Unhealthy snack bars don't reveal health rating: survey

16 May 2016
Brands urged to be honest & put stars on all products
More than 63 per cent of snack bars on major supermarket shelves do not display the Government-led Health Star Rating System and some manufacturers only use the stars on high-rating products, a new survey from the Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC)has revealed.
The OPC surveyed 164 bars, including nut bars, muesli bars, fruit bars, oat slices and cereal bars, in major supermarkets. It found that the products which did not carry health stars were the least healthy, with most scoring between 1 and 2.5 out of a possible 5 stars.
“Leading brands such as Kellogg’s and Weight Watchers have not put Health Star Ratings on any of their snack bars, while Carman’s appears to be using the system as a promotional tool by only displaying the stars on its healthiest products. Unless all brands put the stars on all products, it’s very difficult for shoppers to compare at a glance and make an informed choice,” OPC Executive Manager Jane Martin said.
“Sixty two per cent of grocery buyers said they would use health stars if they were on muesli bars. It’s a quick and reliable way for consumers to cut through the spin and make healthier choices.”
Snack bars are extremely popular with 1 in 6 Australians eating them every weeki.
“Most people buy these products thinking they’re a healthy snack choice for themselves or their children. Many would be shocked to know that some Weight Watchers and Special K bars would score as low as 1.5 out of a possible 5 on the star rating system,” Ms Martin said.
“At a time when 63 per cent of Australian adults and 27 per cent of children are overweight or obese, it’s disappointing that so many food companies are not supporting consumers with the information they need to make healthier choices for themselves and their families.”
The voluntary Health Star Rating System was introduced in June 2014 to help consumers compare the overall nutritional quality of supermarket food products at a glance. Unfortunately, the system has not yet been widely adopted by food manufacturers.
“Coles, Woolworths and Uncle Tobys have set a great example by reformulating some of their products or introducing healthier options and using health star ratings across the board,” Ms Martin said.
“We want to see the Federal Government make the Health Star Rating System mandatory to ensure food manufacturers use the system as it was intended and display the stars on all of their packaged foods.”
10 Low-rating snack bars 
10 High-rating snack bars
About the study
The OPC surveyed all multi-pack snack bars found in Woolworths in Wyndham Vale, Victoria, on 4 April 2016 and in Coles in Manor Lakes, Victoria, on 22 April 2016 to determine uptake of the Federal Government’s Health Star Rating System. Bars which did not carry health stars on the product label were given a rating by entering theinformation on the product’s nutritional information panel into the calculator  on the Health Star Rating website www.healthstarrating.gov.au.
i 17% of Australians aged 14 years and older reportedly eat a muesli/health/fruit bar in an average week Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), July 2013 – June 2014