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Cautionary tales about the health star rating system

Friday, 28 July 2017

Dr Lisa Te Morenga, an EDOR member in the Department of Human Nutrition, University of Otago, has commented on the NZ health star rating and the pitfalls of this approach when it comes to added sugars.

In some cases, products with a high amount of sugar can be given a good health star rating, as Dr Te Morenga points out: "...the problem is that companies can boost their star ratings by increasing the fibre in their products, for instance."

"While it allows consumers to make better choices for products in the same category, consumers should still use some skepticism to avoid being hoodwinked by the big brands."

In addition, the "no added sugar" claim often seen on food packaging can mask fruit sugars, purees and concentrates, which the body still processes as sugar. Added sugars are not chemically different to sugars that naturally occur in foods, says Dr Te Morenga.

Dr Te Morenga acknowledged that designing health star ratings is complicated, but hopes that improvements will be made, such as adding in the World Health Organisation's 'free sugar' category which would include any fruit sugars in the "added sugar" listing.

Read the article about health star ratings

Consumers should be skeptical about sugar labels, Stuff website, 25 July, 2017