The Health Star Rating system is a new method of food labelling that can help take some of the guess work out of shopping and help us to make smarter choices when it comes to buying packaged food. The Health Star Rating system allows us to quickly compare the nutritional profile of foods within the same category of packaged and processed goods. For example, we can compare one breakfast cereal with another, or one muesli bar with another. And it’s simple to understand and use. Basically, the more stars on the front of pack, the healthier the choice.

The voluntary system uses stars, from half to five stars, to provide an at-a-glance overall health rating of packaged and processed food and is being implemented over five years. Health Star Ratings are only available on participating packaged food products. Many healthy foods, like fresh fruit and vegetables and lean meats, are not packaged and won’t have a health star rating. These are a vital part of a nutritious diet.

A high Health Star Rating does not necessarily mean that the particular packaged food provides all of the essential nutrients required for a balanced and healthy diet. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend eating a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutritious foods every day. Fresh fruit and vegetables and lean meat are generally healthier choices than processed packaged food products.

The calculation is complex and takes into account the amount of ingredients in each product that are linked to increased risk of developing chronic diseases as well as the quantity of healthier ingredients.

Health Star Ratings are based on:

  • Total energy (kilojoules) of the product. An average Australian adult should consume around 8,700 kJ a day.
  • The 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.
  • The fibre, protein, fruit, vegetable, nut and legume content. Increasing consumption of these healthy nutrients and ingredients is good for your health.

Points are allocated based on the ingredients and amounts used in the Nutrition Information Panel on the package per 100g or 100mL. The points are converted to a star rating (from ½ to 5 stars), which are scaled specifically to each of six food categories. Details are provided in the Guide for Industry to the Health Star Rating Calculator.

The Health Star Rating system was developed through a collaborative process involving Commonwealth and State/Territory governments, industry, public health and consumer groups, with additional technical input provided by Food Standards Australia New Zealand. It is being implemented over five years, from July 2014, on a voluntary basis by industry. The food industry is responsible for ensuring that the stars are calculated accurately and in accordance with the system.

Information about the process of developing the Health Star Rating system, including committee information and consumer market research reports, is available in the Food Regulation Secretariat updates on the Department of Health website.

The Australian Government, state and territory governments, and the New Zealand Government, are supporting the initiative with information about the system to assist industry engagement and use by consumers.

The Health Star Rating system is based on six different food categories. It allows us to quickly compare the general nutritional profile of foods within the same category of packaged and processed goods. For example, we can compare one breakfast cereal with another, one muesli bar with another or one margarine spread with another. However, as the calculations used to determine each product’s rating are specific to each of the six food categories, the system is not designed, for example, to compare yoghurt with frozen lasagna or frozen chips with cereal.

The calculations for each food category and each product do not take into account ingredients such as preservatives, colours and flavours. Information on additives such as these can be found in the ingredients list on the pack. If you are aiming to reduce your intake of these additives, you should review the ingredient list of each product.

A high Health Star Rating does not mean that the food provides all the essential nutrients that are required for a balanced and healthy diet. Similarly, the HSR system does not consider methods of production.

The Health Star Rating system is one tool to help consumers make healthier choices between similar packaged food products. However, people should not eat a greater proportion of packaged food products, or eat larger portions of these products just because they have stars.

To better understand the importance of healthy eating and for more tips on what constitutes a healthy diet, visit the Eat for Health website, which features the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating.

When buying packaged foods, the Health Star Rating system is one tool to help us make healthier choices between similar packaged foods. Nutrient icons, the Nutrition Information Panel, and the ingredients list provide additional information about key nutrients and ingredients to help us choose the right product.

While all this information is very important, it is sometimes difficult to interpret and understand. And some people simply find it too time consuming. The Health Star Rating system helps to take some of the guess work out of shopping and help us to make smarter choices when it comes to buying packaged and processed food. The system allows us to quickly compare the general nutritional profile of foods within the same category of packaged and processed goods. And it’s simple to understand and use. Basically, the more stars on the front of pack, the healthier the choice.

