By Jasmine Chan, Emma McMahon, Thomas Wycherley, Kylie Howes, Graham Bidstrup and Julie Brimblecombe
Researchers have found that a food healthiness rating system — the Thumbs Rating System used by the Good Tucker app—can more accurately identify the healthiness of products, compared to using the Australian Government’s Health Star Rating system alone. This shows the healthy food app and its food classification system can be a helpful tool for shoppers and retailers to choose healthier food and drinks.
The Good Tucker smartphone app uses the Thumbs Rating System to display an easy-to-interpret rating of the healthiness of packaged products. Developed by Uncle Jimmy Thumbs Up!, the University of South Australia and the Menzies School of Health Research in partnership with FoodSwitchTM, the app was designed to provide an easy way for people to identify the healthiest food and drink options available in stores.
The Thumbs Rating System uses a combination of a product’s Health Star Rating and its classification by the Australian Dietary Guidelines as either a ‘core’ or ‘discretionary’ product.
Researchers looked at how the Thumbs Rating System performed compared to 2 other national food rating systems—the Health Star Rating and the Northern Territory School Canteen Guidelines. To see which of the 3 systems was best at identifying unhealthy products, the team compared the amount of energy from discretionary foods, and the added sugar from products identified as ‘healthy’, ‘somewhat healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ by each of the 3 rating systems.
Of the 3 food classification systems, the Thumbs Rating System was found to be better at classifying unhealthy products, with the system capturing the most amount of discretionary energy (92.2%) and added sugar sold (90.6%) in unhealthy products. The Thumb Rating System’s core/discretionary filter also means that all food and beverage products it classifies as healthy come from core food groups. These results indicate the Thumbs Rating System is an improvement on other national systems and can be useful for people wanting to reduce intake of discretionary choices and added sugar in their diet.
“The Thumbs Rating System and the Good Tucker app responds to people in remote communities asking for a way to easily discern healthy from unhealthy food and drinks, and also for store managers to know which foods and drinks are suitable to promote to their communities,” comments Associate Professor Julie Brimblecombe, senior author of the paper (Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food at Monash University).
“Now our assessment provides evidence that the Thumbs Rating System is better aligned with the nutrition messaging needs identified by remote communities, compared to using the Health Star Rating alone, and that it offers improvement to the current Health Star Rating algorithm.”
Read the paper here
The Good Tucker App is free to download: https://thumbsup.org.au/good-tucker/