1. The overall rating between 0.5 and 5 stars was introduced in 2014 by the Australian and New Zealand Governments to try and help consumers navigate their way around food and make healthier choices. It is a voluntary system and the more stars the product receives, the healthier choice it is considered to be.
There are three elements to the rating
1. The overall rating between 0.5 and 5 stars
2. The amount of kilojoules in the product
3. Three markers of poor health being Saturated fat, Salt and Sugar and one positive marker such as fibre or calcium.
The ratings are a tool to help you to following a healthy diet, a high star rating doesn't mean that the product provides for a complete and balanced diet or should be eaten in large quantities, but that compared to other similar products is the better choice.
How to use the system
Firstly compare like products with like products, eg: yoghurts with yoghurts, or cereals with cereals. Trying to compare a yoghurt to potato chips provides an overall poor comparison.
Secondly note that not all foods need to apply a health star rating, for example fruit and vegetables, meat and chicken and single ingredient products do not need to show a rating.
The ratings are a tool to help you follow a healthy diet, a high star rating doesnt mean that the product provides for a complete and balanced diet or should be eaten in large quantities, but that compared to other similar products that it is the better choice.
The star rating does not help to determine whether a product is natural or processed.
This year as the five year review of the system is completed, the expectation is that the ratings will be more accurate. The five main issues previously noted are:
1. Making sure foods high in sugar and fat and salt cant get a high rating
2. Making health starts appear on all products, particularly those marketed at children
3. Make sure companies cant claim a high rating based on it being mixed with a more natural product (eg: Milo)
4. Include added sugars into the calculations
5. Make sure the ratings promote whole foods and not processed alternatives
It is up to the government to supervise this process and ensure that all consumers can easily find foods that are healthy.