Who could forget that day back in February 2014 when Senator Nash and her former Chief of Staff, Alastair Furnival, had the original HSR website pulled down just 8 hours after launch and the storm of controversy that created? While Senator Nash maintained the original website was pulled down because the HSR system wasn’t ready, the media suspected a more sinister motive. It was alleged Mr Furnival still had close ties to the food manufacturing industry he once worked for as a lobbyist.
Obviously, there was no mention of the website’s controversial beginnings on Saturday, when Senator Nash officially launched the HSR system at the Woden Plaza shopping centre in Canberra.
“The HSR system will make it much easier for shoppers to make informed choices about healthier food options,” Minister Nash said. “The five star ratings clearly displayed on packaged foods will allow consumers, especially parents, to make healthy food choices for the whole family without spending hours reading labels at the supermarket.”
“The HSR system takes into account the four aspects of food – energy; saturated fat; total sugars; and sodium content,” the Minister explained. “Products that are low in saturated fat, sugars, sodium and/or energy will generally have a higher star rating. The healthier the food, the higher the stars.”
While health advocates welcomed the introduction of the HSR system yesterday, the potential for more controversy remains with food manufacturers under no obligation to participate in the voluntary scheme.Being a voluntary scheme, food manufacturers in Australia have been slow to introduce HSR labelling on their packaging.
While some of the major food manufacturers have indicted that they will be printing Health Star Ratings on their packaging in the future, to date, there are only a very limited number of products available in supermarkets with a Health Star Rating printed on the label.
With the HSR system predicted to hurt junk food manufacturers the most, it will come as no surprise that the very first company to use the new HSR system on labelling, was a health food manufacturer. The Monster Health Food Co. rolled out the first HSR labelled product way back in April 2014.
So what can Australian consumers expect from the relaunched website? Not much really.
While you can certainly find out more information about the Health Star Rating system, there’s no database of HSR labelled products to search, or even a list of companies who are participating in the scheme. To find this information, consumers will have to do their own research, or use an alternative.
One alternative is the George Institute’s FoodSwitch STARS website, which features a searchable database of 55,000 supermarket food products, each one given a health star rating out of 5.
You’ll find the Government’s official Health Star Rating website at: www.healthstarrating.gov.au