Health rating call a blow to citrus growers
Citrus Australia is “vastly disappointed” with the decision by state ministers to remove the 5-star rating for fresh juice with no added sugar under a revised Health Star Rating system.
The Food Regulation Forum, comprising ministers from every Australian state and territory, met on Friday, July 17. It rejected Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud’s proposals to retain the current 5-star rating for juice.
Fresh juice has held a 5-star rating since the system was implemented in 2014. Under the revised system as it stands, diet cola would receive 4 stars. Meanwhile, 100 percent fresh juice with no added sugar, preservatives or additions would receive 2.5 stars.
Worse than Diet Coke?
Citrus Australia CEO Nathan Hancock says the effective demonisation of fresh juice – a 100 percent natural product with no additives or preservatives – “defies common sense”.
“Under the revised system, 100 percent fresh juice would receive fewer stars than diet cola,” he says. “This contains additives and preservatives and no nutritional benefits.
“The algorithm that underpins the new Health Star Ratings assesses fresh juice on sugar content alone. It does not consider essential nutrients, such as vitamin C, potassium, folate, magnesium or antioxidants.”
Hancock says the new rating also contradicts the Australian Dietary Guidelines. These place fresh juice in the “eat more of” category. There are allowances in the guidelines for the substitution of fruit juice for a whole piece of fruit.
“Vitamin C contributes to immune defence,” he says. “One 125ml glass of fresh orange juice contains half the recommended daily intake of vitamin C.”
A blow to public health
Citrus Australia will continue to work with Australian growers to promote the health benefits of fresh juice to consumers. They need to reassure them that the contents within the bottle haven’t changed, despite the new rating.
“We are genuinely concerned that the suggestion fresh fruit juice is unhealthy will have a detrimental health effect on the community, particularly in winter,” Hancock says.
Citrus Australia also acknowledges the support of Minister David Littleproud. The minister says he’s disappointed that the forum has failed to recognise the nutritional benefits of 100 percent fresh fruit and vegetable juice with no added sugar.
“We were on the side our 800-million-dollar fruit juice industry and our nation’s 1900 citrus growers,” Littleproud says. “Looking at the results of the forum’s health star rating decision, I put in a proposal to get it reconsidered.
“It seemed obvious to me that 100 percent fresh fruit and vegetable juice with no added sugar should have a 5-star rating.”