The good oil on the war against junk food

Deirdre Baum walks through her olive grove in Laharum. The trees are recovering after fires swept through the property. Photo: Photo: Simon O’Dwyer

Australians need to eat better. In an effort to fight back against often dubious health and nutrition claims food manufacturers make on their packaging and in advertising the Federal Department of Health has launched the Health Star Rating (HSR) system, which gives consumers a simple and quick way of checking how healthy supermarket food is before they buy.

Caught in the crossfire, though, are producers of extra virgin olive oil. Long-considered a healthy oil option, when put through the HSR formula extra virgin surprisingly receives the same number of health stars as artificially produced spreads such as margarine and half-a-star less than highly refined oils such as canola. If the system can’t get this right, the industry argues, doesn’t it casts doubt over its whole credibility? Read my story in today’s Focus section of the Age here.