No more Tick! What were they thinking?

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Thursday, 10 December 2015.
Tagged: Food labels, health, Health Star Rating, healthy eating, label, low fat

No more Tick! What were they thinking?

This week on the 8th December 2015, the Heart Foundation announced it is retiring the red Tick after 26 years! Retiring it in favour of the new Health Star Rating (HSR), which in my opinion is a flawed system that needs tweaking. Here’s why...

What the Tick did

Over 2,000 foods in 80 different categories currently display the Heart Foundation Tick. That Tick tells you that the food choices you make when you choose a Tick product in particular category are the healthier choices.

But didn’t companies have to pay?

Yes, the companies had to apply for the Tick and paid to have their products assessed. That did not guarantee that they would get a Tick though. Only products that met the Heart Foundations strict and regularly reviewed guidelines were awarded Ticks.

Why have they retired the Tick?

In it’s press release the Heart Foundation says 

Over the past few years, the Heart Foundation has worked with the Federal Government and other stakeholders to develop the Health Star Rating system, which was launched in December 2014.

Since the launch, the HSR system has been well received by food manufacturers (more than 1500 products now carry the HSR) and is becoming sufficiently well established, and understood by shoppers. We feel we can now safely begin to retire the Tick”.

So what’s the problem?

The Health Star Rating can’t tell you everything about a food e.g. it doesn’t look at how many additives are present; it misses out on vitamins (vitamin B12 say) or minor minerals (selenium say); how processed and refined it is; or whether it’s local-grown or organic or free-from; or even whether it’s a whole food or not. You don’t get the whole story about a food’s value.

In contrast, the Tick had category for each food type so bread was different to oils. The HSR only has the one classification system and favours foods that are low in fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt with extra fruit (think dried fruit), veges, nuts or legumes. One size cannot fit all.

The HSR also leads to some absurd anomalies such as plain yoghurt having fewer stars than sweet confectionery. This excellent video from the ABC’s Fact Check show does a great job of explaining how the system works and the problems associated with it. 

You can read my post on the Health Star Rating here and read about why I loved the Tick here.

Catherine Saxelby

About the Author

Catherine Saxelby knows nutrition! She is an accredited nutritionist, food commentator, blogger and award-winning author. Her latest book Catherine Saxelby's Food and Nutrition Companion answers all those tricky questions on healthy eating, diets and supplements. It draws together a lifetime of advice and gives you all you need to know to eat right! It's a complete A to Z. A handy desk go-to reference.