Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash speaks during the launch of The Lowitja Institute's indigenous health research launch in Canberra, Thursday, March. 6, 2014. Senator Nash has been censured by the Senate, accused of misleading parliament over her connection to the removal of a food rating website.
Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash speaks during the launch of The Lowitja Institute's indigenous health research launch in Canberra, Thursday, March. 6, 2014. Senator Nash has been censured by the Senate, accused of misleading parliament over her connection to the removal of a food rating website. AAP Image - Alan Porritt

Abbott pressured into relaunching junk-food rating site

THE Abbott government has buckled to pressure to reinstate a junk food health star rating website, after state health ministers pushed for its return at a high-level meeting on Friday.

At the meeting in Sydney, Australian Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash and her state and territory counterparts voted to reinstate the website.

Active immediately, the voluntary website will rate the health value of different foods and drinks, compared with similar products, available in Australian supermarkets.

The website was controversially taken down earlier this year after Senator Nash's then chief of staff Alistair Furnival, who part-owned a lobbyist company working for the junk food industry, pushed for its removal.

After Mr Furnival resigned, it seems the Federal Government has now taken on concerns of health advocates, state ministers and the federal Opposition, in reinstating the website.

But it will remain voluntary for the next five years, leaving individual companies to decide if they will introduce the health star rating on their products.

Consumer group Choice welcomed the news, with chief executive Alan Kirkland saying it was great news for consumers.

"The health star rating scheme will help shoppers compare products, at a glance, and CHOICE strongly supports the ministers' decision to help consumers make healthier choices," he said.

"CHOICE's work evaluating products with the health star rating calculator shows that the rating scheme is going to provide a strong incentive to food manufacturers to improve the nutritional profile of their products and get more stars."

In politics, Labor and The Greens also welcomed the change, while New Zealand, also part of the ministerial council that met on Friday, will also put it in place across the Tasman.


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