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Australia and New Zealand May Consider Making Health Star Rating Labeling System Mandatory

As the application of HSR system falls largely short of target, the Australian and New Zealand governments may consider making it mandatory.

The Australian and New Zealand governments may mandate the Health Star Rating (HSR) system for packaged foods if its application remains insufficient. A recent report released in May 2024 revealed that the voluntary HSR system has fallen substantially short of government targets, with only 32% of products in Australia and 30% in New Zealand displaying the rating—well below the 50% interim target. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) strengthened on June 6, 2024, that if 70% of products do not use the system by November, 2025, mandatory implementation will be considered.

A brief introduction to HSR system

Introduced jointly by Australia and New Zealand in 2014, the HSR system is a voluntary front-of-pack labeling initiative aimed at helping consumers make healthier food choices. It provides a clear overall health rating for packaged foods, ranging from 0.5 to 5 stars, calculated based on the overall nutritional profile of the product, taking both positive and risk nutrients into consideration.

Most packaged foods are eligible to be covered by the HSR system, with exclusions of products such as alcohol, infant formula, and certain special-purpose foods.

hsr.jpgExample of HSR

According to 2023 Consumer Food Safety Insights Survey issued in June, 2024 targeting New Zealand consumers, 83% of New Zealanders report using the HSR when purchasing a packaged food or drink for the first time. The survey also found that 80% of New Zealand people completely or to some extent trust the HSR system. This highlights consumer’s growing reliance on the HSR system to make informed dietary choices.

Government's HSR Targets

Following an independent review in 2019 (the Five Year Review), specific application targets were set for the HSR system to measure its success:

  • Interim target 1: 50% of intended products apply HSR system by November 14, 2023

  • Interim target 2: 60% of intended products apply HSR system by November 14, 2024

  • Final target: 70% of intended products apply HSR system by November 14, 2025.

As of the first interim target date, only 32% of products in Australia and 30% in New Zealand displayed the HSR, well below the 50% goal. If the 70% target is not met by November 2025, the HSR system may become mandatory.

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