Calls for “added sugars” to be penalised in ratings system overhaul

Consumer advocacy group CHOICE has echoed the ADA’s recommendation that the Health Star Rating (HSR) algorithm be changed to more accurately reflect commonly-recognised dietary guidelines.

CHOICE has called for an alternative algorithm to be used that, if applied, would see products currently enjoying four out of five-star ratings such as Milo, Nutri-Grain and Uncle Toby’s Plus Protein tumble to just one-and-a-half stars.

In its submission to the Health Star Rating System review, the ADA argued for retention of the program which is designed to offer at-a-glance nutritional guidance to consumers, but noted that “issues with the HSR algorithm [have] resulted in high added sugar products receiving four-star ratings or more (e.g. Milo, Nutri-Grain]”.

It went on to say that “it is important to ensure the HSR is not drawing consumers away from whole foods towards processed/ ultra-processed foods.”

A key step in realising this goal would be to ensure “that total sugar content be afforded a greater impact on the HSR rating of products.”

CHOICE policy and campaigns adviser Linda Przhedetsky, commenting on the group’s proposed changes via an ABC News article on the changes, concurred arguing that “[the] system doesn't distinguish between the extra sugar that's added to foods like breakfast cereals, and the naturally occurring sugars in dairy or fruits.

"Health Stars are an important tool for making decisions about the food and drinks that we buy and incorporating a penalty for added sugars will ensure that the algorithm better reflects current nutrition advice."

Both the ADA and CHOICE are arguing that the HSR, currently only used by 30 percent of products, be made mandatory, with the ADA noting in its submission:

“Whilst it has been demonstrated that the System has assisted consumers to make healthier food and beverage choices, the recommendation to continue the HSR as a voluntary scheme is unlikely to significantly increase consumers’ ability to utilise the HSR to make direct product comparisons, further facilitate healthier selections or encourage product reformulation.”

For more on the ADA’s HSR submission, go to "Public consultation on the Health Star Rating System review”  and for more on the CHOICE proposals, go to "Health Star Rating system shake-up proposes penalising cereals that contain added sugars"