Healthy foods – like fresh fruits and vegetables or lean meats –are a vital part of a nutritious diet. However, as they are not packaged, they generally won’t have a health star rating.

The focus of the Health Star Rating system is processed packaged food products. It is not intended to be used on fresh fruit and vegetables, most of which are unpackaged. However, some companies have chosen to use the Health Star Rating on packaged varieties including tinned, dried and frozen fruit and vegetables. Where fresh fruit and vegetables are not an option, these products can play an important nutritional role in the diet.

To help maintain a healthy lifestyle, the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend eating a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutritious foods every day and to limit foods that are high in saturated fat, added sodium and sugars. A high Health Star Rating does not necessarily mean that the food provides all of the essential nutrients required for a balanced and healthy diet, and foods may also contain other ingredients and nutrients not covered by the HSR system. Similarly, the HSR system does not consider methods of production.

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.

Use of the Health Star Rating System does not negate any legal obligations imposed by the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (FSC) or other relevant legislation at the Commonwealth or state or territory level in Australia, or in New Zealand. Food companies are responsible for ensuring they are fully aware of the labelling requirements of the FSC and other legislation.

No, definitely not. The system is completely voluntary. Food manufacturers and retailers can adopt the system at any stage over the five year implementation period (from June 2014) and there will be a progress review after two years. There are no application costs, and companies don’t pay to use the system. However, food manufacturers do bear the cost of implementing the scheme, for example, the cost of producing new packaging to include the Health Star Rating.

The Health Star Rating appears on the front of packaged, manufactured or processed foods. As the system is voluntary, it will appear gradually over the next five years on packaged food from companies that choose to adopt the Health Star Rating system.

When it comes to good nutrition, the Australian Dietary Guidelines always recommend fresh is best. The guidelines advise us to eat a balance diet, to increase our daily intake of fresh fruit, vegetables and dietary fibre and to limit our intake of saturated fats, sugars and sodium (salt).The benefit of the Health Star Rating system is that when we do choose to buy packaged food products it allows us to quickly see which packaged products in a particular category contain more of the good nutrients and less of the ones that increase our risk of chronic disease. Foods are rated by their nutritional content, with star ratings ranging from half a star to five stars. The more stars, the healthier the choice.

The Health Star Ratings should be considered in conjunction with the Nutritional Information Panel, ingredients list and the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

To better understand the importance of healthy eating and for more tips on what constitutes a healthy diet, visit the Eat for Health website, which features the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating.

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 consistency of information between the Health Star Rating and the Nutrition Information Panel, and complying with all relevant legislation and regulations.

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 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, as they have all the product ingredients data used to calculate the star ratings.

The National Heart Foundation (NHF) has been engaged to undertake monitoring and evaluation of the Health Star Rating system. The NHF will be undertaking several monitoring and evaluation activities, one of which is an assessment of the accuracy of the star rating for a random sample of products across representative categories. For further information about the monitoring and evaluation activities to be undertaken see the relevant FAQ on the Applying Health Star Ratings page.

The Health Star Rating Advisory Committee which is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Health Star Rating system has agreed to a process for assessing and resolving disputes. If you wish to submit a dispute notice, please see the Dispute Resolution Process on the Applying to Products page.

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 the rating without all the necessary information may produce an inaccurate result. The Health Star Rating graphic that will be displayed on food packages is the primary source of information regarding ratings for individual products. Questions about the accuracy of ratings for specific products should be referred to the manufacturer / company, as they have all the product ingredients data used to calculate the star ratings.

The Health Star Rating system has been designed to enable consumers to quickly and easily compare the nutritional profile of similar packaged foods and to make informed and healthy choices when shopping.

The system has been optimised for application to packaged food products, rather than fresh produce and is not intended to be used in isolation from other dietary advice. Specifically, the advice and recommendations within the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines and Australian Guide to Healthy Eating should also be considered when choosing foods to buy and consume, and a healthy daily intake should include foods from each of the following five food groups:

  • vegetables and legumes/beans;
  • fruit;
  • grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties;
  • lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds; and
  • milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives, mostly reduced fat.

