The ‘Health Star Rating System’ was formulated as a labelling framework for manufacturing nutritionally adequate processed foods (Peters et al. 2017).
The following report highlights the salient features pertaining to the implementation and policy making of ‘Health Star Rating System’ in Australia and New Zealand.
The Health Star Rating System in Australia, aims to implement front of package labelling frameworks, by classifying foods as nutritionally beneficial. The number of stars is directly proportional to the degree of nutritional efficiency of the particular processed product (Dunfor et al. 2017).
The implementation of the Health Star Rating System in Australia, was based upon encouragement of consumer nutritional awareness (Hobin et al. 2017).
The World Health Organization, with respect to the emerging globalised rates of obesity, actively advocates simple labelling techniques for imparting nutritional awareness to consumers. Concerning this recommendation towards the usage of front of package labelling, the Health Star Rating System has taken impressive strides, with the improvement of consumer purchasing (Kleef and Dagevos 2015). The prevalence of faulty dietary habits resulting in obesity is increasing alarmingly in Australia, recoding over 41% of the population not adhering to the recommended food guidelines of five food groups of legumes, grains, vegetables and fruits, milk products, and meat and plant-based proteins (Diouf et al. 2016). Further research uncovered the adherence of over 39% children and 39% adults, towards the consumption of harmful, sugary and fat-rich foods. With this respect, the Health Star Rating System has proven to be effective, as evident with its usage amongst 52% Australian consumers. Hence, there is an encouragement for continuation of the Health Star Rating System, which is now prevalent in numerous processed food products, further empowering the need for rating inclusion in every product (Brennan 2015).
However, the Health Star Rating System of Australia has been met with several disinterest, with regards to the evaluation of the Dietetics Association of Australia, advocating the need its continuation with respect to implementation of certain changes (Talati et al. 2017). There is need for the labelling to be conducted considering the recommended dietary guidelines of Australia, where insufficient scoring is available for fruits, nuts and vegetables, and rating of negligibly processed foods as ‘unhealthy’. The star ratings also classify certain harmful food products as nutritious, and hence, it is of utmost importance to assess the availability of all nutrients rather than just one, before categorisation of the same (Lawrence and Pollard 2015). There is also discriminatory ratings of packaged oils, where a number of unsaturated oils receive higher rating than olive oils, which not lead to misleading information regarding the ideal choice of oils required. The Dietetics Association of Australia also recommends revision of ratings of fruits and nuts, further encouraging efforts by the Department of Health to ensure consumer awareness. The food groups of nuts, fruits and vegetables are devoid of ratings due to their unprocessed quality. Concerning the reduced consumption of the same, and emerging trends of Australian obesity, there is a need to continue with the usage of Health Star Rating System, with modifications focussing on the inclusion of ratings of the above whole foods (Hamlin and McNeill 2016).
Competing values, beliefs, interest
The formulation of the Health Star Rating System was conducted through an elaborative process receiving governmental aid, and stakeholders ranging from public welfare and health, industrial as well as consumer platforms (Mhurchu, Eyles and Choi 2017). With further consultation from the Department of Health and Ageing, the idea of incorporating innovative labelling techniques were executed, through the convention of a project committee involving the above mentioned policy stakeholders, during the year 2014, with the process still undergoing 2 years of usage and 5 years of further review. Concerning its usage, the labelling system has been overcome by considerable conflict, especially from the Australian Food and Grocery Council, upon complaints of its financial unfeasibility and nutritional incorrectness (Crino et al. 2017).
Further controversies from stakeholders against the Health Star Rating System, was an absence of similarity to the ‘Daily Intake Guide’ during the process of providing star ratings of the concerned food (Lawrence, Dickie and Woods 2018). While the stakeholders pertaining to consumer health and public welfare advisory bodies conflicted to avoid the coordinated presence of star ratings and daily intake guides, due to possibility of confusion amongst buyers, the Health Star Rating Committee ultimately arrived at the conclusion that its ratings could exist in coordination with the ‘Daily Intake Guide’ (Jones, Rådholm and Neal 2018). Further, the ‘Obesity Policy Coalition’ also necessitates the need for the Health Star Rating System, to include star classifications for sugar based products such as sweeteners and syrups, with due respect to the evidence pertained by the World Health Organization, in considering the excessive ingestion of sugary foods as key factors resulting in obesity (Vandevijvere and Swinburn 2015).
The following paragraphs highlights the key factors pertaining to the policy framework of the Health Star Rating System.
