is not intended to replace general dietary advice, such as that provided by the Australian Dietary Guidelines, which recommend eating a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutritious foods every day. A high star rating doesn’t necessarily mean the product provides for a complete, balanced diet and should replace items from other core food groups or be eaten to excess. In addition, many healthy foods, like fresh fruit and vegetables and lean meats, are not generally packaged and may not have a Health Star Rating.
Where will you see the Health Star Rating?
Health Star Ratings are displayed on the front of packaged foods in the supermarket. Health Star Ratings first appeared in 2014 and an increasing number of products now display them.
Health Star Ratings can appear on packs in two general ways. The first shows just the star rating of the product; the second displays the star rating plus additional specific nutritional information.
What are the stars based on?
Under the system, packaged products are given a rating based on their nutritional profile, according to a strict calculation (called the Health Star Rating Calculator). The calculation takes into account components that are linked to increased risk of developing chronic diseases, as well as beneficial components.
Ratings are based on:
- total energy (kilojoules)
- saturated fat, sodium (salt) and sugar content. Consuming too much of these risk nutrients is linked to being overweight and obese, some cancers, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
- fibre, protein, fruit, vegetable, nut and legume content. Increasing consumption of these nutrients and ingredients is good for your health.
The Health Star Rating system does not take into consideration other real, claimed or potential health effects of particular ingredients, products or processing methods. Neither does it consider other important nutrients. If you are aiming to, for example, avoid certain preservatives, consume organically-grown products, or increase your intake of certain nutrients, you should review the ingredients list, Nutrition Information Panel and/or seek guidance from other reliable sources.
The star ratings for all products are calculated based on a consistent measure of either 100g or 100mL of a product. This means that the star ratings of similar products can be compared at a glance. Further detail on how Health Star Ratings are calculated is provided in the Guide for Industry to the Health Star Rating Calculator.
What is the information next to the star rating?
In addition to the stars, nutrient content of the food may be shown directly below or to the side of the rating. This shows the quantity of nutrients, specifically energy (kilojoules), saturated fat, sodium (salt) and total sugars, that are in the product either per 100g, per 100mL for liquids, or per pack for single serve foods or per serve/portion (as indicated).
The label may also include one positive nutrient, such as protein, dietary fibre, or certain vitamins or minerals.
The Health Star Rating system is designed to provide key information that allows consumers to make at a glance comparisons of products within the same category. Further nutrient information is also available in the Nutrition Information Panel, generally on the back of food packaging.
Which products will and won’t display Health Star Ratings?
The Health Star Rating system is meant for packaged products sold in shops. The system is voluntary and will only appear on products at the discretion of food manufacturers and retailers (such as supermarkets).
There are some food products which are not expected to display the Health Star Rating. These include:
- fresh unpackaged food (such as fresh fruit and vegetables)
- non-nutritive condiments (such as vinegar, herbs and spices)
- non-nutritive foods (such as tea, coffee)
- single ingredient foods not intended to be eaten on their own (such as flour)
- foods where a Nutrition Information Panel is not required.
- alcoholic beverages
- formulated products for infants and young children
- formulated sports foods
- food for special medical purposes.