Although the Health Star Rating system has not been designed with fruits and vegetables in mind you may have noticed that some manufacturers are choosing to apply the system to their packaged, canned and frozen fruit and vegetable products, and that not all fruits and vegetables receive five stars.

Beyond the fact that the system was not designed with fruits and vegetables in mind, the variances in the star ratings for fruit and vegetables are largely due to the variable levels of sugar and fibre content. For example, grapes contain around 15% sugar and 1% fibre. Blackberries on the other hand have significantly less sugar (5% ) and more fibre (5%) and therefore receive a higher star rating.

There is also a significant variation in water content of fruits and vegetables and this can have the effect of ‘diluting’ the nutrients values per 100g which in turn affects the final star rating.

The important thing to remember is that all fruits and vegetables can be consumed within the context of a healthy diet.

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

No, the Health Star Rating system is voluntary and will be implemented over a five year period, from June 2014. Progress of the Health Star Rating system will be reviewed after two years.

The labelling of some products, such as MiloTM, under the HSR system is an example of how the ‘form of the food’ affects HSR. 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, MiloTM has instructions about adding skim milk. It is on this modified ‘form of the food’ that the HSR system is then based.

Basically 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 etc. would create a different nutritional profile, and a different star rating.

The reality is that companies cannot control how people consume a product, and similarly the HSR system cannot account for all the differences across the entire packaged food supply. What it can do is provide factual information based on a selection of nutrients and ingredients in order to help consumers make healthier choices between similar packaged foods, as part of a total nutritious diet.

Food companies are best placed to calculate the HSR for their own products, as they have all the product ingredient data used to calculate the star ratings.

It’s important to remember that HSR uses a nutrient profile based on a selection of nutrients – a high HSR does not necessarily mean that the product contains all of the nutrients required for a healthy diet; and many products contain other ingredients and nutrients that do not contribute to the HSR but can have an impact on health.

The HSR allows for ‘at a glance comparisons’. Consumers interested in further information can find it in the HSR nutrient icons (where displayed), ingredient list and Nutrition Information Panel, and most companies will also provide contact information should you have additional questions about the nutritional content of their products.

The Health Star Rating Advisory Committee (HSRAC) is responsible for overseeeing the implementation of the Health Star Rating system. The HSRAC has agreed to a process for assessing and resolving disputes. If you wish to submit a dispute notice, please see the Dispute Resolution Process on the Applying to Products page.

The Health Star Rating system is designed to help take some of the guess work out of shopping and help us to make smarter choices when it comes to buying packaged food. The Health Star Rating system allows us to quickly compare the general nutritional profile of foods within the same category of packaged and processed goods. For example, we can compare one breakfast cereal with another, or one muesli bar with another. And it’s simple to understand and use. Basically, the more stars on the front of pack, the healthier the choice.

The implementation of the Health Star Rating system will be monitored and evaluated against these measures, as well as any changes in consumer purchasing behaviours. This work is being overseen by the Health Star Rating Advisory Committee made up of industry, governments and public health/consumer representatives.

The Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy (2011) considered many other types of labelling information, including consumer value issues such as country of origin, halal, genetically modified and organic content, which relate to the method of production.

These types of labelling information are outside of the scope of the Health Star Rating system.

The Health Star Rating system is a very convenient tool to help take some of the guess work out of shopping and help us to make smarter choices when it comes to buying packaged food. The Health Star Rating system allows us to quickly compare the general nutritional profile of foods within the same category of packaged and processed goods. For example, we can compare one breakfast cereal with another, or one muesli bar with another. And it’s simple to understand and use. Basically, the more stars on the front of pack, the healthier the choice.

An interpretive front-of-pack food labelling scheme was recommended by the Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy (2011). As a result, the Health Star Rating system was developed by the Australian, state and territory governments in collaboration with industry, and public health and consumer groups.

Information about the development process of the Health Star Rating system, including consumer market research reports, is available online. The Health Star Rating website has information about the implementation, including processes for considering anomalies and dispute resolution processes.