The labeling of foods is the chief source of educating the public on consumable goods during sales as it shows the image and characteristics of the product (Watson, Kelly, Hector, Hughes, King, Crawford, & Chapman, 2014). Therefore providing information on nutrition acts as an empowerment tool to help consumers arrive at important decisions to improve the problems that affect their health and lifestyle. The aforementioned issues led to the formation of a health star rating system (HSR) in Australia to enhance the comparison of nutrition values and individual food products (Hieke & Taylor, 2012). This system operates on a voluntary dimension and s industry oriented, dependable on the awareness of production firms, attitude, benefits, risks, and opportunities an organization may accrue in the long run.
The health star rating system functions by offering a grading scale from half a star to 5 stars and provides a fast, cheap and standard way in which to compare packed food that is similar. The more the stars a product has, the healthier and safer a choice it was, hence giving consumers informed choices on food, and that improve the nutritional value (Miller & Cassady, 2012). The system contains news on energy icons, saturated and unsaturated fats, sugar and salt and the importance of fiber.
The functions of the health star system are to formulate additional foods for children, sports and for purposes of medicine (Vandevijvere & Swinburn, 2015). It is majorly designed for use in packed foods excluding the likes of kava and alcohol. Additionally, drinks such as tea and coffee do not have a system for health star rising and works best in alternative similar foods (Gunja & Brown, 2012).
Analysis of the Health Star Rating System
The Health Star Rating system is a component of three parts namely declaration of energy, nutrients, and grading. Therefore assessment seeks to identify the loopholes, advantages, disadvantages and possible solutions of the applicability of this system to the citizens of Australia. Furthermore, it highlights the laws and provisions that regulate and safeguard its implementation, and it mainly has impacts on the industries, consumers, and the government.
In understanding the effects of this scheme, it is important to know the key elements of the health star rating system which are:
Rating which involve the appraisal of food products and nutrients. Rating is usually done from a grade of one and a half to 5.
Declaration of energy for average food products. The levels of saturated and unsaturated fats are analyzed and regulated through proper grading of energy levels needed in the declaration of energy.
Statement of the contents in nutrients such as sugars and fats. These include the quotations of the percentages of sugar and fat levels in the standardized meals.
Australian Health Laws Providing For the Health Star Rating System
The following acts provide for the rating of healthy food in accordance with the prescribed nutritional standards in Australia. In addition to the food standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), the following acts also incorporate the rating of food to guarantee proper health conditions amongst individuals.
The Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation which proposed a Front-of-Pack Labelling (FoPL).
Australian Guide to Healthy Eating
Australian Dietary Guidelines
Forum on Food Regulation
Australian Beverages Council
Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance
Australian Food and Grocery Council
Australian Industry Group
Australian Medical Association
Australian National Retail Association
Obesity Policy Coalition
Public Health Association of Australia
Positive Implications of the Health Star Rating System
Since its implementation, the health star rating system has witnessed many positive performances, medically, socially and to consumers (Hersey, Wohlgenant, Arsenault, Kosa, & Muth, 2013).
Facilitated the Identification and reduction of chronic diseases
Chronic diseases are those which last for a long time, three months or more, and cannot be prevented by vaccines. Chronic diseases such as cancer, obesity and diabetes have been reduced and to a larger extent prevented through the labeling of products to provide consumers with easy, healthier and safe eating habits (Lorig, Ritter, Plant, Laurent, Kelly, & Rowe, 2013). Therefore a nutritional label only has positive effects on health and diet provided consumers utilize them effectively in food decision making as per the obesity policy coalition and the Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance.
Enhancing identification of healthier products by consumers
A good health rating system, according to Australian Guide to Healthy Eating, is used in the identification of healthy products that are consumable by buyers and the general public. According to an observation from a worker in a food industry in Australia, buyers usually prefer messages that are easy to understand to relying on complex information from the panel of nutrition (Chen, Ou, & Hollis, 2013).
The program is cost effective
The cost of the scheme does not affect the consumers but directly translates to the industry and government which increases its reliability reliable (Andrews, Levy, & Lo, 2014). Furthermore, indirect costs have been identified and separately handled on a different dimension as a means of executing the health star rating of products. With a view to costs on the execution of the products, they are directly incurred and include the costs of changing label product, design, package, and labor.
Led to improved behaviors by industries
Australian Industry Group has improved the behavioral approaches by industries in the manner of looking into the costs of labeling, which are pushed by numerous factors. These factors include labels in terms of quantities, costs of labor and process management and the timeframe available in effecting the changes (Hawley, Roberto, Bragg, Liu, Schwartz, & Brownell, 2013). This way the system becomes useful to the operations of the industries as it reduces the costs of production.
Promotion of an official health marketing process
Through the Forum on Food Regulation, healthy marketing processes are identified and noticed According to businesses already involved in the marketing of their health products, the health star rating has assured them of their health status. This is because they frequently assume that all products have high grading and that consumers are made aware of the mandates of the government to this system.
Enhancement of good perceptions by consumers
This positivity was in light of the opinion of food health businesses that claimed the existence of customer bases supports the voluntary and early acceptance of the health star ratings (Newman, Howlett, & Burton, 2014). Moreover, this early adoption elevates the value and name of brands of these businesses.
Increased the possibility of opening up new markets
Contradicting the opinions of consumers interviewed on the nature of the health rating systems of complexity in information, conclusions have been drawn that HSR system facilitates customers’ decisions. This provides a chance specifically to those customers who are not familiar with the information provided by the nutrition panels, resulting in an increase in higher star products marketable as alternatives that are healthier (McLean, Hoek, & Hedderley, 2012).
