The Health Star rating system, designed to make healthy eating choices easier for Australian consumers when purchasing groceries, is stirring debate between consumer group Choice and the Australian Food and Grocery Council, over how the system should be implemented.
AUSVEG, the National Peak Industry Body for Australian vegetable and potato growers, has joined the debate, highlighting a number of flaws with the proposed system.
“The proposed Health Star rating system is far from perfect. Currently almost no fresh vegetables qualify for the top, five-star rating, despite the countless scientific studies linking vegetables to better health,” said AUSVEG Spokesperson, Hugh Gurney.
AUSVEG is Australia’s leading horticulture body representing 9,000 vegetable and potato growers.
“There is currently a FSANZ approved health claim that ‘a high intake of both fruit and vegetables can reduce the risk of developing coronary heart disease, the primary cause of death in Australia’, yet many vegetables do not attain a five-star rating based on the criterion developed by FSANZ,” said Mr Gurney.
“The current system also fails to take phytonutrients, such as beta-carotene into account, despite it being linked to the prevention of eye disorders like macular degeneration. Vegetables are rich in these phytonutrients, and they should be considered when developing star ratings for individual items,” said Mr Gurney.
The Star Rating System was given ministerial endorsement in June 2013 and has stoked debate between the many sectors making up Australia’s food industry.
“Most fresh vegetables undergo minimal processing, contain high levels of fibre and low levels of sodium, and are linked to a number of health benefits, so it is laughable that these products would not qualify for a five-star rating under this system,” said Mr Gurney.
“The current Percentage of Daily Intake system has been incredibly underwhelming and the star rating system is just as unlikely to do any better to change the behaviour of consumers. If vegetables can’t even get a top score under this scheme then the system is flawed.”
“Policy must be thorough and well considered. The star rating system is neither. During the creation of this system, no regulation impact statement was prepared for consultation, nor does it comply with COAG’s best practice regulation requirements.”
“This is not an appropriate answer to the question of addressing health in the community. When the vegetable industry is making statements against a health rating scheme, you know there must be something wrong,” said Mr Gurney.
MEDIA CONTACT: Hugh Gurney, Spokesperson, AUSVEG.
Phone: (03) 9882 0277 Mobile: 0410 047 432 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org