Food regulation forum backs Health Star Rating despite algorithm issues

The Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation met in Melbourne to discuss a range of pertinent issues relating to food regulation late last week.

Chaired by assistant minister for health, Senator Fiona Nash, both Australian and New Zealand ministers discussed front-of-pack labelling, progress in pregnancy warnings on alcohol products and a policy statement to clarify how public health should be interpreted by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ).

The key issue on the agenda was that of the new Health Star Rating system which has been developed to replace the Daily Intake Guide.

The forum concluded that refinement to the algorithm used to generate the new Health Star Rating system may be in order considering technical issues that where experienced during the assessment of dairy products. The Forum concluded that while they endorsed the used of the Health Star Rating Calculator, a process was required to deal with such anomalies.

Key points in relating to the Health Star Rating system include:

  • The broadening of the cost benefit analysis for front-of-pack labelling, including evidence-based research and extensive industry consultations by the Department of Health
  • The forum also agreed on membership and chairing arrangements for the Oversight Committee whose purpose is to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the Health Star Rating System. The forum agreed that the committee (which will be established in early 2014) will have representation from industry, public health, consumers and government. Should New Zealand consider joining the Health Star Rating System, they too would have the option for representation on the Oversight Committee.

The ministers also discussed a project that will be undertaken shortly to evaluate action taken by the alcohol industry in Australia in relation to placing pregnancy warnings on alcohol products. The project will be evaluated through an extensive consultation process and will consider a host of factors including any related economic impacts. The final report is expected to be released by June 2014.

Lastly, a policy statement for how public health should be interpreted by FRANZ was developed as part of the Forum’s response to ‘Labelling Logic’, the report on the independent review of food labelling law and policy.

The statement discusses the scope and objectives of the food regulation system and acknowledges food regulation as one facet of a range of strategies that may play an important role in preventing and reducing disease, illness and disability.


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