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Health Star Ratings Being Gamed

Hi all, with the five year review of health stars around the corner, we want to know where health stars are working and where they aren’t - are there specific products whose health star rating doesn’t seem right?

No system starts out perfect and this is our opportunity to shape health stars to make sure the system works for consumers, not food companies.

Have your say here and please share with others to get their thoughts too.



A Senate Committee Inquiry looking into obesity has recommended that health star ratings could be strengthened to help people make healthier choices. Specifically the report said that;

  • Health star ratings should be mandatory
  • The calculator should address foods high in sugar, salt or fat, added sugar and fruit juices
  • Conflicts of interest be removed.

Proposed changes to health star ratings as part of the five year review are actually underway and would see products like Nutri-Grain go from 4.0 stars to 2.5.

What do you think of these suggestions?


The suggestions are good as far as they go Katinka, but it is not far enough.

The problem is that star ratings for one food product line is not comparable to a dissimilar product food line. For example, 4 :star:s for cereals does not equate to 4 :star:s for confectionery, or 4 :star:s for dairy products.

It should be an absolute measure of sugar, fat, and salt content per unit, multiplied by the amount an “average person” would eat at a sitting (not manufacturer’s serving size). This could be used to compare across food groups to indicate what is/isn’t healthy.


Exactly. This defeats the purpose of the system. A proper aim would not be to allow accurate comparison of cheesecake A with cheesecake B but to provide usable data so people can compare yogurt to cheesecake or fruit to yogurt and then (hopefully) to make the decision to choose the lower fat/sugar product at least sometimes.

Trying to make the system compulsory will produce some exquisite sophistry from those gaming the system by simply not rating their worst products. I look forward to the artistry of their wriggling but not to the public servants and pollies acquiescing to it.


Why not just make the nutritional panels big enough to read? All the info you need, to work out how healthy a product is or how it compares to another product, is there already. It is easy to use the listings per 100 grams – same as using the price per 100 grams some stores display. The traffic lights and stars are absolutely useless in conveying this information.

And why are generic brands allowed to get away with no nutritional panel at all???

People who can’t understand the nutritional panel are probably the ones misunderstanding the stars or traffic lights as well. They might be better off without the false impression these graphics convey.


I was not aware they could. There are specific requirements and exemptions including:

  • a herb or spice, mineral water, tea and coffee (because they have no significant nutritional value)
  • foods sold unpackaged
  • foods made and packaged at the point of sale, e.g. bread made and sold in a local bakery.

regardless of branding or not. If you have examples of generics not having the panels that do not fit the above, please cite them as they would appear to contravene the requirement and should be reported.


I’ll keep an eye out and let you know.


One thing which has puzzled me is the health star rating on Birds Eye frozen beans. The baby beans are 5 stars and the cut frozen beans are 4 1/2 stars. So cutting beans up makes them less healthy?


That is a real curiosity, certainly the ingredients are the same :thinking:


I wonder if it is the beans…baby compared to standard green beans. Maybe as the beans grow, they lose nutrition (e.g. fibre) or the sugar content increases as it matures?

They could also be different cultivars used for baby beans and standard green beans. There could be nutritional differences between the cultivars.

It would be interesting to see the nutritional panel for both.


Heath stars at the moment are focused on supermarket type foods, whether processed or not.

I wondering the health star rating should be broadened to also include all food from fast food outlets?


Then take the average health star rating from the top 50% of the menu by sales. That is the overall rating for the fast food place.

Never gonna happen but I can dream :rofl:


My guess is that it isn’t the cutting but the age that makes the difference.

If you look at their web site Birds Eye show different fibre content for baby and sliced beans. I don’t know it that is enough to account for the difference in rating. McCain also has different fibre and other things between baby and sliced. If I could do a table here I would show you.

Oddly Birds Eye are higher fibre than McCain. Different cultivars perhaps?

Maybe we should not fuss about anomalies of half a point and just eat our greens.


I have managed to track down the nutritional information for both Birdseye products…

The significant differences lie in the total energy and fibre. It is possibly these two attributes which changed the Star ratings from 4.5 and 5.

These differences could be from the cultivars used for each products, the age of the beans when picked and/or the processing technique used to process the beans (e.g. the internal flesh of the sliced beans would be more exposed to the atmosphere than whole baby beans…and maybe the cut beans are treated differently prior to freezing due to being cut and to ensure product quality).

As most parameters are the same, it is possible that the same cultivar used for both products is the same.

Very interesting.


An update regarding the Federal Government commissioned review into health star ratings with the report due next month.

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Choice gets some kudos regarding moves to revise health star ratings.


In case you didn’t catch CHOICE in the news yesterday - we were talking about what would happen if Health Star Ratings focused on added sugar rather than total sugars. The results are VERY interesting.


There’s a review of the health star system coming and we’re recommending some important changes so that the system benefits consumers. Here are our five key recommendations:

You can read more about our health star recommendations and the reasons behind them, and you can sign our petition to support our campaign.

We’d love to hear your thoughts, questions and comments - leave them below.



I have hypertension and must keep my salt levels at a minimum. Consumption of processed foods is very difficult as they are very heavy on the salt. I recently asked Marion’s Kitchen if they could review and reduce their salt content and received a reply which was encouraging but time will tell.

I also tend to put on weight quickly and must keep my sugar levels at a minimum level. I picked up some pre-cooked shredded chicken in Woolworths the other day and was shocked to read sugar was added. I put it back on the shelf.

I support Choice’s stand in the health star area, but would also like to see even more pressure put on manufacturers and packaging companies to reduce their salt and sugar content for the general good health of humans overall.

I strive to cook fresh ingredients, but I am not a good cook, do not enjoy being in the kitchen and sometimes rely on packaged foods to add a little bit of the ‘yum’ factor to our meals. It would be wonderful if those times I didn’t have to worry so much about the addition of salt and sugar.


Thanks for the support @nerrel.loader. You’re definitely not alone in your situation, hopefully we can achieve some positive changes in the near future.