Stars point to food's good and bad points at a glance

Weekend Herald food columnist Wendyl Nissen rates the proposed star rating system for foodstuff.

At the moment consumers must wade through the nutrition panels on food products to find out how much fat, sugar or salt is in it. Photo / Thinsktock
At the moment consumers must wade through the nutrition panels on food products to find out how much fat, sugar or salt is in it. Photo / Thinsktock

The proposed star system, like the previously proposed traffic light system, has the major advantage for consumers of telling them at a glance if the food is good for them overall. Just because a food is low in fat doesn't mean it isn't high in sugar or salt.

At the moment consumers must wade through the nutrition panels on food products to find out how much fat, sugar or salt (cleverly disguised as sodium) is in it. This system weighs everything up and gives you a broad reading, which has to make it easier to find healthy food in a busy supermarket.

In a perfect food labelling world I would like the star system to also take into account how the food was sourced, eg free range, where it was produced - locally or overseas - and how many artificial colours, flavours and preservatives are in the food. These factors could be added to the fat, sugar and salt levels to produce the overall score.

The main problem with any food labelling guide is that producers will lobby extensively against any indication that the food they are producing might be bad for people.

Producing bad food is a lot cheaper than producing healthy food so this system may cause them to have to invest more in the quality of their product and therefore cut away at their bottom line.

If Australia adopts the star system it is highly likely we will follow but probably not any time soon.

Food producers make up a multimillion-dollar lobby group and it is in their interests to hold this off as long as they can.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n1 at 23 Sep 2014 22:50:02 Processing Time: 535ms