01 Jul, 2014 Last updated: 13 Nov, 2014

A new five-star rating system for packaged food will help consumers make healthier choices and VicHealth encourages manufacturers to adopt it early.

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A new five-star rating system for packaged food will help consumers make healthier choices and VicHealth encourages manufacturers to adopt it early.

Last Friday, the Government again moved to introduce the star rating system, which will show shoppers at a glance how healthy a product is – or isn’t.

It will be used as an add on to the current ‘Daily Intake Guide’ system, which has attracted criticism from health and parenting groups for being too complicated, particularly for low-income earners and those with low-literacy levels. Once manufacturers adopt the new star system, their products will include a rating out of five on the front of the pack, based on their levels of both nutritious and unhealthy ingredients.

After years of negotiation and planning, VicHealth congratulates the government for getting this system back on track. However, the organisation is disappointed the system will now remain voluntary for five years, rather than two, as initially proposed.

VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter said: “I have no doubt the star rating system will be a popular initiative with consumers and we hope that all food manufacturers will voluntarily adopt it as soon as possible, rather than waiting five more years. Consumers deserve clearer information about what they are eating.

“Australia is now among the world’s fastest growing obese nations and cancer and heart disease remain our number one killers. Many premature deaths could be avoided by reducing the amount of sugar, salt and fat in the Australian diet. If we can provide better ‘at a glance’ information for consumers about whether or not they should be wary of a product, it will have a great long-term benefit.

“Nutritional information on packaging in tiny print on the back of the product is confusing. The information must be clear and prominent and in the place where consumers need it most. This system will deliver that.

“This isn’t about telling people what they should or shouldn’t eat. It’s about providing accurate and accessible information, so that everyone can make informed decisions about their health.”