Health star ratings: companies exploiting the ratings

Several leading brands have been found to be exploiting the Health Star Rating System.

Consumer group CHOICE has identified and called out several leading brands that have found creative ways to dramatically increase the health star rating of their products.

The prime example given by CHOICE is a tin of Milo that displays a 4.5 star rating, reflecting its nutritional value when consumed with a glass of skim milk, while the actual product by itself is only rated 1.5 stars. Several Kellogg's cereals have also been singled out, with Fruit Loops and Crunchy Nut Cornflake Clusters displaying health star ratings higher than the products actually received.

Recent Federal Government-commissioned research shows that one in six shoppers have purchased a product that they normally wouldn’t buy, but did due to a higher star rating. The study also showed that sixty per cent of those surveyed would like to see health ratings on more products.

It’s not mandatory for companies to put a health-star rating on products.

Deakin University professor of public health Mark Lawrence believes the current ratings are “creating consumer confusion”. He believes that until the ratings are made mandatory and loopholes are closed, food companies will continue to use the ratings system as a marketing campaign instead of in the interest of public health – as it is intended.

Read more from www.choice.com.au
Read more from www.healthstarrating.gov.au
Read more from www.theage.com.au

Health ratings improve products

The Health Star Rating System was implemented by the Federal, State and Territory Governments, along with industry, public health and consumer groups in order to provide a standard way to compare similar packaged foods.

While the ratings system was intended to encourage shoppers to make healthier choices, it’s disappointing that numerous brands have decided to take advantage of the system, in order to boost scores by displaying health ratings that include the use of specific ingredients that are not included in the product.

Kellogg's is one of the companies incorrectly using the current system. The company answered questions from the media and stated that they are already in the process of amending the cereal packaging which should be completed soon. A stark difference in comparison to the statement provided by Nestlé who, through a spokesperson, said it was appropriate to apply a health rating to Milo in accordance with how it was recommended to be consumed – with a glass of skim milk. I can’t wait for McDonalds to apply a rating to its Big Mac Meal which includes a Diet Coke!

The most interesting and positive news to come out of the implementation of these ratings is the fact that brands have taken the next step to improve their products in order to gain higher star ratings. Kellogg’s reformulated its Nutrigrain product from the ground up to increase the cereal’s health star rating from two to four stars. Kellogg’s said that since the change, they have seen an increase in sales which was a win for both the company and consumers as they are provided with a healthier product.

Do you find the Health Star Rating System helpful when making purchases? Does the system need a regulatory body to ensure the correct information is being provided to consumers? In order to close these loopholes, should it be made mandatory for all processed food products?





    COMMENTS

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    veepee
    16th Feb 2016
    11:04am
    I think the health rating system is quite inaccurate. Saturated fats in dairy and coconuts oils, for instance, are still seen as bad for health when there is so much evidence to the contrary now. Until our health authorities drag themselves from the 1970's into the 20teens health star ratings and healthy heart ticks will be very misleading..
    MICK
    16th Feb 2016
    11:19am
    This story is quite irrelevant when one looks at the big picture: the efforts by the current government to turn our Health Care System into an American style system. Readers beware. Americans are destitute people with many who effectively have NO HEALTH INSURANCE. If you think it won't be coming here any time soon then you are not looking at almost every piece of legislation in the past 2 years aimed directly at taxing average Australians.
    GetUp is mounting a campaign. Perhaps wise to become involved. Too late when the deal is done.
    Wstaton
    16th Feb 2016
    11:29am
    This is par for the course with Aussie Politicians. They have no original thought.

    Just look at a great many thinks they have brought in copied from overseas many of then now squashed by those same countries as unworkable.

    Mind you there is occasionally original thought when it benefits just them. (or their business mates) (or their rich mates)
    Wstaton
    16th Feb 2016
    11:24am
    I mix milo with water how much does water add to the star rating?
    shirboy
    16th Feb 2016
    11:31am
    I buy cereal with a high fibre content from Aldi whose ethics are beyond reproach.
    Wstaton
    16th Feb 2016
    11:54am
    I by rolled oats from Aldi, Packet of Chai seeds, Packet of mixed seeds and sultanas and a tub of greek yogurt and honey.

    Put half cup of rolled oats in a dish with milk. In microwave for 2 mins.

    Add one desert spoon of chai seeds, one desrt spoon of mixed seeds half a desert spoon of honey and then a dollop of yogurt.

    ingredients lasts me for two weeks.

