Claims by Australian consumer watchdog Choice concerning the Health Star Rating system are unfair and misleading, says FGC Chief Executive Katherine Rich.

She was responding to an article published by Supermarket News, which quoted Choice as calling for a review of the system and for Australian Health Ministers to improve food labels so that foods high in added sugar receive lower Health Star Ratings. The article claimed new modelling showed how a Health Star Rating algorithm that factors in added sugar would penalise products and then increase ratings for products with naturally occurring sugars.

Supermarket News published Katherine Rich’s response in which she said Choice would have known that the HSR system has been under review for more than 18 months.

“At best, that’s disingenuous of them and is designed to advance their argument by confusing people.

“If they were doing their research, they would also know that, as part of the review, added sugar was tested on the algorithm and was found not to be as effective in allocating the star rating as is using total sugar. Basically, using added sugar gave less-healthy foods more stars than they currently receive from using the total sugars component.

“Choice would also be aware that the HSR system is easy for consumers to understand since it is an interpretive whole food system that doesn’t focus on particular nutrients.

“Those groups that speak against HSR tend to be the ones that did not want the scheme in the first place and wanted traffic light labels: red for stop, green for go etc. That scheme would certainly have created some embarrassing anomalies, such as giving soda more green lights than milk.”

Katherine Rich’s full response on Supermarket News

The original article quoting Choice