Health Star Rating review strikes the right balance

Reform of the Health Star Rating (HSR) system will provide industry and consumers with clarity and establish an improved system into the future, says the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC).

Today the Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation (FoFR) formally responded to the Health Star Rating Five Year Report, supporting the review’s 10 recommendations, to be implemented with a transition period of two years.

AFGC Chief Executive Tanya Barden said the decision struck the right balance between industry and consumer needs and was a sensible regulatory outcome.

“The HSR system is evidence-based and useful for consumers. Industry uptake has been substantial and consumer awareness and trust in the system is significant,” Ms Barden said.

“This outcome paves the way for an improved HSR scheme, increased industry uptake and more guidance for consumers seeking healthier dietary choices. It’s a sensible approach that balances the views of various stakeholders on a very complex issue.

“Importantly, the HSR system has not been made mandatory and we consider this is the right outcome. While uptake continues to increase and targets have been set this would be premature and potentially counter-productive, resulting in a much slower and less responsive system.”

Ms Barden noted the two-year implementation plan was ambitious given Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) was yet to undertake detailed modelling on proposed changes to the HSR algorithm.

“The transition period should commence once FSANZ has completed its work, which will ensure smooth implementation. The industry should not be expected to undertake costly labelling changes before the new HSR system is finalised” Ms Barden said.

“We look forward to working in collaboration with government to make sure the transition is seamless for both industry and consumers.”

In addition, the AFGC also welcomed FoFR’s decision to reform the Bi-national Food Regulation System, which will include a comprehensive review of the FSANZ Act.

“The current system is very complex and any moves to streamline and harmonise the regulatory system will be good for the food and grocery manufacturing industry,” Ms Barden said.

“It will help facilitate innovation across the sector, leading to more choice and better products for consumers, which will also underpin competitiveness.”