The Star Choice™ Food Registration Program was first implemented in Western Australia in 1998 as a strategy of the WA School Canteen Project partnership with the Heart Foundation of Australia (WA Division) and the Department of Health and was funded by Healthway. The program currently forms part of WASCA core business operations.
The registration of products by WASCA is underpinned the Star Choice™ nutrient criteria. The nutrient criteria have been set as the benchmark criteria for the Department of Education’s Healthy Food and Drink (HFD) policy. All products are colour coded GREEN or AMBER to reflect the HFD policy traffic light system.
Criteria for product registration
The nutrient criteria used to register products is regularly reviewed and may result in new sub-categories of products being created in response to advances in food technology since the setting of the original criteria. When the Australian Dietary Guidelines are reviewed, changes are also made to the nutrient criteria as required.
The criteria used to assess the suitability of products for registration address levels and types of fat, salt (sodium) sugar and fibre in foods and beverages because excessive amounts of fat, salt and sugar and inadequate amounts of fibre are associated with many of the chronic health problems suffered by Australians. The criteria in some categories also stipulates a maximum portion size and/or energy (kilojoule) allowance. Thus, it should not be assumed that a larger size of the same product meets registration criteria. For example, a 28g packet snack line may be registered, but a 50g packet of the same product may not be because it exceeds the energy allowance.
The criteria do not address food additives/preservatives as their addition or otherwise to food and beverages is controlled by the Government body Food Standards Australia New Zealand. Information regarding additives and preservatives may be found at www.foodstandards.gov.au.
The Star Choice™ product register list mainly processed foods that meet varying criteria according to the category of product. Thus the criterion applied to assess bread products is quite different to that used to assess poultry, fish and meat products. Only products submitted for registration have been assessed. There is no doubt that there are other foods and beverages available in the marketplace that meets the nutritional criteria. The assumption should not be made that a product that is not listed does not meet the criteria.
The Star Choice™ product register makes it easier for schools to stock and promote healthier choices of traditional convenience products, e.g. pastries, frankfurters, burger patties, formed vegetable products such as hash browns. Although these types of products may be considered more nutritional choices than their regular counterparts, the majority of them are ‘AMBER’. It is recommended their availability should be limited and that they should only supplement the menu choices, the majority of which should be derived from the core ‘GREEN’ foods.
Online database and Buyer’s Guide
The Star Choice™ Buyer’s Guide was produced in response to requests from schools for guidance about which processed food products are suitable for sale in school canteens. The Guide is distributed to all schools in WA and many community organisations.
As more products are assessed, the Star Choice™ Products Register will be regularly updated on the online database on the WASCA website. The hard copy Buyer’s Guide will be updated twice each year and sent by mail to all schools. Schools will also be informed of new products in the Association’s newsletter CanTeam.
Companies are invited to advertise registered products or services in the newsletter and Buyer’s Guide. Contact the office for information regarding availability of space, deadlines, required advertisement format and cost.
Food manufacturers requesting further information regarding product registration or a registration kit should contact WASCA on 08 9264 4999 or email email@example.com.
Click here to browse the Star Choice™ Products Register.
The role of school canteens
School canteens are significant sources of food for many students. WASCA understands that school canteens differ from other food shops in the community in that they should not only provide foods which supply essential nutrients to ensure normal growth of children and adolescents, but should also reinforce the nutrition component of the school curriculum in a manner consistent with the health promoting school framework.
Canteens can provide a positive role model to students who are developing their eating habits. Star Choice™ Registered Products makes it easier for canteens to meet these goals.
School canteens open at various times during the day including before school, recess and lunch breaks. They are generally accountable to school parent bodies or school boards or councils and are most often operated by a combination of paid staff and voluntary help. They provide a service for students and in many cases aim to earn a profit which is used for the benefit of the school.
Which foods are recommended for sale in school canteens?
WASCA promotes food being available in school canteens that supports the consumption of a diet consistent with the Australian Dietary Guidelines and the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. Childhood and adolescence are important periods of growth and development, and for these to occur optimally, adequate energy and nutrients must be eaten.
When planning school canteen menus, emphasis should be given to the following foods that contribute significantly to meeting students’ nutritional needs:
- Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties
- Vegetables and legumes/beans
- Fruit – fresh, canned, frozen
- Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives, mostly reduced fat
- Lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts* and seeds and legumes/beans (*according to school policy).
It is suggested schools refer to these guidelines together with those of the HFD policy when planning menus.