A missed opportunity: Food ministers reject key recommendation to improve Health Star Rating system

15 Jul 2020

The Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) has condemned the dismissal by the Australian and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation (the Forum) of the recommendation to lower the health star rating for some packaged foods, to more accurately penalise sugar and salt.

The Forum made up of Australian and New Zealand Ministers, considered changes to the health star rating system to decrease the number of stars on products that are high in sugar and salt.

Executive Manager of the OPC, Jane Martin, said at a time when unhealthy food and drinks make up one third of the energy in Australian diets, the decision represents a missed opportunity to improve the system so it aligns better with healthy diets.

“By not implementing a system which puts stronger limits on sugar and sodium, which aligns with healthier diets, the system will allow processed foods high in sugar and salt to receive a rating that is too high. We need to use the labelling system to push people away from unhealthy foods, especially products popular with children like high sugar cereals and snacks.

“Instead, Ministers decided to wait until the national dietary guidelines are updated, which could take years and, in the meantime, the fact that salt and sugar are a problem in the diet will not change.

Ms Martin said allowing companies to pick and choose which products include the health stars is counter-productive and wants to see independent monitoring of progress towards higher uptake of the system, to reach 50% in three years, and 70% in five years.

We encourage food companies to prioritise placing the system on all of their packaged foods to be transparent and support Australians to see which products are best for themselves and their families.

About the Obesity Policy Coalition: The Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) is a partnership between Cancer Council Victoria, Diabetes Victoria, VicHealth and the Global Obesity Centre at Deakin University; a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention. The OPC advocates for evidence-based policy and regulatory change to address overweight, obesity and unhealthy diets in Australia, particularly among children.