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Aussies Are Being Tricked Into Buying 'Healthy Foods'

Australians may be getting tricked by the marketing of supposedly healthy products, consumer advocates warn.

Choice has called on Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt to make the health star rating system compulsory for all packaged products.

When star ratings are present, consumers are far less focused on marketing gimmicks when making their shopping decisions, the group said.

A Choice survey has found just 52 percent of Australians rely on product packaging when the rating system is present, compared to 75 percent if it is not shown.

Labelling helps Aussie shoppers choose their 'healthy' cereals. Image: Getty

Two-thirds of participating shoppers chose fewer healthy cereals based on the product labelling, for example, with only 37 percent identifying the healthiest cereal.

Shoppers were also quizzed on their knowledge of products commonly perceived to be healthy.

Jenna Macciochi

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Without the rating system, 74 per cent of shoppers said one of the products they were shown was healthy but when its rating of 1.5 stars out of five was added, only 41 per cent said it was.

Food labels are tricking us into buying unhealthy foods. Image: AAP

"Too many food brands still try to trick us into buying their unhealthy products with misleading images and claims," Choice food policy expert Linda Przhedetsky said.

"A compulsory health star rating system will help disrupt the food industry's tricks."

Choice has long been critical of the rating system, saying it sometimes improperly gives healthier ratings to products with high amounts of sugar or salt.