Health Star Ratings: What's on the labels of Australian beverages?
Issue addressed: The Health Star Rating (HSR) System provides a useful tool to communicate health and nutrition messages to consumers. Given the large contribution from sugar-containing beverages to sugar intake in the Australian diet and the adverse health outcomes associated with frequent consumption, it is important to investigate how the HSR System is displayed on beverages. Our research measured and compared the presence of the HSR System on the labels of sugar-containing and sugar-free beverages in Australia.
Methods: We conducted a survey of the labels on 762 ready-to-drink (≤600 mL) nondairy/nonalcoholic beverages, sampled from 17 South Australian supermarkets in late 2016. We measured the presence of a star rating icon or an energy-only icon (which is an option of the HSR System for beverages).
Results: The HSR System was observed on 35.3% of beverages, with only 6.8% displaying a star rating icon and 28.5% displaying an energy-only icon. When present (n = 52), star rating icons were almost universally 5 stars (94.2%), and of these, they were predominantly displayed on 100% juices (85.7%). Almost all beverages with a star rating contained high amounts of sugar; only three sugar-free beverages displayed a star rating.
Conclusions: We found that there are low uptake and limited use of the HSR System on beverages.
So what?: The HSR System on beverages could better achieve its objectives if the energy-only icon were removed from the graphic options, the algorithm were adjusted so that 100% juices cannot display a 5-star rating, and the System were made mandatory.