Con­sumers call for sugar rat­ing


‘‘It is vol­un­tary, con­fus­ing and rates many foods with high con­cen­tra­tions of sugar as healthy.’’

When it comes to the sugar de­bate, con­sumers are agree­ing with the health ex­perts – less is bet­ter and they want to be bet­ter in­formed.

A re­cent sur­vey has found the ma­jor­ity of shop­pers want bet­ter la­belling of added sug­ars in pro­cessed foods, which has led Con­sumer NZ to rec­om­mend changes to the star rat­ing sys­tem that would pre­vent foods high in sugar earn­ing high rat­ings.

The Gov­ern­ment launched a pub­lic aware­ness cam­paign in March for Health Star Rat­ings on front-of­pack la­belling.

It was one of 22 ini­tia­tives in its Child­hood Obe­sity Plan, aimed at tak­ing the guess­work out of read­ing nu­tri­tion la­bels.

At present, star rat­ings are cal­cu­lated on to­tal sug­ars – added sug­ars don’t score ex­tra penalty points.

Pos­i­tive nu­tri­ents, such as fi­bre and pro­tein, can off­set the neg­a­tive such as sugar. As a re­sult, some high-sugar prod­ucts can achieve high star rat­ings.

Univer­sity of Otago child­hood obe­sity ex­pert, pro­fes­sor Barry Tay­lor, wel­comed a change to the star sys­tem for sugar.

Of­ten it was hard for par­ents to fig­ure out how much sugar was in cer­tain foods, par­tic­u­larly some break­fast ce­re­als.

‘‘It would be use­ful to have an easy way for the or­di­nary con­sumer to know how much sugar was a rea­son­able amount.’’

Last month, the Gov­ern­ment’s Child­hood Obe­sity Plan was re­viewed in New Zealand Med­i­cal Jour­nal (NZMJ) by Auck­land Univer­sity epi­demi­ol­o­gists Ger­hard Sund­born and Si­mon Thor­ley, mar­ket­ing lec­turer Bodo Lang and spokesman for the New Zealand Den­tal As­so­ci­a­tion Rob Bea­gle­hole

The food star rat­ing sys­tem was flawed, the re­view said.

‘‘It is vol­un­tary, con­fus­ing and rates many foods with high con­cen­tra­tions of sugar as healthy.’’

In a state­ment, Min­is­ter for Food Safety Jo Good­hew said: ‘‘A re­view of the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Health Star Rat­ings sys­tem is un­der way this year, to high­light and elim­i­nate any anom­alies for par­tic­u­lar types of prod­ucts, which were not an­tic­i­pated in the cal­cu­la­tion of the rat­ings.

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