If your diet was comprised of just home brand products from the four major supermarkets, you’d come out healthiest if you were a Woolworths shopper, according to new research.
(Of course, a diet restricted just to packaged foods is in no way healthy, but hypothetically speaking.)
Woolies has again outdone Coles, Aldi and IGA for health ticks when it comes to its own-brand range.
The results come from the George Institute for Global Health’s annual FoodSwitch: The State of the Food Supply report, released on Wednesday.
The Fresh Food People have long held court when it comes to this poll, judged according to the federal government’s Health Star Rating system.
Fifty nine per cent of Woolworths’ branded products hit the ‘healthy’ rank – that is 3.5 stars or above.
Coles was next on the list with half of its products, followed by Aldi (43 per cent) and IGA (41 per cent).
Overall, there’s still plenty of room for improvement across supermarket and independent brands, the report found.
George Institute accredited practising dietitian Daisy Coyle said the major supermarkets held a lot of power when it came to positively influencing shoppers’ health and wellbeing.
“Sadly, we’ve seen little to no improvement in the healthiness of the big four’s own brand ranges in the 12 months since we last conducted this analysis and we know they have the capability to do so much more,” Ms Coyle said.
The institute also turned a particular eye to ultra-processed food and drinks. These food stuffs are linked to increased mortality risks and generally bad outcomes for those who eat them regularly.
Aldi was the worst offender when it came to selling ultra-processed goods under its own label – then IGA and Coles, then Woolworths.
Ticks and misses
Outside of the supermarket brands, Sanitarium, Nudie Foods and a2 Milk were deemed the top three healthiest brands, according to their health star ratings.
At the bottom of the pile were beverages companies: Bundaberg Brewed Drinks, and Frucor Suntory, the company behind products like V energy drink, Ribena and Lucozade.
While this list from the George Institute has been compiled according to the government’s health star rating system, it’s a system that’s attracted its share of complaints in the past.
The New Daily has spoken to public health experts in the past, who have expressed their concerns with the system.
What’s more, the ratings system only goes on packaging.
Most fresh produce – the foundation of healthy diets – doesn’t come in packaging.
It’s not a mandatory system – a company can choose whether or not to display the rating on their product.
The George Institute reported only 41 per cent of eligible products actually displayed the rating (and these were the ones with good scores).
This means some unhealthy items are still slipping through the cracks and into shoppers’ trolleys, as consumer advocacy body Choice pointed out.
Choice and The George Institute have called on the government to make the ratings system mandatory for all packaged food goods in Australian supermarkets.
The system assesses the overall nutritional profile of packaged food and assigns ratings from ½ star to five stars as a standard way to compare similar packaged foods.