Rational Linear Model
The Rational Linear Model, is an effective organizational framework employed for uncovering collective solutions to problems through the usage of a step-wise decision making process (Ingold and Monaghan 2016). With respect to the rational linear model of policy framework, the health star rating policy was formulated as a solution to reduction of the immediate issue of combatting Australian obesity. One of the primary reasons behind the occurrence of obesity is the excessive consumption of nutritionally inadequate processed foods, which lack the required health promotion factors as well as easy labelling in order to inculcate meaningful food choices and purchasing amongst consumers. Hence, this major problem of obesity was tackled through a collective decision making process involving the Department of Health and Ageing, the Obesity Policy Coalition, various industrial and public platforms, as well consumer stakeholders. Hence, the policy formulation of the Health Star Rating System, was successful in the usage of a rational linear model for provision of decision-making to a shared problem (Peter et al. 2017).
Advocacy Coalition Framework
Advocacy Coalition Framework implies the process of policy evaluation (Ingold and Monaghan 2016). With respect to the review of the Health Star Rating System, an active evaluation was conducted in the year 2016, which included collective participation by independent consultants and stakeholders, various members of the Health Star Rating Advisory Committee, the Food Regulation Standing Committee and the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation. Hence, there was successful implementation of an advocacy coalition framework, which presented key amendments (Lawrence, Dickie and Woods 2018).
Hence, to conclude, despite the significant effectiveness of the Health Star Rating System, there is a need for future amendments regarding correct labelling of products belonging to the core food groups as well as its unhealthy counterparts.
Brennan, M., 2015. Is the Health Star Rating System a Thin Response to a Fat Problem: An Examination of the Constitutionality of a Mandatory Front Package Labelling System. U. Notre Dame Austl. L. Rev., 17, p.86.
Crino, M., Herrera, A.M.M., Ananthapavan, J., Wu, J.H., Neal, B., Lee, Y.Y., Zheng, M., Lal, A. and Sacks, G., 2017. Modelled cost-effectiveness of a package size cap and a kilojoule reduction intervention to reduce energy intake from sugar-sweetened beverages in Australia. Nutrients, 9(9), p.983.
Diouf, I., Magliano, D.J., Carrington, M.J., Stewart, S. and Shaw, J.E., 2016. Prevalence, incidence, risk factors and treatment of atrial fibrillation in Australia: The Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle (AusDiab) longitudinal, population cohort study. International journal of cardiology, 205, pp.127-132.
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Hamlin, R. and McNeill, L., 2016. Does the Australasian “health star rating” front of pack nutritional label system work?. Nutrients, 8(6), p.327.
Hobin, E., Bollinger, B., Sacco, J., Liebman, E., Vanderlee, L., Zuo, F., Rosella, L., L'abbe, M., Manson, H. and Hammond, D., 2017. Consumers’ Response to an On?Shelf Nutrition Labelling System in Supermarkets: Evidence to Inform Policy and Practice. The Milbank Quarterly, 95(3), pp.494-534.
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Jones, A., Rådholm, K. and Neal, B., 2018. Defining ‘Unhealthy’: A Systematic Analysis of Alignment between the Australian Dietary Guidelines and the Health Star Rating System. Nutrients, 10(4), p.501.
Kleef, E.V. and Dagevos, H., 2015. The growing role of front-of-pack nutrition profile labeling: a consumer perspective on key issues and controversies. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 55(3), pp.291-303.
Lawrence, M. and Pollard, C., 2015. A year on, Australia's health star food-rating system is showing cracks. Journal of the Home Economics Institute of Australia, 22(2), p.34.
Lawrence, M.A., Dickie, S. and Woods, J.L., 2018. Do nutrient-based front-of-pack labelling schemes support or undermine food-based dietary guideline recommendations? Lessons from the Australian Health Star Rating System. Nutrients, 10(1), p.32.
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Peters, S., Dunford, E., Jones, A., Ni Mhurchu, C., Crino, M., Taylor, F., Woodward, M. and Neal, B., 2017. Incorporating added sugar improves the performance of the health star rating front-of-pack labelling system in Australia. Nutrients, 9(7), p.701.
Talati, Z., Pettigrew, S., Ball, K., Hughes, C., Kelly, B., Neal, B. and Dixon, H., 2017. The relative ability of different front-of-pack labels to assist consumers discriminate between healthy, moderately healthy, and unhealthy foods. Food quality and preference, 59, pp.109-113.
Vandevijvere, S. and Swinburn, B., 2015. Getting serious about protecting New Zealand children against unhealthy food marketing. The New Zealand Medical Journal (Online), 128(1417), p.36.