The Health Star Rating food labelling system

July 1st, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Nikki Kaye announced:

Minister for Food Safety Nikki Kaye today announced that the government will be adopting a new Health Star Rating system.

“Cabinet agreed earlier this week to New Zealand adopting this voluntary system that has been developed as part of the Australian and New Zealand Ministers’ Food Forum,” Ms Kaye says.

I’m supportive of this, for three reasons.

  1. It is voluntary, not mandatory
  2. Providing information to people so they can make better informed decisions is far better way to deal with obesity than trying to ban things
  3. The star rating system is more nuanced than other systems such as traffic lights which are too simplistic.

Research has shown the system will have a positive effect on consumers’ ability to identify healthier food products, Ms Kaye says. Uptake will be determined by companies choosing to adopt it and consumer demand. 

The new system uses a star rating scale of ½ to 5 stars and, except for some exclusions such as alcohol, is able to be used on all packaged food products for retail sale. Foods with more stars reflect better nutritional value. The number of stars is determined by an algorithm that considers the overall nutritional value of the food.

The way they are calculated is:

The nutrient profiling system used in the Health Star Rating system is consistent with Dietary Guidelines. The system takes into account four aspects of a food associated with increasing the risk factors for chronic diseases (energy, saturated fat, sodium and total sugars) along with certain ‘positive’ aspects of a food such as fruit and vegetable content, and in some instances dietary fibre and protein content. Taking these components into account, points are allocated based on the nutritional composition of 100g or 100 ml, following the units used in the nutrition information panel (NIP) of a food.

Look forward to seeing these appear. I’ve found knowing what is in the food you buy makes a big difference.

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19 Responses to “The Health Star Rating food labelling system”

  1. MT_Tinman (3,043 comments) says:

    I want to know two things about food;

    How much it costs.
    What it tastes like.

    The only other information I might find useful is how much water has been pumped into pre-packed meat.

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  2. Nigel Kearney (915 comments) says:

    Tinman, this will work for that too. There are five stars. The number that are coloured in represents the ‘health rating’. The number that are not coloured in represents the taste rating.

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  3. Judith (8,404 comments) says:

    So who will be monitoring it to determine whether it is reliable or not? Just because the food tested to give it the initial rating is of a certain quality, doesn’t mean the recipe won’t change and alter that nutritional value later. What will the policing costs be etc, because unless the system is efficient, it will be a waste of time.

    @tinman – yes, I agree, it would be interesting to determine how much water is pumping up meat. The shrinkage is unbelievable in some places.

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  4. Simon (712 comments) says:

    Meats, fish & vegetables are good. Food in a cardboard box is crap. There’s your rating system with sliding scale.

    “Research has shown the system” Whose research? Just fuck off.

    Looks like corporate scum has lobbied Statist clowns into a mickey mouse rating system for sheeple.

    Protectionism being rife in the food industry. They cant handle international competition & the consumers pay through the nose.

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  5. Manolo (13,516 comments) says:

    The sheeple, always the sheeple, must be informed and guided all the time.

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  6. Andrew (81 comments) says:

    Top research, that.

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  7. Dr. Strangelove (43 comments) says:

    A few reasons this probably won’t help:

    (1) Government dietary guidelines are one of the prime suspects for the root cause of the global obesity epidemic. Anything that makes it easier for people to follow the bad advice government is giving will probably make things worse.

    (2) The evidence that saturated fats and sodium are bad for you is weak and looking weaker all the time. The evidence that fibre is particularly good for you is also looking shaky. The case for *fresh* fruit and vegetables being good for you is pretty solid, but there is *no* evidence that fruit or vegetable content in processed food is good for you because everything depends on which nutrients survive through processing. So almost every parameter going into this algorithm looks dodgy.

    (3) It’s very easy for food manufacturers to game rating systems like this: Lots of indigestible fibre, artificial sweeteners or non-sodium salt alternatives (like potassium chloride) for flavour, and you can get a 5 star rating for any processed “food”.

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  8. Ed Snack (1,794 comments) says:

    Dr Strangelove has it right !

    The evidence for saturated fat has been almost completely undermined by recent meta research (research on research), and salt is also a highly politicized and almost certainly is no risk for normal people despite the claims.

    It is possibly even relatively likely that these precise sort of guidelines are responsible for a significant numbers of deaths worldwide as well as bearing a significant responsibility for the obesity “epidemic”.

