Dr Steve Hambleton, president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has accused the Australian food industry of ‘undermining’ the Health Star Rating System.
Hambleton said that the AMA was particularly concerned that the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) had been in touch with assistant health minister Fiona Nash’s office on the day that the Health Star Rating website was pulled.
“Even though they worked closely with the public health sector on the development of the new system, the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) has lobbied against the consumer-friendly food labels since they were agreed by the Federal and State governments last year,” said Hambleton.
Hambleton says that the Health Star website was an important and necessary tool that was intended to inform consumers on how the system worked before it was rolled out nationally.
The website was pulled down only eight hours after it was officially launched. Health department officials initially claimed that the website was a ‘draft’ and that it was ‘made live inadvertently’, however it was later revealed that Nash's chief of staff Alistair Furnival – who is a co-owner of his wife’s lobbying firm Australian Public Affairs – ordered health officials to pull the site down.
“The system’s website was to be a major part of the public education campaign to make people aware of the new system and how it works,’ said Hambleton. “It is important that consumers are fully across the system before the new labels appear on supermarket shelves.
“It is time that the food industry and its peak Council did the right thing and put their full support behind a bold initiative that will help people make healthier food choices and take some pressure off the health Budget,” he said.