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Thursday 17 August 2017

Health star rating system hides junk under spin


OK, it was my fault. But in my defence, your honour, I was in a rush. Somewhere between work, the boy’s footy training or something, and picking up another son from a play date, shopping had to be squeezed into a seven-minute dash around the store. And I was fast. Forgot some essentials of course but who needs bread anyway?

It was breakfast cereal I sought. In the morning rush there’s nothing like tipping from box to bowl, adding milk and voila.

As the dad of one easy eater and one impossible fusspot, I thought I’d grab something different to the usual muesli. It was some kind of Weet-Bix variant, smaller and crunchy. Now given this is Between the Lines you might expect I’m the type who clogs up aisles by obsessively reading the fine print. And you’d be right. But time makes fools of us all and there was the Health Star Rating of four stars. I knew the star system was suspect but I went with it.

Later I read the ingredients: 21 per cent sugars. Sure, that includes honey, but a bowl that’s one-fifth sugars doesn’t pass my test for “healthy”, as four stars implies.

There’s worse. Nutri-Grain, which is 26.7 per cent sugar, gets a four-star health rating.

Food companies are gaming this system with ease. Milo, at 46 per cent sugar, gets 4.5 stars – that’s based on mixing it with skim milk. If you don’t, it’s 1.5 stars, and if you mix it with full cream milk, like most people do, it’s 2.5 stars. Weet Bix (with added sugar) gets five stars while Vita Brits (no added sugar) gets 4.5.

And as Fairfax columnist Peter FitzSimons pointed out, pure milk gets four stars. But Up & Go, the milk-based energy drink, gets 4.5 (reduced sugar Vanilla Ice flavour, baby).

We have paid for this rating system and we’ve been had. After a suspect design process which involved junk food lobbyists, we have been left with a scheme that could do more harm than good.

There’s a review of the star rating system going on now. Any chance it might actually create something we can trust?


only slightly confused said...


Lee said...

I'm with Delores....Nope!

Too much money to be made!

Elephant's Child said...

Sadly no. There is too much money in gaming the system.

Magic Love Crow said...

I don't think so!