Health Star Rating System- Dietitians Opinion June 20, 2013 Australia, healthy products, nutrition, weight management 8 Comments Health Star Rating System So some of you may have heard recently of the new initiative around having a health star rating on the front of food packs to try and assist us all, as consumers, to make more health supportive selections when choosing foods at a store. This system has been chosen based on its relative ease to understand, given that most of us would associate more starts with a better choice. Makes sense, right? The nutrients that the system focuses on are no surprise, with sugar, sodium and saturated fat coming up again as they always do, as the nutrients of concern from major public health organisations. This time they also include an option for manufacturers to include information about one “positive” nutrient, such as fibre or calcium, to let consumers know their food item provides this in a significant amount. The food industry have a couple of years to bring this in voluntarily onto their packs, and should the uptake not be great enough, from my reading, it appears the system may become mandatory and be enforced. With so much time and money being invested into an initiative that has the potential to help so many consumers, I would totally hope that the system would look deeper into the key determinents of what makes a food nutritious or not, and really work with that. i.e a full fat Greek yoghurt which will naturally have some low glycemic index sugars, and contain a bit of saturated fat, is still an extremely nutrient dense food, rich in protein, slow release carbohydrates, calcium, probiotics, and the list could go on. How a food like this will rate on a scoring system made up by the above mentioned nutrients is likely to not highlight this however. Greek yoghurt..might not come out as well as it should on a scoring system like this. The same could be said in reverse for highly refined products that are full of high glycemic index carbohydrates. Think about a range of refined cereals that are not high in sugar, sodium or saturated fat, but provide little if no other nutritional benefit, yet will score just fine on such a system. Endless rows of refined cereals found in the supermarkets may still fit well within the criteria for a well rated star product using this system. To me this is of great concern… It has been shown time and time again that the nutritional characteristics of a food that can assist with satiety, muscle retention when trying to lose fat mass, and regulating energy levels throughout the day are protein, fibre and low GI carbohydrates. It is also insanely important not to forget the benefits of non nutritive parts of foods such as antioxidants or pre and probiotics; and of course, the nutrient density in relation to the broad range of vitamins and minerals that are found inside our foods. All this, and there is still the points around country of origin, sustainability, and the impact on the environment from the production and transport of the final product. Whilst travelling in the USA last year, I came across a system called NUVAL which I was completely in love with. I wrote a blog post briefly about this last year, here. I have actually set up a meeting with the creator of this, Dr David Katz next month when I am in the USA. This system has been implemented in hundreds of grocery stores and chains throughout the USA, and takes into consideration a plethora of micronutrients and macronutrients when calculating the final nutrient density score for the food products. NUVAL looks at over 30 nutrients, rather than 3 or 5. I think the numbers actually do speak for themselves in this instance! The NUVAL system in use at one of the supermarkets I visited last year in the USA. No system (at present) is going to take into consideration EVERY aspect of nutrition and environmental impact, however, this NUVAL system really is a life time ahead of this new front of pack labelling system that is being implemented here in Australia. I suggest you watch the “How” video on the website if you want more information on this, and understand how it scores foods in every food category, and gives foods a number between 0-100. I am not sure how as a one woman band I can take on the government, but maybe, just maybe, as more and more people start to understand the other side of the nutrition spectrum, and get on board, together we will be able to make some real changes.. Will let you know how I go over in the States around this.. For now, The Travelling Dietitian x Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window) Related 8 Responses kbuchholz2012 June 20, 2013 I vote for the one-woman band! If you need a little harmony, I’d be glad to step in as mezzo-soprano or instrumentalist. After being in health care, studying meat production in graduate school, and working in pharmaceutical regulatory affairs/quality systems, I believe that our food policy makers have a complex challenge. Not only can nutrition experts provide the science but also the practical application to help the consumer. I like the NUVAL concept. Thank you for your post. Log in to Reply Travelling Dietitian June 20, 2013 hehe thanks! My pleasure for sharing. There is definitely a lot to be considered when implementing any sort of system..but given we are not even needing to reinvent the wheel, I think its a shame not to at least be taking an approach that has the potential to make even greater positive impacts 🙂 Log in to Reply Travelling Dietitian June 27, 2013 Thanks for your comments! My pleasure! Log in to Reply annesmileynutrition June 20, 2013 Completely agree! Just like the traffic light system, the star rating can also be misleading and highlight the wrong things to consumers. Although at first thought the idea of a FOP labeling system to assist consumers with food purchasing choices sounds like a great idea, there are so many flaws that could send out harmful and misconstrued nutritional messages if not addressed correctly as you’ve mentioned. Top post! (I hope you don’t mind me reblogging!) xx Anne Log in to Reply Travelling Dietitian June 20, 2013 Of course I dont mind you re-blogging 🙂 Thanks for your comments Anne! Yes I agree with you, so many mixed messages going out.. it really isn’t solving the bigger problem! Log in to Reply annesmileynutrition June 20, 2013 It may seem like a battle but getting the word out and getting the public to talk about the (right) information is important! Keep at it! Travelling Dietitian June 20, 2013 So true! 🙂 annesmileynutrition June 20, 2013 Reblogged this on Anne Smiley. Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.