Choice Health Stars

Woman in supermarket looking at cereal box

Make health stars work for you

Following our campaign, Nestlé has agreed to remove their dishonest 4.5 star rating from Milo!

This is a step forward to making health star ratings work for you. But it can be even better. The government is currently reviewing the system and you can help improve health stars by joining our calls to end food companies’ tricks.

Health stars should give you the power to make healthier choices, but some companies are gaming the system to make their products look better than they are.

Here are five changes we need to make the system better.

The Health Star Rating system rates the overall nutritional profile of a packaged food or beverage and assigns it a rating between 0.5 and 5 on the front of the pack. It’s a quick and easy way to compare similar products at the supermarket and make smarter choices.

Health stars rank packaged food and beverage products on a scale from half a star to five stars, allowing you to make healthier choices at a glance.

The rating is based on an algorithm that looks at overall kilojoules, then saturated fat, sodium and total sugars. The calculator then weighs these ‘negative’ aspects against a food product’s virtues – including its fruit and veg content, potential nuts or legumes, protein and in some cases, dietary fibre – to come up with an overall rating.

And it does it all based on a straightforward, standardised measurement of 100g or 100mL so there’s no sneaky fiddling with the numbers – like when food companies use minuscule serving sizes to make their kilojoules or sugar content appear smaller.

The system is independently monitored, while the algorithm behind the health stars was developed in consultation with Food Standards Australia New Zealand, alongside other technical and nutrition experts. As anyone involved in politics and policy knows, progress is rarely perfect. Especially when taking on a powerful lobby group.

CHOICE, the Australian Medical Association, the Obesity Policy Coalition and other health experts decided it was better to work with the industry and government to get a rating system in place – which we can then continue to improve and expand – than let the food industry delay progress indefinitely.

Government monitoring of the system so far finds it’s mostly working well. Research confirms most people like health stars and want to see them rolled out across more products. And 1 in 3 people who are aware of health stars have used them to switch to a healthier product they wouldn’t normally buy.

But health stars can be made better, and that’s why we’re calling on the government to act.

Today we have a dizzying array of choices, and even among relatively healthy products it can be overwhelming trying to choose the one that’s best for us. Add in time pressures, shopping with small children and other everyday life circumstances and it’s just not good enough to expect consumers to go it alone, poring over labels.

Designed by government and developed with experts, health stars give you ratings at a glance to compare similar products side by side and help cut through the marketing spin.

Absolutely!  And you can check out the Australian Dietary Guidelines if you want the most up-to-date, research-backed nutritional advice.

But most people buy a lot of other things as well. And we shouldn’t need hours of spare time to compare labels or a degree in food science to understand how healthy a product actually is.