Last year we reported on the release of a new voluntary labeling system for packaged foods by the Australian Government. The Health Star Rating system (HSR) provides a fast and simple representation of the saturated fat, sodium and sugar content of packaged food to encourage consumers to make healthier choices when buying food.

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Health Star Rating System Voluntary

At the latest meeting of the Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation it was agreed that while use of the HSR would remain voluntary, it will be implemented over the five-year period beginning 27 June 2014, with a progress review to take place after the first two years. It was also announced that New Zealand will be joining the HSR system.

The graphics used as part of the system have also been further developed to take into account the need for flexibility in design and to make it as easy as possible for the industry to include the system in their existing packaging designs. A full HSR style guide is provided on the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council website. The current range of available graphics is included in the following image, but the style guide sets out the various ways in which this complete graphic can be cut and modified to suit existing packaging. This change has been welcomed by the Australian Food and Grocery Council as a ‘significant improvement’ on previous designs.

It also seems that the HSR is beginning to gain traction within the marketplace. In Australia, Monster Health Food Co. has become the first company to implement this rating system on their packaging, as shown below.

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A “social marketing campaign” is expected to be finalised shortly, which will provide information about the system and encourage the involvement of consumers and of the packaged food industry.

Commentary

We noted in our earlier report that industry bodies have expressed hesitation about implementing the system, due to the cost of changing and manufacturing the packaging designs, and to doubts about its effectiveness. The

Australian Food and Grocery Council

in particular expressed concerns on the lack of cost benefit analysis undertaken before the announcement of the new system. This

analysis

has now been performed by PricewaterhouseCoopers, as was considered by the meeting alongside an independent report on the impacts of the system on small businesses by the Centre for International Economics.

It will be interesting to follow further developments in the wake of these reports, and we will continue to provide updates as the system evolves.

Sources: Australian Government Department of Health, Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council, Australian Food and Grocery Council, Monster Health Food Co.