The Australian dairy industry is actively reinforcing the health benefits of dairy products such as cheese, as the Australian Government reviews the Health Star Rating front-of-pack labelling system.
As part of the five-year review, the dairy industry has taken a proactive approach to ensuring the Health Star Rating system recognises the nutrients and healthiness dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt can provide.
The Health Star Rating system is designed to rate the healthiness of packaged foods.
The system assigns a star rating from half a star to five stars for consumers to compare packaged foods within the same category, such as yoghurt or cereal - with five stars being best.
Dairy Australia and the broader industry have contributed to each consultation period of the review, reinforcing the message that dairy foods are an important part of a healthy diet, every day.
Already, recognition has been received that all milk, cheese and yoghurt are Five Food Group foods as part of the Australian Dietary Guidelines.
Australian Dairy Products Federation acting executive director Janine Waller said the dairy industry had been lobbying for all Five Food Group dairy foods to score a minimum of three health stars.
"Dairy foods are already under-consumed by Australians and more than half don't achieve the recommended amount of calcium needed each day," Ms Waller said.
"Dairy foods provide the ideal nutrient package, and it's important the Health Star Rating system recognises this."
In a significant improvement, most plain Greek yoghurts now score at least a three health stars following the dairy industry's previous submissions.
Nutrition scientist Dr Rivkeh Haryono said Dairy Australia would continue to work with government and stakeholders to ensure the health benefits of all other Five Food Group dairy foods were recognised through formal rating systems.
"While we're supportive of the Health Star Rating system, we still have some concerns about the current ratings of certain dairy foods," Dr Haryono said.
"We are particularly concerned by low scoring 'everyday' cheeses like cheddar, and we are actively seeking a solution so these products score at least three stars."
Since the last round of the review, tweaks to the system have shifted some products up by between half a star and one star.
However, 47 per cent of cheese products still score less than three stars.
"Science actually shows consumption of cheese is associated with reduced risk of high blood pressure and reduced risk of stroke - so we should be encouraging consumption of cheese," Dr Haryono said.
"Dairy Australia is concerned that if cheeses like cheddar continue to score poorly, this may further discourage intake of the dairy food group as it could be seen as an unhealthy food by consumers."
Dairy farmers and consumers can find more information about dairy's role in a healthy diet at www.dairy.com.au/health.
This story first appeared on Australian Dairyfarmer