How Health Star Ratings work

Health Star Ratings rate the overall nutrition content and healthiness of packaged foods. Learn how to use them when you shop for food.


The more stars, the healthier the food

While most people understand that foods like fruit and vegetables are good for you, it can be a lot harder to understand the nutritional value of packaged foods. The Health Star Rating system is a voluntary labelling system that makes it easier to choose healthier packaged food. It uses a star rating scale of half a star to 5 stars – foods with more stars are healthier than similar foods with fewer stars.

A reliable way to compare foods

You can trust the Health Star Ratings you see on packaged foods. They are an independent rating developed by the New Zealand and Australian Governments in collaboration with public health experts, the food industry and consumer groups.

What to look for when food shopping

When you write your shopping list, make sure you include a variety of healthy foods.

At the supermarket or shop, look for health stars on the front of packaged foods. Use the health stars to help choose each food on your list. For example, when choosing which breakfast cereal to buy, compare the number of health stars on different cereal packets to choose the healthiest one. Health stars shouldn’t be used to compare different types of food – such as peanut butter versus cereal.

Health Star Ratings can appear on labels in a few different ways. Some foods only carry the overall Health Star Rating of the product. Other foods include information about specific nutrients (such as fats or sugars).

Health Star Rating packaging images: one with 3.5 stars only, another with 3.5 stars and nutrition information

Video: Health Star Rating advertisement (31 seconds)

Video title: Health Stars NZ - Ever wondered how healthy your food is? (Full version)

[Animated cereal boxes sitting on supermarket shelf displaying Health Star Ratings; Box 1 has 1 and a half stars, Box 2 has 2 and a half stars, Box 3 has 4 and a half stars]

Box 2: Have you ever wondered how healthy we are?

Box 1: Come on, man. You’ve got this. Just close your eyes. You can feel it.

[Boxes 1 and 2 close their eyes and hum like they are meditating.]

Box 2: Are you sure this is how it works?

Box 1: Believe, bro. Believe.

[Humming]

[Box 3 gets picked up off the shelf by a shopper]

Box 3: Later.

Box 1: What’s so special about her?

Box 2: Four and a half stars! She’s like a galaxy.

[Camera focuses on 2 ½ star image]

[Last screen shows:
Health Star Ratings image, “Healthier is easy when you look for Health Stars”, Ministry of Health logo, Ministry for Primary Industries logo, Health Promotion Agency logo]

[End of transcript]


Check the recommended serving size

Health Star Ratings can help you make better food choices, but this doesn't mean you can eat large amounts of food with more stars. Check the nutrition information panel on the packet for the recommended serving size.

How health stars are calculated

Packaged foods are given a number of stars based on their nutrients, ingredients and the amount of energy (kilojoules) they provide. Manufacturers work out the rating of their product by putting nutrition information into the 'Health Star Rating Calculator'. Foods get more stars if they are:

  • lower in saturated fat, sugar or sodium (salt)
  • higher in healthy nutrients and ingredients (fibre, protein, fruits, vegetables, nuts or legumes).

Find out more

Not all foods have Health Star Ratings

Health Star Ratings are suitable for most packaged foods but aren't usually used on foods that:

  • don't need a nutrition panel, such as tea, coffee or single ingredient products like flour
  • aren't packaged, like fresh fruits and vegetables – but these are still an important part of a healthy diet.

Health Star Ratings are voluntary, so you won’t see them on all packaged foods.

What to do if you have questions about a rating

If you have questions about the way a company has used health stars, you should contact the company directly to discuss your concerns.

If you're not satisfied with the company's response, you can report your concerns to the Health Star Rating Advisory Committee.

Find out more

Who to contact

If you have questions about Health Star Ratings, email info@mpi.govt.nz

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