    Healthy and Yum.

    Even my grandkids love it when they visit.

    16th Feb 2016
    11:41am
    This is yet another dodgey government stunt of an idea which food companies will exploit to the fullest and the end result will only cause confusion and make money from lies and false pretences to the consumer. Cadbury will probably be one of the first to give multiple stars to their confectionary, placing them on the packaging where the Halal stamp used to be. No Halal logo, but they are still paying gratuities to the Muslims.
    FrankC
    16th Feb 2016
    11:47am
    And I'm sure most of us know that Nutrigrain is loaded with fat and sugar.
    Happy cyclist
    16th Feb 2016
    12:13pm
    ALL packaged cereals are loaded with fat and sugar Frank with degrees of difference. 24 grams per serve equals 6 teaspoons of sugar. Each teaspoon is 4 grams. Find me a packaged cereal which has less than 16 gr per serve. And the fat in cereal is usually transfat which is the reall bad guy. Much better to follow Wstaton's recipe above, or eat eggs and bacon (fat trimmed).
    Wstaton
    16th Feb 2016
    1:13pm
    Yep, Rolled oats have 0.3 of a gram of sugar. True honey, sultanas add more but not much more. Apart from this there is 5.9 protein, 6.6 fibre adding the other ingredients add to this.

    I find it unconscionable that I can buy roiled oats from from Aldi for a dollar yet Uncle Toby's cost $4.5 for the same size touting the same ingredients (but sugar content higher) And spouting on about all the benefits of Rolled oats. Just shows what pressure advertising does.
    Wstaton
    16th Feb 2016
    1:16pm
    Sorry to elaborate, when I said touting the same ingredients this didn't include chai seeds, mixed seeds, yogurt or honey.
    KSS
    16th Feb 2016
    1:52pm
    Wstaton, any supermarket home brand oats are about the same price (give or take a few cents around the dollar mark) and come in plain packaging. The $4.50 Uncle Toby or Quaker oats you are simply paying for a fancy box and trade name. Pure oats contain the sugar naturally present in the grain and nothing more.
    Wstaton
    16th Feb 2016
    2:13pm
    hmmm, Thanks for your input KSS but are you trying to tell me something I already know.
    KSS
    16th Feb 2016
    2:33pm
    Would I try and teach you how to suck eggs Wstaton?

    No, simply agreeing and pointing out for those who do not have ALDI nearby that they can get the same thing at a similar price in any supermarket.
    Wstaton
    16th Feb 2016
    3:17pm
    Ok KSS, I was just using Aldi as an example because that where I do most of my shopping now.
    Kiri
    16th Feb 2016
    12:08pm
    Oh gosh, I remember all the hoo-hah about introducing a star rating system, but I never noticed that they actually got around to doing it. Obviously it hasn't changed my food purchasing habits, and probably never would. Common sense is the best guide.
    nena
    16th Feb 2016
    1:07pm
    Go Vegan and cook everything from scratch using whole product. It is better for your health...pocket...and all other sentient beings, and.... Killing and eating animals would be seen in a few generations to come as cannibalism is seen today. Anyway, what is the difference? Killing the vulnerable just because you can...there is no need for it.
    Wstaton
    16th Feb 2016
    1:19pm
    Are we saying that Lions shouldn't kill vulnerable Deer to eat.
    Hawkeye
    16th Feb 2016
    5:54pm
    So what about killing all the plants and eating them?
    Are they not just as vulnerable, if not more so?
    Preach to me when you see ALL life as being equal.
    Aquarian
    16th Feb 2016
    8:47pm
    So instead you kill other livings things: such as plants. Get real for goodness sake !
    Waiting to retire at 70
    16th Feb 2016
    1:44pm
    'Not sure why some people are surprised by the response of the Processed Food Industry to Health Star Rating System. Clearly they are driven by the same motives exhibited by the Tobacco Industries way back in the 50's and 60's. Neither are interested in you health, only your wallet and they'll say ANYTHING to get into it.

    In the same way the Tobacco Industry drove its customer base away, the Processed Food Industry will drive us all to using non processed foods. Bad outcome? Only for the Tobacco, I mean Processed Food Industry. Not for my health or yours and more importantly for our offspring and theirs - we need them to be healthy and productive to support us in retirement. So an investment in non processed foods is an investment in our retirement.

