Australia's Food Environment Dashboard

Nutrition labelling on the packaging of food and drinks can enable people to make informed decisions about the healthiness of products on offer. There is evidence that nutrition labelling can lead people to select healthier options. Government-led front-of-pack nutrition labelling can be used to promote healthy diets.

Indicator Result Previous Assessment* What was measured? Source

Health Star Rating**

 

Proportion of packaged food and drinks that display the Health Star Rating

41%

39%

Eligible packaged food and drinks available in Australian supermarkets (2019-20), with change from previous data (2018-19)

National Heart Foundation of Australia (2020)

Average Health Star Rating (HSR) of packaged foods with HSR present vs absent on label

3.4 stars (present)

vs

2.6 stars (absent)

Packaged food and drinks available in Australian supermarkets between (2018-19)

Shahid et al (2020)

Nutrition content claims***

 

Proportion of packaged food products with nutrition content claims

56%

 

Small sample of 215 ultra-processed foods from five leading food manufacturers in these food categories: breakfast cereals, snacks, confectionery, condiments and ‘meal replacements’ (2015)

Pulker et al (2017)

Proportion of nutrition content claims that did not fully comply with regulations

82%

Small sample of 215 ultra-processed foods from five leading food manufacturers in these food categories: breakfast cereals, snacks, confectionery, condiments and ‘meal replacements’ (2015)

Pulker et al (2017)

Health claims***

 

Proportion of packaged food products with health claims

25%

 

Small sample of 215 ultra-processed foods from five leading food manufacturers in these food categories: breakfast cereals, snacks, confectionery, condiments and ‘meal replacements’ (2015)

Pulker et al (2017)

Proportion of health claims that did not fully comply with regulations

21%

Small sample of 215 ultra-processed foods from five leading food manufacturers (2015)

Pulker et al (2017)

* Green = ‘Promotes health’; Amber = ‘Needs further improvement to promote health’; Red = ‘Unhealthy’. Refer to Indicator Assessment Criteria at the bottom of the page.

** The Health Star Rating (HSR) labelling system, endorsed by the Australian Government in 2014, was designed to provide an overall signal about a food’s healthiness. Each product is given a rating from 0.5 to 5 stars, with more stars signalling a healthier product. Implementation of HSR on food products is currently voluntary for food manufacturers. The government recently announced that their target is for 70% of intended products to display the HSR by 2025.

*** Food companies can add nutrition content claims (eg. “low in fat”) and health claims (eg. “calcium for healthy bones and teeth”) to product labels. These are regulated by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and food companies must comply with the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.


Key Findings

  • Since the introduction of the Health Star Rating system, the uptake of Health Star Rating labelling has increased annually. However, more than five years after implementation began, less than half of eligible products display the Health Star Rating on their label. While the proportion of eligible products displaying the Health Star Rating continues to increase each year, the rate of uptake is decreasing. The relatively low level of uptake of the Health Star Rating makes it harder for consumers to compare the healthiness of different products.
  • Food manufacturers are more likely to display the Health Star Rating on products that have a higher rating (more stars). This makes it harder for consumers to understand the healthiness of different products.
  • It is estimated that over half of ultra-processed food products feature a nutrition content claim (e.g. “low in fat”), despite these products generally being considered unhealthy. The use of nutrition content claims may serve to increase consumptio0n of these products.
  • There is only limited nutrition information provided for fast foods at point-of-sale. This limitis the ability of consumers to make informed choices.

Key Recommendations

  • Government regulatory action to mandate the display of the HSR on all intended foods is required to increase uptake of HSR labelling on food products, particularly on less healthy foods.
  • Greater policy action is needed to improve the nutrition information provided at point-of-sale in fast food outlets to allow consumers to make informed choices.
  • Policies to address the lack of quality and accuracy of information (including health and nutrition content claims) provided on food packaging are required to assist Australians in making informed food choices.

For more information

Websites

Visit the Obesity Evidence Hub for key evidence on obesity trends, impacts, prevention & treatment in Australia. Access information about Nutrition Labelling.

Journal Articles

Indicator Assessment Criteria
Metric

Uptake of Health Star Rating labelling

≥ 80%

40 – 79%

<40%

Average Health Star Rating (HSR) of packaged foods with HSR present vs absent on label

Equal HSR when HSR is absent and present on label

0.5 star difference between HSR present vs absent

> 0.5 star difference between HSR present vs absent on label

Proportion of nutrient content / health claims that do not comply with regulations

0%

1 – 10%

> 10%