Consumer advocate CHOICE is proposing that New Zealand’s Health Star Rating system be reviewed. The group believes that Health Ministers must improve food labels so that foods high in added sugar receive lower Health Star Ratings. The call for a review by CHOICE comes as new modelling shows how a Health Star Rating algorithm that factors in added sugar would penalise products and then increase ratings for products with naturally occurring sugars.
“The Health Star Rating System is meant to help people glance at a group of products to understand which options are healthier than others. Health Stars are a good system, but they need to be stronger to really help people make easy decisions,” said CHOICE food expert, Linda Przhedetsky.
“CHOICE's own modelling has found that increased penalties for added sugar could significantly impact the Health Star Ratings that products are given. Some products containing added sugar would lose as much as 2.5 stars. However, healthier products that contain naturally occurring sugars - like fruit and dairy - gain stars.”
Przhedetsky is calling for Health Ministers to introduce added sugar labelling on all packaged foods and to ensure that added sugar is more heavily penalised in the Health Star Rating System.
“Right now, the Health Star Rating algorithm treats all sugars the same. The system doesn’t distinguish between the extra sugar that’s added to foods like breakfast cereals and the naturally occurring sugars in dairy or fruits.”
CHOICE is calling on Health Ministers to:
- Strengthen the Health Star Rating by properly penalising added sugars which are not currently required to be clearly listed on food labels.
- Make Health Stars mandatory to ensure that people can make informed choices about the food and drinks that they buy.
- Ensure that food labelling policy development and oversight is free from undue industry influence.
- Take action on a number of other key changes called for by State Health departments and nutrition experts.