Ratings proposed for fresh fruit & veg
A review of the current Health Star Rating system for Australian food products has led the Commonwealth Department of Health to make the odd proposal of using a “calculator” to determine if fresh fruit and vegetables are healthy. Current dietary guidelines from the same department already encourage Australians to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables.
The Health Star Rating system uses stars to show the nutritional profile of packaged foods, and currently features on more than 10,300 packaged foods. The government’s Health Star Rating website suggests that, to make healthier choices on packaged foods, consumers should look for the highest star rating when comparing similar products. Under changes to these guidelines, these calculations could be applied to fresh fruits and vegetables.
“The Health Star Rating system was developed to better inform consumers of the nutrition of processed and packaged food products,” says Australian Fresh Produce Alliance CEO, Michael Rogers. “This is a commendable objective, but surely extending the Health Star Rating system to natural, whole foods like fruit and vegetables is the clearest example of policy overreach and unintended consequences. Should we also apply the Health Star Rating to water to make sure it’s healthy?”
Advice from health professionals tells us that one of the key elements of good health is a balanced diet. However, currently, only around five percent of Australians are eating the recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables as part of a healthy diet.
“We need industry and government working together to encourage Australians to eat more fruit and vegetables,” Rogers says. “Applying the Health Star Rating system to fruit and vegetables will simply confuse Australian families.”
Government interventions must be for clear reasons that are supported by evidence and to achieve a clear objective, Rogers says. Because of this, the Health Star Rating system should remain focused on processed foods to help consumers in their decision making.
“We call on the Commonwealth Department of Health to exempt fresh fruit and vegetables from the Health Star Rating system,” he says. “If the government insists on including all food products in the system, then fresh fruit and vegetables must receive the available ‘policy override’ of an automatic 5-star ranking. Industry and government must be working together to support the health of all Australians, not creating confusion.”