CHOICE: time to stop food industry tricks

11th May 2020 | Eativity editors

New CHOICE research has shown that the Health Star Rating system has a major impact on the disruption of food industry “tricks”. The consumer watchdog conducted a survey which tested community perceptions of packaged food products with and without a Health Star Rating. Here’s what they found:

In light of the findings, CHOICE has written to health ministers asking that the Health Star Ratings be made compulsory for all packaged food products, to ensure that Australians have the ability to make more informed and healthier choices.

“It’s clear to us that Health Stars make it far easier for people to pick healthy foods,” says CHOICE food policy expert, Linda Przhedetsky.

“Our survey found that without Health Stars, two-thirds of people rely on marketing material to decide if something is a healthy choice. Too many food brands still try to trick us into buying their unhealthy products with misleading images and claims. A compulsory Health Star Rating system will help disrupt the food industry’s tricks.” 

CHOICE recently submitted a complaint to the ACCC about a number of sugary children’s products that are likely misleading parents through product descriptions such as “no nasties” and “fun and nutritious”. CHOICE also awarded Freedom Foods’ “XO Crunch” a 2019 Shonky award for telling parents that a cereal containing 22.2% added sugar is a “fun and nutritious way to start your kid’s day”.

“With so many products employing misleading marketing tactics, it’s vital that we have a compulsory Health Star Ratings system,” says Przhedetsky. 

“Our survey revealed that 75% of people that used Health Star Ratings trust the system quite a lot or a great deal. We’re asking for the system to be made mandatory so that Australians have all the tools they need to make healthy choices.

“Health Stars are important and helpful, so it’s vital we don’t let food companies game the system. That’s why Health Star calculations should be determined by public health experts, and not by food companies. CHOICE wants to see greater penalties for added sugar, which currently isn’t considered in the Health Star algorithm.”

How Health Star savvy are you? Take CHOICE’s quiz here.