On 27 June 2014 the Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation (the Forum) agreed to the implementation of an amended version of the front of pack Health Star Rating System (the HSR System), with the system’s website to be launched in August 2014.

See our initial update on the HSR System here. Businesses which decide to implement the HSR System in relation to packaged food products should consult the Health Star Rating Style Guide (the Style Guide) and the Health Star Rating Calculator (Calculator) to determine the changes required to their front of pack labels. Businesses should also consider the costs savings of making changes to their front of pack labelling (and possibly the formulation of their foods) at the same time as implementing changes under Australian Food Standards Code Standard 1.2.7 (Nutrition, Health and Related Claims), which becomes mandatory in January 2016 (see our previous article in relation to Standard 1.2.7 here).

THE HEALTH STAR RATING SYSTEM

The HSR System involves the application of a graphic to the front of packaged food labels, which illustrates the energy and nutrient content and an overall health star rating for the food. The HSR System aims to provide convenient, relevant and readily understood information on food packs to assist consumers to make healthier eating choices.

The HSR System commenced on 27 June 2014 and remains voluntary for the first five years with a review scheduled to take place in June 2016. Compliance with the HSR System may become mandatory if the review in 2016 determines that voluntary implementation has been unsuccessful. The HSR System can be used in conjunction with the current Daily Intake Guide (DIG), health logos and certification schemes which are widely used in Australia to provide nutritional guidance to consumers.

The HSR System is underpinned by two key documents which govern the way in which the HSR graphic is applied to packaged food labels - the Style Guide and the Calculator.

THE STYLE GUIDE

Businesses which decide to implement the HSR System must apply the HSR graphic to their packaged food products in accordance with the HSR System Style Guide available here. The Federal Department of Health has indicated that it will seek trade mark protection of the HSR System elements (including the graphic). Businesses will only be permitted to use the trade marks subject to compliance with the Style Guide.

The intention is that all businesses which implement the HSR System should follow the Style Guide to ensure the information presented to consumers is consistent. Businesses are also encouraged to implement the HSR System consistently across their product range and within their product categories.

The three elements of the HSR System graphic

The Style Guide provides detailed guidance on how to apply the following three principal elements of the HSR graphic to packaged food labels.

Click here to view image.

  1. Health Star Rating

An overall evaluation of the food based on its nutrient profile and calculated in accordance with the Calculator.

Click here to view image.

  1. Energy Content Icon

The average energy content of the food product per 100g or 100ml.

Click here to view image.

  1. Nutrient Content Icons

The average quantity of three prescribed nutrients (saturated fat, sugars and sodium) per 100g or 100ml with the option to also include one “positive” nutrient content icon such as calcium or dietary fibre.

Guiding principles

The Style Guide sets out a number of guiding principles for the use of the HSR System, including:

  • the HSR System graphic should provide convenient, relevant and readily understood nutrition information on food packs;
  • businesses are encouraged to use all three elements of the HSR System graphic where possible;
  • the HSR System graphic must be placed on the front label of a food package; and
  • use of the HSR System graphic must comply with the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (FSC).

The DIG, health logos and certification schemes may co-exist with the HSR System graphic. Where the HSR System graphic and DIG are used on the same pack they should not lead consumers to believe that they are linked or are two parts of the same system.

Hierarchy of display

The Style Guide recognises that some food products may not be able to display all three elements of the HSR System graphic due to label or product size. The Style Guide sets out a hierarchy of options for the display of the HSR System graphic as follows:

  1. The preferred option is to display all three elements with the inclusion of the optional “positive” nutrient content icon (such as calcium or dietary fibre).
  2. The second option is to display all three elements excluding the optional “positive” nutrient content icon.
  3. The third option is to display the first two elements only (Health Star Rating and Energy Content Icon).
  4. The fourth option is to display only the Health Star Rating. This option is only available when pack size does not accommodate more complete versions.
  5. The fifth option is to display only the Energy Content Icon. This option is only available for small pack sizes such as for some confectionery products.

What products should apply the Health Star Rating?

The HSR System has been designed for application to packaged food and beverage products presented for retail sale through supermarkets and similar retail outlets and is intended to be used in relation to products which carry a Nutrition Information Panel (NIP).

The Style Guide indicates that the following foods should not display the HSR System graphic:

  • certain Special Purpose Foods in FSC Part 2.9 where the foods have required compositional formulations;
  • food products listed in clause 4 of Standard 1.2.7 such as institutional meals;
  • alcohol and alcohol kits;
  • kava; and
  • certain packaged foods that are exempt from NIP labelling under FSC Standard 1.2.8 (Nutrition Information Requirements)

Further, the HSR System is not designed to be used for single ingredient foods that are not intended to be consumed alone.

THE CALCULATOR

Businesses which decide to implement the HSR System must calculate the Health Star Rating for their packaged foods using the Calculator currently available here.

The Calculator uses an algorithm that awards a star rating to a food product based on the quantity of specific food components. The method for calculating the Health Star Rating is based on the same method used for the Nutrient Profiling Scoring Criterion (NPSC) set out in FSC Standard 1.2.7.

In using the Calculator, businesses are required to undertake the following steps:

  1. determine the HSR System category of food;
  2. determine the form of the food;
  3. calculate the baseline points for the average quantity of energy, saturated fat, total sugars and sodium;
  4. calculate modifying points based on the amount of fruits, nuts, vegetables and legumes, and in some cases, the amount of protein and dietary fibre; and
  5. calculate the food’s final score and assign a Health Star Rating expressed as a number of stars out of a maximum of five stars.

Dairy products are treated differently by the Calculator in an attempt to address the dairy industry’s concern that the Calculator could distort outcomes because many dairy products contain high levels of saturated fat.

IMPLEMENTATION OF THE HSR SYSTEM MUST COMPLY WITH THE AUSTRALIAN FOOD STANDARDS CODE

Use of the HSR System on food products will need to comply more broadly with the Australian Food Standards Code. In particular businesses which implement the HSR System will need to be mindful of the following:

  • The use of the HSR System Nutrient Content Icons as well as use of the optional “positive” Nutrient Content Icon will constitute nutrition content claims under FSC Standard 1.2.7 (Nutrition, Health and Related Claims) and must comply with the requirements of that Standard. The use of the words ‘high’ or ‘low’ within the nutrient icon will also have to satisfy additional requirements under Standard 1.2.7.
  • Businesses can scale the HSR System graphic according to the food package size provided it remains legible and is displayed with a contrasting background and text as required under FSC Standard 1.2.9 (legibility Requirements).
  • Where a business opts to include the “% Daily Intake” value (%DI) within the Energy Content Icon element of the HSR System graphic (as permitted under the Style Guide), then the business must comply with the %DI requirements in FSC Standard 1.2.8 (Nutrition Information Requirements).