New star rating system considered for food labelling

A new star rating system is being considered as a means of communicating the nutritional value of processed foods, following the industry's rejection of 'traffic light' labelling.

ABC's Lateline investigated the new labelling model earlier this week, claiming "A star system is now likely to be adopted by governments next year to help guide consumers in the fight against obesity."

The star system, which would be similar to that displayed on whitegoods in relation to energy efficiency, would see highly nutritious processed foods given more stars, while those foods lacking nutritional value will display fewer stars.

Michael Moore from the Public Health Association of Australia, suggested food manufacturers would prefer this model to the controversial (and subsequently rejected) traffic light model, which proposed colour-coding products based on their nutritional value.

"What they don't like is any form of negativity and red of course is a negative, and that's one of the reasons why I think they're prepared to look at the star system, because it implies the food's not good for you but it doesn't say it's bad for you," he told Lateline.

Jane Martin from The Obesity Coalition called on the industry to remove its Daily Intake Guide (DIG), now widely featured on the front of high volume products.

"We know from research that consumers find DIG very confusing and in the same vein we stepped away from traffic lights as our preferred option, we expect industry to do the same thing and move away from percent DIGs," she said.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council's chief executive, Gary Dawson, said it doesn't have to be an "either-or" situation and argued "It doesn't make much sense to take information away."

Dawson reinforced that the AFGC has made no commitment to the star system, which requires greater research and testing.

"It does need consumer testing. There's no point going down this path if in consumer testing it's found that it's not meaningful or that consumers don't understand it," he said.

Lateline stated that negotiations continue under the guidance of the federal Department of Health but industry and public health advocates hope that agreement on the star system will be ready for state and federal ministers early next year.

AFGC, however, has released a statement claiming that nothing will be presented to ministers until June 2013, once modelling, consumer testing and market research is completed.

See Lateline's report in full here.


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