Calls for new vote on juice health rating
State governments will be asked to bring common sense to the Health Star Ratings system – which currently rates diet soft drink as healthier than fresh juice – by voting for a 4-star rating for juice at a meeting to be held in November.
Peak industry bodies have contacted Senator Richard Colbeck, Chair of the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation – the body behind the Health Star Rating system – asking for a new vote on an automatic 4-star rating for fresh Australian juice.
Groups that have already lent their support to a fresh vote include the National Farmers Federation, AUSVEG, Apple and Pear Australia, the NFF Hort Council, Passionfruit Australia, Mangoes Australia and Summerfruit Australia.
Every Australian state and territory government, as well as the Australian and New Zealand Federal Governments, is represented on the Forum on Food Regulation.
At the most recent meeting in July, the Federal, NSW and SA state governments voted in favour of an automatic 4-star rating for juice, to acknowledge its nutritional benefits. However, under the new system, fresh juice will now receive a rating as low as 2 stars. This is because the algorithm that underpins the system focuses on sugar content alone and doesn’t consider essential nutrients, such as vitamin C, potassium, folate and magnesium.
The changes will also mean that diet soft drink – which offers no nutritional benefit – will receive 4 stars, because of the additives and preservatives used as a sugar substitute.
“The Health Star Rating system is telling consumers that diet soft drink is healthier than fresh Australian juice, and the majority of our state governments, some of which benefit greatly from our juice industries, agreed,” says Citrus Australia CEO Nathan Hancock.
Hancock says the November meeting will be an excellent opportunity to revisit the “absurdity” of the current Health Star Rating changes.
“The promotion of diet soft drink over juice aside, the changes also contradict Australian Dietary Guidelines, which places fresh juice in the ‘eat more of’ category,” he says.
Research shows a glass of OJ is rich in vitamin C and folate, a good source of thiamine (which produces energy), and contains polyphenols (antioxidant defence), beta-carotene (producing antioxidants), low GI carbs (for sustained energy) and natural sugar (for energy).
Hancock says Australians’ consumption of fruit and vegetables continues to fall, with the latest statistics showing that just five percent of all Australians over the age of 18 consume the recommended daily amount of fruit and vegies. Labelling fresh juice with no added sugar as “unhealthy” would hinder any chance of stopping this decline, he says.
Citrus Australia is particularly disappointed that the Queensland, Victorian and Western Australian state governments didn’t support the proposed changes, as citrus is a significant contributor to their regional economies, and has called for their support.
“Australian juice processors have stated that the proposed changes to the Health Star Rating for fresh juice will have an immediate, detrimental effect on sales,” Hancock says.
“We fear any decline in sales under this false premise would also hasten the demise of not only the Australian orange juice industry, which has already seen a 30 percent decrease in the production base over the last 18 years, but many other horticulture industries as well.”