Universal uptake of Health Star Rating system crucial in combating childhood obesity

Cancer Council Queensland is calling on Government and food manufacturers to use the Health Star Rating system as a tool for combatting childhood overweight and obesity.

The call follows a report to the most recent meeting of the Australian and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation finding that one in six people have changed their shopping behaviours based on the system.

Over 1,500 products now display the voluntary rating, and a number of major companies have reformulated their products to make them healthier and achieve a higher star rating.

Reformulation includes reducing salt, sugar and saturated fat and in some cases, increases the content of ingredients with nutritional benefits such as fibre.

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift welcomed the report’s findings as a win for consumers.

“Universal uptake of the Health Star Rating system is crucial in helping all Queenslanders choose healthy food and avoid unhealthier options that increase the risk of obesity and cancer,” Ms Clift said.

“Evaluation of the system has already found an increased awareness among shoppers – up from 33 per cent in April 2015 to 42 per cent in September.

“The scheme was designed to help consumers make healthy, nutritional choices at a glance, improving nutrition and assisting with creating healthy, balanced diets.

“It is a particularly important tool for parents in helping to make healthy choices for children, to help address the alarming incidence in Queensland of childhood overweight and obesity.

“We hope more Queensland food producers will follow this lead, adopting and fully complying with all aspects of this new system.”

Eating a poor diet can lead to overweight or obesity and increase the risk of a range of chronic diseases, including some cancers.

The Health Star Rating Scheme features ratings from half a star up to five stars and includes nutritional information about saturated fat, sugar, sodium and energy content in food products.

The scheme was designed to help consumers make healthy, nutritional choices at a glance, and applies to all manufactured, processed and packaged goods.

“Queenslanders have long wanted a simple nutrition labelling system to help them easily compare different products and make healthier choices,” Ms Clift said.

“Effective front-of-pack labelling has the potential to reduce consumers’ intake of kilojoules, saturated fat, sugars and sodium – leading to reductions in obesity rates and a range of chronic diseases.”

The level of take-up for the scheme will be reviewed in two years and, if it has not been voluntarily adopted by the industry, a mandatory code will be introduced in five years.

Research shows up to one-third of all cancers are preventable through lifestyle changes including eating healthily and maintaining a healthy weight.

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