Rating the Health Star Ratings

Rating the Health Star Ratings

  • May 06, 2016

Much has been said recently about the government’s health star ratings on packaged foods in Australian supermarkets. These have been in place for a while now and we wanted to know what Australians think of them. So we asked the Caféstudy panel for their views.

Many of our respondents thought that easy to understand food labelling was important and should be mandatory. Healthy eating is clearly an issue that is important to many on our panel.

"It gives the consumer the choice at least to be more aware of what they are buying and consuming."

"I think the food star system is an excellent start to letting us know what exactly we are eating."

"After all the consumer is paying for the product, more ratings and labels, please."

While the principle of health star ratings is supported by many, there is  plenty of skepticism about how it works in practice.

For some, the star ratings do not measure the healthiness of foods satisfactorily. They question whether foods classified as healthy really are, and whether the ratings are a true indication of what is healthy and what is not.

"I don't always agree with the government's take on what constitutes healthy food."

"I have some pretty strong ideas about what I want to eat, and I'm not sure my standards match those of the health star rating agency."

"Some high (very high) levels of sugar are found in foods marked healthy!"

For many the more serious concern is whether food companies can be trusted to label their food accurately. Many believe that large corporations will undermine the ratings system through misleading labelling.

"Honesty still does not exist so we still cannot believe what these labels display."

"I don't trust food companies to be honest with their ratings any more than I trust a taxi driver."

"The ratings scheme should be set and monitored by a body like the Heart Foundation and not the food companies themselves as they cannot be trusted."

Interestingly we found that consumers show a lot of interest not only in the ingredients and nutritional composition of their food, but also in the place of origin. People are clearly becoming more aware of what they buy, what they eat, and where it comes from. With more and more information about food available online, food companies will need to ensure they are completely honest about their products. There are also some exciting opportunities for Australian companies dedicated to providing healthy food that is grown and manufactured locally.