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Food manufacturers question effectiveness of star rating system

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The Health Star food rating system which has been designed to help consumers make informed and more healthful decisions at the checkout is being rejected by major food manufacturers

Simplot, Nestle and Unilever along with peak lobby group, the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC), have questioned the effectiveness of the new government imposed system sighting a hike in labelling costs and potential job losses as the primary reasons.

Terry O’Brien, managing director of food processing giant Simplot believes that the new system could cost up to $3m for the company to implement across its entire food portfolio.

O’Brien who is also chairman of the AFGC, told ABC News that the star rating system would not tackle food related issues such as diabetes and obesity.

"At Simplot, we've run our products through the suggested system and we've got anomalies all over the place, where things like products with no salt are not getting a better rating than the same product with salt.

"So if these sort of anomalies in our hands, then how the heck are they going to help the consumer?"

 AFGC CEO, Gary Dawson estimates that the repacking could cost the food industry up to $14,000 per product equating to more than $200m across the industry.

However, health industry expert Michael Moore from the Public Health Association of Australia, who was involved in the design process of the rating system, believes that it is a small price to pay considering the burden of diabetes and cardiovascular disease on the nation’s health system.

“It’s peanuts compared with the cost of diabetes, cardiovascular, all the diseases associated with obesity and what it’s going to cost to treat them,” Moore told Financial Review Sunday. 

The Heath Star Rating system is a product of two years of negotiation between the health sectors, government and the food industry.

Image credit: Choice

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