Health Star Rating losing teeth over added sugars

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The Australian Dental Association (ADA) is calling for reforms in the wake of the George Institute for Global Health (George Institute) review of 34,000 packaged foods with Health Star Ratings.

The review revealed that naturally occurring sugars found in fruits, vegetables and dairy were treated the same as sugars added during food processing.

Among the ADA’s suggested reforms are ensuring that added sugars are included in the updated Health Star Ratings algorithm and are more clearly identified in nutrition labels.

“It has been long established that sugars are cariogenic,” president of the ADA Dr Hugo Sachs said.

“The George Institute’s review shows that the Health Star Ratings are effectively hiding the presence of these added sugars in a number of products meaning that consumers are inadvertently exposing themselves to increased risk of tooth decay.

“This lack of transparency goes hand-in-hand with the fact that many foods [such as dried fruit, biscuits, fruit juice, muesli bars, crackers, children’s cereals and flavoured milk] are marketed as healthy when they are not.”

These ‘healthy’ snacks, Dr Sachs pointed out, are high in sugar and get stuck between teeth, increasing acid attacks which cause decay.

“Recently, we received findings that in South Australia some babies, who have not yet reached one year of age, needed dental treatment under general anaesthetic due to decay brought on by sugary foods and drinks,” Dr Sachs continued.

“Nationally, over 24,000 children aged 14 years or under were admitted to hospital due to dental conditions—these hospitalisations were assessed as being potentially preventable.”

Not only that, half of six-year-olds have experienced tooth decay in their baby teeth and up to half of 12-year-olds have experienced tooth decay in their permanent teeth.

“We urge the Health Minister to fix the gaps in the Health Star Rating System,” Dr Sachs said. “If this does not occur, we will see more gaps in people’s teeth.”

Based on a media release sourced from the ADA.

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