Ditch the “Health Star Rating” system

Live Longer October 13, 2016

Live Longer Petition against Health Star Rating System

Wouldn’t you think there’s something wrong with the Health Star Rating System if flavoured milk with over 9tsp of sugar in a single serve gets a 4.5 rating?

Claire Deeks from Doms Kitchen is on a mission to make a difference:

We’ve Launched A Petition!!!

Please sign the petition to show your support for petitions to the NZ and Australian Houses of Representatives to ditch the Health Star Rating System in both countries in favour of a much simpler visual depiction of how many teaspoons of sugar are in the product and more education on why and how to eat real food.

We need your help to make a real difference. We’ve got a serious situation in children’s health in our countries.

NZ and Australia rank 3rd and 4th respectively in the obesity rankings globally with over 30% of New Zealanders and over 28% of Australian’s are considered obese. Obesity is one of the most important risk factors for a number of major diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and several common cancers.

Rates of diabetes (including juvenile diabetes) are now epidemic in both countries – estimates put the number of diabetics at over 1.5 million in Australia and over 300,000 in New Zealand.

While experts are not all in agreement on causation for these diseases there is growing consensus that sugar is public health enemy number one.

What Is The Health Food Star System?

This system is a government led initiative developed in 2014 for packaged foods in New Zealand and Australia. The number of stars associated with each food – 0.5 to 5 stars out of a possible 5 stars – is determined by complicated algorithms that supposedly consider the overall nutritional value of the food product and give more stars to those foods said to have better nutritional value.

Despite the good intentions that may lie behind the it, the fact is that, in creating this system, governments in both countries have fallen into the trap of effectively endorsing packaged food – and hardly the healthiest packaged food at that.

What’s The Problem Exactly?

The rating system is a classic example of the type of thinking that’s led us to the health issues most prevalent in western society today. It encourages a focus on single nutrients and calorific information.

Proponents of the system argue that the stars allow for comparison between similar items on the supermarket shelf. That may be true. So for example the system rates one high sugar cereal against another high sugar cereal and then gives a higher rating to the product that complies best with the algorithm (perhaps less salt or more added vitamins).

However, the practical reality is that where any star is awarded to a product (but particularly where it’s 3 star or higher) then that product is seen having been given an outright seal of approval (regardless of comparative products on the shelf). And indeed the labelling on the packets encourages this stating as it does: “Put simply, the more stars the healthier the choice.” This is highly misleading.

Specific Examples Of The Problem

The World Health Organisation recommends no more than 3 teaspoons of sugar per day for a child. With that in mind, here are some examples of where the star rating system goes horribly wrong:

  • Favoured milk with over 9 tsp of sugar in a single serve with 4.5 stars.
  • Vegetable oil spreads made with preservatives and colours with 5 stars (whilst butter gets 0.5 stars).
  • Juice being awarded 4 stars.
  • Artificially flavoured low fat yoghurt receiving 5 stars.
  • Cocoa powder blend that’s almost 50% sugar awarded 4.5 stars.
  • Snack bars with added flavours, vegetable oils + other additives & preservatives obtaining 3 stars.
  • Cereals with added flavours, vegetable oils + other additives & preservatives having 4.5 stars.

This is a fundamentally flawed system which sends entirely the wrong message to busy and tired parents shopping for their kids.

The bottom line is, the Healthy Food Star System isn’t intuitive. On the contrary: It’s very confusing (some would say deliberately deceptive) and, most of all, it’s ultimately government endorsement of packaged, processed food.

What’s The Alternative?

Well to start with if there’s to be any labelling of packaged foods then such labelling ought to relate to the degree of processing the food has gone through as well as the amount and type of additives and preservatives and of course the nutrients provided by the food and their known effects on human health.

But a very simple and easy to understand system (that’s gathered significant support and would help clear up a lot of confusion by dealing with one of the worst issues of many processed foods) is to simply ensure that all packaged foods carry on front of package the amount of sugar in actual teaspoons. (Yes – an actual picture of the teaspoons.)

Alternatively – instead of spending millions (and it really is multiple millions) trying to educate people on yet another labelling system – we could put renewed focus on eating real foods. Whole foods. Which don’t need labels!

What Can You Do?

We really need your help today to sign & share this petition.

Share it on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – let’s get it out there and make a difference! Tell the NZ and Australian Governments it’s time to ditch this ridiculous ratings system and get back to emphasising consumption of real food. If there is to be any system let it be simply the visual representation of teaspoons of sugar.

So please sign & share (it only takes a minute) and let’s help our governments to do the right thing.

Thank you for your support we very much appreciate it.

Claire & Dom xo