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Five-year review of the Health Star Rating system

Decisions have been made on several outstanding recommendations to enhance the Health Star Rating (HSR) system.

The Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation (Forum) met on Friday 17 July 2020 to finalise recommendations outstanding from the HSR system five-year Review in 2019. The decisions of the Forum are summarised below:

Recommendation 4A: That fruits and vegetables that are fresh, frozen or canned (with no additions of sugar, salt or fat) should automatically receive an HSR of 5. 
DECISION: Supported. For the purposes of the HSR system only, the following definition be adopted (subject to consideration of regulatory implications and stakeholder engagement): Minimally processed fruit and vegetables: Fruit (except coconut), vegetables, fungi and legumes (except peanuts) that have only been peeled, cut and/or surface treated and/or blanched and/or frozen, or canned without the addition of fat, sugars/sweeteners or salt.

Recommendation 4B: That total sugars should be more strongly penalised (by changing the existing 22 point table to a 25 point table), lowering the HSRs of 5% of products (including breakfast cereals, snack bars, sweetened milks, ice creams and sugar-based confectionery).
DECISION:Support recommendation 4b as proposed in the Review Report (‘Calculator 1’), noting future opportunities to re-assess alignment with dietary guidelines will occur following their review and update in Australia.

Recommendation 4C: That sodium sensitivity should be improved for products high in sodium (by reducing the upper limit of the sodium table), reducing the HSR of 1% of products (all with sodium in excess of 900mg/100g).
DECISION: Support recommendation 4c as proposed in the Review Report (‘Calculator 1’), noting future opportunities to re-assess alignment with dietary guidelines will occur following their review and update in Australia

Recommendation 4D: Dairy categories be redefined (Category 2D to include dairy desserts and other chilled dairy products and Category 3D to include surface ripened cheeses) and rescaled to ensure healthier five food group options receive higher HSRs and improve comparability between dairy products.
DECISION: Support recommendation 4d as proposed in the Review Report. However, as proposed by the Australian Government the cheese category will be re-assessed for alignment with dietary guidelines following their review and update in Australia.

Recommendation 5: Changes be made to the way the HSR is calculated for non-dairy beverages to better discern water from high energy drinks, including that unsweetened flavoured waters should automatically receive an HSR of 4.5.
DECISION: Supported. For the purposes of the HSR system only, the following definition be adopted (subject to consideration of regulatory implications and stakeholder engagement): Unsweetened flavoured waters: Packaged beverages similar in nutritional profile to water that: may contain carbon dioxide, whether added or naturally occurring; and contain no added sugars, sweeteners or salt; and contain only the following additives: permitted flavouring substances, excluding quinine and caffeine and flavouring substances that can also be used as sweeteners.

Recommendation 9: The HSR system remain voluntary but with clear uptake targets set and all stakeholders work together to drive uptake. If the HSR is not displayed on 70% of target products within five years consideration be given to a mandatory system subject to a Regulation Impact Statement being undertaken.
DECISION: The Forum agreed to interim uptake targets of 50% at three years and 60% at four years across all intended products.

Other recommendations:

  • Edible oils: The Forum agreed that in relation to the treatment of edible oils under the HSR system, the status quo would be retained.
  • Dairy substitute beverages: the minimum calcium content for dairy substitute beverages to be considered within HSR will be increased from its current level to ≥100mg/100ml.
  • The Australian government proposed that 100% fruit and vegetable juices should receive an automatic HSR score of 5 or be included within the definition of ‘minimally processed fruit and vegetables’. This was not supported, and the status quo will be maintained, however further advice was requested for the November meeting.

The issue of 100% fresh fruit and vegetable juice beverages, and the treatment of artificially sweetened beverages both require further advice and will be provided at the November Forum meeting.

The Forum communique can be found on the Food Regulation website.