Creates an opportunity for products reformulation
An interview with three workers in the health food sector pointed out on the fact that the HSR system could serve them better in reformulating their baked goods so as to improve their star ratings. In improving their ratings, they lower the levels of sugar and fats contents to improve health status (Andrews, Lin, Levy, & Lo, 2014).
Negative Implications of the Health Star Rating System
This section analyses the negative influence health rating system has had on the public, industries, and consumers, and seeks to propose possible solutions to remedy the situation.
- The negative impact on small businesses
Small business lacks information on the HSR system which explains the phenomenon of low voluntary adoption. The system has to provide information to customers and owners of businesses to avoid misinterpretation and misunderstanding regarding their role in ensuring good health practices. Additionally, these businesses lack the technical know-how on evaluating their ratings hence the need for proper communication and liaise with the food innovation Australia limited. HSR system adoption cost is high for small businesses, as a result, reduces affordability, limiting their scope of operations and market servable within a specific time.
- The negative impact on industries
The adoption and usability in the running of industries such as processing and manufacturing industries have witnessed a lot of change over time due to the problems it faces. Additional costs manifest themselves in restocking, rush orders that lead to price premiums and discarded materials for labeling (Grunert, Bolton, & Raats, 2012).
- Associated risks and costs of HSR systems
The risks of the HSR system is usually high in the execution stage unlike during its formation where investments for rating calculations and changing labels are made (Gunja & Brown, 2012). These risks include affecting the value of the brand of a company and loss of markets, leading to non-adoption of the system in the long run.
Negative implications on the consumers
The probability of consumers ignoring this system is high because their choices will be based on price and taste rather than health effects. Additionally, there will occur a decline in demand for products sold as some businesses do not believe in the role of HSR in dictating preferences of the consumers (Morley, Scully, Martin, Niven, Dixon& Wakefield, 2013).
- Reduced value of the brand
Small businesses highlighted the importance of their branding of products as it gives them a competitive edge over other businesses in the market. Subsequent application of HSR system reduces the worth of their product lowering the usability.
Prone to human error
Due to the confusing nature of calculation of HSR rating standards, small businesses have raised concerns that errors can be made when evaluating their products, resulting in misinterpretation of the nutrition levels of their goods. Systems are often prone to change and as a result, this HSR is no exception in the contemporary setting as humans can easily alter its operation ability.
The reduction of the life of a product
For organizations dealing with delicate products in the market, there are high risks of losing value and life of products, herby impacting negatively on the lasting ability and product quality (Devi, Eyles, Rayner, Mhurchu, Swinburn, Lonsdale-Cooper, & Vandevijvere, 2014).
Lack of a consistent system for application
Participants in the HSR system observed there lacked a consistent and standard applicable system in arriving at an agreement. Furthermore, a worker in NGO witnessed the difficulty in balancing between understanding and the complex nature of the food (Hughes, Wellard, Lin, Suen, & Chapman, 2013).there should be a consistent, persistent and harmonized structure all across Australia to be applied in the rating of foods and drinks.
- Little evidence available
There is little facts showing the effects of labeling in eating habits as founded by participants in the organization.to show the impact of labeling systems on overall eating patterns was noted by two NGO participants. This presents a challenge and frustrates the evaluation of the effects of health rating system on people since its implementation and as a result, statistics cannot be gathered to improve performance.
- The problem of categorization of food
This problem was stated by a food industry, claiming it was hard to determine the least standards needed for quality food, and that brands are large and jumping between them is an uphill task (Newman, Howlett, & Burton, 2014). It is difficult to categorize food basing on the percentages and grading scales prescribed by the health rating system since people's choices on food is influenced by a majority of factors such as financial capabilities and taste.
- The clash in values and cultures
It was noted that however much the objectives of an organization solely lies in the making of profits, an employee has to improve their living standards.as a result, this clashes with HSR goal of improving the nutrition of individuals as the industry seeks to be responsible socially while realizing profits. Occasionally the choices of meals by people is influenced by their cultural practices and what their traditions demand, as some food are considered capable of translating to better health conditions by mere consumption.
Recommendations to the challenges
The following measures are applicable in helping to solve these challenges (Graham, Orquin, & Visschers, 2012).
Consultations with numerous stakeholders, specifically food industries
Identification and agreement of criteria and objectives of nutrition labeling
Consideration of the risks and costs of the industry, and that a newly proposed system enhances value and increases the health capacity of foods.
Educating the public about the health star rating system, and that having a useful project is indispensable to the community in general.
In conclusion, the health star rating system should be a voluntary process to all industries, consumers and organizations. This is because of the nature of its positive and negative impacts on the industries to help in remedying the situation. Furthermore, there is a need for education and the sensitization of the public on the needed nutrition labels in both rural and urban settings as a means of evaluating the effectivity of HRS system as explained above. Therefore it is rightful to say that majority of Australians lack awareness on the health star rating system. Additionally, a high number of people appreciate the concept of stars in the scheme, which dictates that the more the stars the healthier and better a product is for consumption and the fewer the star the less safe it is.
Indeed people who have purchased and utilized products which are regulated by HSR have confirmed its benefits. Amongst the many benefits therein, instilling a positive consumer behavior, improvement of choices and strengthening beliefs of people are the main standouts. Furthermore, there are new fields of research in relation to men feeding habits and awareness of the HSR and the communicating techniques, research indicated that comparisons from different categories is not admissible and should not be continued with.
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