The Australian government said last week that a ‘Health Star Rating’ is its preferred option after two years of consultation on front-of-pack labeling options.
The system features a star rating scale from ½ to 5 stars front-of-pack, with more stars indicating better nutrition. It also includes nutrient information icons for energy (kilojoules), saturated fat, sodium (salt), sugars and can include one positive nutrient such as calcium or fiber.
It does not require calories to be listed, unlike voluntary systems in the US.
Industry needs time to implement
The Australian Industry Group, whose members include Ferrero, Mars and Mondelez, welcomed the move.
The Group’s principal advocate for the confectionery industry Tim Piper said: “The confectionery industry wants to ensure consumers have a clear understanding about their favorite treat.”
"Whilst we support the voluntary nature of the new labeling regime we are also concerned to ensure there will be sufficient time to enable industry to make the necessary transition and ensure the timing does not impose additional costs on industry.”
In December 2011, the Australian government’s Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation agreed to develop an interpretive front-of-pack labeling system for the country.
The confectionery industry was involved in discussions on possible options including the star rating system and a traffic light system.
On Friday last week, the star system was proposed as the preferred method.
Ministers say front-of-pack labeling is one tool among a raft of measures that will help alleviate obesity and chronic diseases in Australia
The country is allowing a two-year evaluation period to assess the uptake of the voluntary system. If it proves unsuccessful Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) will develop mandatory standards.
US firms put calories front-of-pack
The decision comes soon after the National Confectionery Association (NCA) of the United States launched a voluntary program called “Treat Right” to put calories on the front of packs.
So far Hershey and Jelly Belly have chosen to implement the system, which uses the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) model that includes calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar.
Mars has been rolling out its Guideline Daily Amounts (GDA) ‘What’s Inside’ labels on the front of all of its chocolate, non-chocolate confectionery and other food products globally since 2008. These labels also display calories.