Food Labeling

It's a real minefield for parents trying to make healthy choices for their kids.

"Some of them can be high in saturated fat, high in salt, low in fibre and some may not have as much fruit as you think."

Dietician Matt O'Neill of Metabolic Jump Start says parents are being steered towards junk foods. All these foods here make some sort of claim on the front of the package whether they say they are full of food they are baked not friend they are healthy for you they're free of additives and preservatives.

Choice analysed two hundred and sixty five kid's popular lunchbox snacks and measured their Health Star Ratings, based on a voluntary scheme developed by government-led consumer, health and food industry groups. The ratings run between half a star and five stars. Depending on their kilojoules, saturated fat, sugars, sodium, protein and fibre.

"More than half of the products we looked at scored 2 and half stars or less. In some categories it was difficult to find a product that even got above 2 and half stars."

Choice's Campaign Manager, Angela Cartwright says only three of the two hundred and sixty kid's snacks scored the top-rating five stars - The Laughing Cow La Vache Quirit Light, Tuckers Onion and Cheddar Snack Bites and Tucker's chilli Snack Bites and grain-based bars. They vary greatly. Best is Kez's Gluten Free cereal bites, and Carman's fruit Free, for high fibre, low fat and sugar.

Probably the worst category that we looked at was the savoury crunchy snacks. These are things like chips and crackers and popcorn. We found that in this category, 75% of products scored 2 stars or less. The cracker and cheese dip products, unfortunately none of them did very well. But when we looked at cheese sticks we found some really interesting variations in the ratings. For example the Bega stringers product managed 4 and half stars, while Kraft's strip cheese ... 2 stars.

Matt O'Neill a Dietician for Metabolic Jump Start says "Fruit snacks are the worst, because even 100% fruit can be full of pureed fruit, can be full of fruit juice which really concentrates the sugar and you ticked it because you think it's healthy, but it's not. Savoury crackers, you think that's okay that's good, but can be full
of saturated fat and sodium is the big one how do you think it's tastes so good? It's full of sodium and that is related to high blood pressure"

"The Health Star Ratings system was introduced last February but due to pressure from the junk food industry, it was pulled down after just one day. But this Friday, Health Ministers are meeting to decide on the future of the ratings scheme"

This star system is what every parent has been wanting for decades and food companies have been fighting it, well times up, you need to do what consumers want because they want to raise healthy kids

What the health star rating would do is translate the numerical information into a rating between half a star and five stars that parents can understand at a glance to compare products and make healthier choices

The advice - compare nutritional labels on the packs and try and make a healthier choice or put more unprocessed foods in the lunch box.

Matt O'Neill says "what about putting an apple of a banana or maybe even some sultanas or dried apricots in the lunchbox, so this might even be a message to get off packaged foods then you don't have to worry about the rating system."

Further Details

* Choice

www.choice.com.au

* Matt O'Neill

Dietitian

Metabolic Jump Start

www.metabolicjumpstart.com