CHOICE membership

Your thoughts on a change to health star ratings


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.