    The big question I have is who is the supermarket retailer who'll start stocking sufficient variety of non processed foods for us? Are they with us now? Probably not ...
    KSS
    16th Feb 2016
    3:41pm
    Probably not a supermarket Waiting to retire at 70, but still the small butcher, baker fishmonger, greengrocer etc who are hanging on by their fingernails. We need to support them even if they are not as convenient or 'cheap'.
    KSS
    16th Feb 2016
    1:48pm
    I really don't know why anyone could be surprised by this. Look at the Heart Foundation Tick - a tick companies paid for. It was never meant to imply a product carrying its tick was healthy; only that it was a healthier version of similar products. A massed produced meat pie cannot by any stretch of the imagination be thought of as 'healthy' surrounded as they are with pastry and filled with questionable 'meat' and gravy high in salt/sugar. Sticking a tick on it does not make it healthy just marginally less 'bad' in some way than a competitor. But this came to mean tick = healthy. Until MacDonald's got a tick. Then the Emperor's New Clothes were laid out for all to see.

    Well this is no different. Manufacturers are there to sell stuff - and the more they sell the better. So they use everything they can, calling an amount so small that no-one would actually eat, a 'portion' so that the kilojoule/calorie/fat/sugar content looks good (who actually eats half a small tub of flavoured yogurt?), packing in green/brown packaging so it 'looks' healthy and so on are all 'fair-game' in the food industry. It is up to us as consumers to read the labels on the back of the pack and compare products per hundred grams NOT serving sizes. And whilst Nena's plea for veganism may be a step too far for many, she is right about cooking from scratch yourself.
    Tom Tank
    16th Feb 2016
    1:53pm
    Welcome to the World of ethical marketing of product, sorry did I say ethical??
    In chasing the dollar ethics and honesty are rare commodities in todays business World.
    In simple terms do NOT believe what anyone who is trying to sell you something tells you. Do your own research, the internet is a valuable tool, and often you will be surprised that you were in fact told the truth. Unfortunately too often you are simply spun a story to get a sale.
    Gee thast sounds like the state of politics in this country!!
    LiveItUp
    16th Feb 2016
    2:38pm
    These star rating are complete rubbish. Margarine healthier than butter? I don't think so. Anything with that heart tick on I can't get it back on the shelf quick enough.
    Hawkeye
    16th Feb 2016
    6:16pm
    Bonny, I never thought I would say this, but I agree with you.
    I lost my confidence in the "heart tick" the day Macca's got one.

    My health has been ruined over a lifetime of consuming "healthy" "low fat" and "diet" foods. I now leave these on the shelves and have swapped to less carb's, more meat and lots of fats (most of which are extremely healthy). The first step was to ditch the margarine.

    I now try to eat only "single ingredient" foods as much as possible, and am feeling much better for it (and so are my blood sugar levels)
    For instance:
    - Steak has one ingredient = steak
    - An apple has one ingredient = apple
    - Broccoli has one ingredient = broccoli
    Scrivener
    16th Feb 2016
    5:26pm
    Cat among the pigeons - if you eat stuff contained in tins and packets, you deserve the lies you are told. Even raw food is worth investigating these days - ie free range eggs that have come from chickens foraging on ground that was once treated with DDT and a whole bunch of nasty chemicals once used to treat ant infestations.
    nena
    16th Feb 2016
    5:31pm
    WSTATON, Lions are animals but we are humans...aren't we? We can think...we have choices...animals don't ...think deeply and critically
    Hawkeye
    16th Feb 2016
    5:55pm
    It is our reliance on wheat products (flour, bread, pasta) and other highly processed foods, together with the addition of corn syrup, sugar, emulsifiers, etc to everything that is slowly wiping out the human race by turning our foods into poisons.

    Even the farmed animals and fish are fed on the same crap, which is then transferred to us when we eat the meat.

    There is no getting away from it. Big Business decrees that is what they will sell, and therefore that is what most of us must eat.
    KSS
    16th Feb 2016
    6:32pm
    Right Hawkeye. What do farmers feed cattle to fatten them up? Grains. So what happens when people eat too many grain based foods (bread, pasta, etc). Yup, they fatten up! Add to HFCS to absolutely everything in a tin or packet and there's your recipe for obesity right there.
    Virginia
    16th Feb 2016
    9:11pm
    Nutri grain reported as strong man food is nothing but sugar coated in Honey. I rang them when I noticed a change to the honey coating and they admitted they would have to back peddle to a healthier produc t yes yes Yes.