How Health Star Ratings work

Health Star Ratings measure the nutrition content and healthiness of packaged foods.


How the stars are calculated

Packaged foods are given a number of stars based on:

  • the overall amount of energy they supply
  • their saturated fat, sodium (salt) and sugar levels
  • the quantity of healthy nutrients and ingredients they contain (fibre, protein, fruit, vegetable, nut and legume).

Foods that are low in saturated fat, sugar or sodium (salt), or high in fibre, protein, fruits, vegetables, nuts or legumes will have more stars. The more stars, the healthier the food.

Independent ratings you can trust

Health Star Ratings are an independent rating backed by the New Zealand Government and developed in collaboration with public health experts, the food industry and consumer groups, so you can trust the ratings you see on foods. It's a quick and easy way of comparing the nutrient content of packaged food.  

Health Star Ratings have been designed for most packaged foods. However, some specific foods and drinks, such as tea, coffee and single ingredient products like flour, are unlikely to have ratings. Unpackaged foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables, are also unlikely to have health stars, but are still an important part of a healthy diet.

The use of Health Star Ratings by companies is voluntary – so you might not see them on all packaged foods.

How health stars help you and your family

Health stars make it easier for you to compare and choose healthier foods when you're shopping. Health stars take the guesswork out of reading food labels by showing you at a glance how one product compares to another. The more stars, the healthier the food.

Health Star Ratings can help you make better food choices but it doesn't mean you should eat large amounts of foods with more stars. Refer to the nutrition information panel on packaging for recommended portion size of each food.

Use health stars to compare similar foods. Look for foods with more stars to help you make healthier choices for your family.

A way to compare similar foods

Health Star Ratings provide a useful comparison between similar foods, for example breakfast cereals. Where nutrition information is also displayed, they provide information about the energy content of a product, as well as the levels of saturated fat, sodium (salt) and sugars. Sometimes, a beneficial nutrient (like fibre) may also be displayed. This gives you extra information to help you make the best choice.

Eating healthily has many benefits including increased energy and wellbeing, and reducing your risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure and some cancers. 

What to look for when food shopping

At the supermarket or food retailer, look for health stars on the front of packaged foods. 

Health Star Ratings can appear in a few different ways.

example Health Star Rating nutrient labels
Some foods only carry the overall Health Star Rating of the product. Sometimes the Health Star Rating label will have specific nutrient information about the product.

How to use health stars

You can make healthier choices by using the health stars to compare the nutrition content of packaged foods. Foods with less saturated fat, sugar or sodium (salt), or more fibre, protein, fruits or vegetables will have more stars.

When you buy packaged foods:

  • look for health stars on the front of packaged foods
  • use health stars to compare similar packaged foods.  Remember, the more stars, the healthier the food.

Health stars are voluntary so you might not see them on all packaged foods but you will see health stars appearing on more products over time.  Health Star Ratings rate packaged foods from half a star to 5 stars. To compare products that don't have a Health Star Rating, use the nutrition information panel.

Reporting inconsistencies in Health Star Ratings

Health Star Ratings should:

  • be consistent with Australian dietary guidelines (the New Zealand Ministry of Health eating and activity guidelines are similar to the Australian guidelines)
  • enable valid comparisons between foods based on agreed food components (energy, saturated fat, total sugars, sodium, protein, dietary fibre and fruit/vegetable/nut/legume content).

Australian dietary guidelines

New Zealand Ministry of Health Eating and Activity Guidelines

Anomalies

An inconsistency in health star ratings is called an anomaly. An anomaly occurs when a health star rating:

  • is inconsistent with the Australian dietary guidelines, or
  • is used to make comparisons within a food category or across comparable food categories that would mislead consumers. 

If you think there is an anomaly, and you would like to report it, you can make a submission to the Health Star Rating Advisory Committee.

Visit the Australian Health Star Rating website to find out:

  • about the process
  • how to make a submission
  • what potential anomalies have been registered to date.

Dispute resolution process

If you don't agree with the way a company has used the Health Stars you need to contact the company directly to discuss your concerns.

If you're not satisfied with its response, then you can submit a dispute resolution notice form.

(Note, this process is separate to the process for assessing potential anomalies within the Health Star Rating Calculator).

On the Australian Health Star Rating website you can find out:

  • about the process for assessing and resolving disputes
  • how to submit a dispute resolution notice.

More tips for healthy living

  • Enjoy a variety of nutritious foods every day including:
    • plenty of vegetables and fruit of different colours
    • whole-grain foods that are naturally high in fibre
    • some low-fat milk products
    • some legumes (like lentils and chickpeas), nuts, seeds, kaimoana (fish and seafood), eggs, chicken and red meat (with the fat removed).
  • Choose or prepare foods and drinks:
    • with unsaturated fats (canola, olive, rice bran, vegetable oil, margarine) instead of saturated fats (butter, cream, lard, dripping, coconut oil)
    • that are low in salt (sodium). If using salt, choose iodised salt
    • with little or no added sugar
    • that are fresh and minimally processed.
  • Drink water instead of sugar-sweetened drinks.
  • Be active every day. Sit less, move more. Break up long periods of sitting.
  • Do at least 150 minutes of moderate (or 75 minutes of vigorous) physical activity spread throughout the week.

Family recipes to inspire you

To help you make the most of the foods you buy, use quick and easy recipes for meals and snacks from the My Family website. The website also has tips on eating for good health and information on making your food budget go further.

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