    Just another example of “being seen to do something” allied with the “we know better than you” and “the outcome doesn’t matter, it’s the “thought” that counts” memes, and we get this sort misguided (if not down right malevolent) policy.

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  9. JeffW (324 comments) says:

    How many of our tax dollars have gone into this, and how many will go in future on monitoring etc? How many dollars will be spent on compliance? How much better off would we be if the public “servants” involved in this continued to take their salaries but stayed at home and watched TV? Or, a better idea, reduce tax and get rid of unnecessary functions such as this.

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  10. Dave Mann (1,187 comments) says:

    What a lot of f*****g bullshit. Just more tit-sucking bureaucrats making work for themselves and costing the productive sector money in the process. Assholes.

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  11. mara (752 comments) says:

    Where are carbs mentioned in this Nanny law? Carbs convert to sugar, simply put. Does this mean that chippies are OK if they are baked not fried and not too much salt added? Salt and fat are not the problem. It is sugar and carbs. You can have one or the other but not both together. And too much of either will make you fat.

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  12. thedavincimode (6,589 comments) says:

    Better still, just don’t buy processed food. Save yourself some dough and eat the real deal.

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  13. salt (130 comments) says:

    I’m not a fan of either star ratings or traffic lights – they over-simplify the complex thing that is A Healthy Diet For You As An Individual. And what’s “good” and what’s “bad” is too influenced by the establishment public health view – well-intentioned I’m sure, but more or less telling us all to kill ourselves on starches and processed vegetable oils, and making out that a nice, natural, perfectly healthy bit of cheese more than twice a week is some sort of sin. But in answer to JeffW: 1. It’s actually Australian bureaucrats who did the work – it’s not really a NZ policy decision. As I understand it, common market considerations meant we had little choice but to do what the Aussies are going to do. 2. It’s voluntary, so very little implementation, and no monitoring or compliance costs from a gvt perspective. The companies decide whether adding a star rating to a particular product is to their advantage or not, and pay for the testing (or don’t) accordingly. So your tax dollars are safe on this one.

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  14. NK (1,128 comments) says:

    This rather long (45mins) YouTube video explains nicely why government edicts on what food is good for you and what isn’t is a load of old cobblers.

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  15. IC5000 (64 comments) says:

    “Dave Mann (1,163 comments) says:
    July 1st, 2014 at 6:12 pm
    What a lot of f*****g bullshit. Just more tit-sucking bureaucrats making work for themselves and costing the productive sector money in the process. Assholes.”

    Congratulations with your dipshit comment of the week. I’m for anything which helps the ignorant chose healthy food thus saving the country and taxpayers hundreds of millions and maybe even billions of dollars in health costs. Clearly you think differently but then morons usually do.

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  16. Left Right and Centre (2,876 comments) says:

    Nice try.

    Is this going to be anything like Milo getting the ‘Heart Tick’ because it’s the ‘most heart healthy of all the products in the range’.

    Far out – it will change just about no-one’s shopping habits. Maybe the odd Pollyanna moron here or there.

    Fucking algorithm determines the overall nutritional rating. It’s like Google search but it’s food ratings not something random totally unrelated to what you’re looking for.

    How about this – for eg – just forcing all of these wanker food makers to actually disclose how much fucking sugar has been added to something ? It says ‘sugars’ on things – listed under carbohydrate – sugars. How much of that is natural sugars, how much is added ? You don’t know exactly because – oooooh – it’s a mystery. No-one has to tell you. Ok – that’s not going to change the world. But then all the info in the world aint going to stop soft drink sales and other shit, innit ? Not in this lifetime anyway – we’ve never smarter as a species and all of these smart people eat shit on shit each day and are fat or quite bloody overweight – what can you do ? Outlaw being fat ?

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  17. Psycho Milt (2,365 comments) says:

    I’m for anything which helps the ignorant chose healthy food thus saving the country and taxpayers hundreds of millions and maybe even billions of dollars in health costs.

    That would be nice, yes. Unfortunately, the nutrition guiidelines that healthy vs unhealthy food is based on are so laughably, stupidly wrong that these star/traffic light systems will actually make things worse.

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  18. NK (1,128 comments) says:

    I’m for anything that helps investors chose which banks are safe too. How did those ratings turn out pre GFC?

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  19. NK (1,128 comments) says:

    Milt is right. For years and years, the Food Pyramid was the “go to” thing for the “right” and “wrong” foods. It’s turned out though that the Food Pyramid is, well, crap. I urge anyone who has 45 minutes to watch the YouTube clip above.

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