OJ decision has “failed” Aussie growers

18th February 2021 | Eativity editors

Despite the best efforts of industry and government, the Forum on Food Regulation has approved controversial changes to the Health Star Rating (HSR) calculator, which will see fresh 100 percent Australian juice receive as few as 2 stars, while products such as diet soft drinks and chocolate cereal with additives will receive 3.5 stars.

Changes suggested by the Federal Department of Health which would have recognised juice’s nutritional qualities were rejected by the majority of state governments, including Victoria and Queensland. Citrus Australia has called for a review of the system, as Citrus Australia CEO Nathan Hancock says the system as it stands is confusing for consumers.

“Queensland and Victorian state governments have missed an important opportunity to support primary industry,” he says. “When a natural product like juice gets only 2 stars, primary industry is left confused what they’re trying to achieve. Under this system, dried fruits and many cheeses will be considered less healthy than snacks such as potato chips.”

“Baffling” decision will hurt industry

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) says the decision has failed Australian growers. Chief Executive Tony Mahar describes the decision to apply lower health ratings to fresh juices than those given to chemical-laden diet soft-drinks as “baffling”.

“The decision makes a mockery of Australia’s Health Star Rating system, and sadly both consumers and fruit and vegetable growers will suffer as a result,” he says.

“The states and territories that supported this outcome should be ashamed. The nutritional benefits found in fresh fruit and veg do not change when they’re squeezed into juice. You can’t just ignore the full suite of nutritional benefits. It’s absurd.”

Hancock says the system doesn’t provide enough information for consumers to make educated decisions and doesn’t recognise the importance of fresh fruit and vegetables in the diet. With most Australians not eating enough fruit and vegies, Citrus Australia will continue to promote the value of fresh juice.

“Natural orange juice may give you 20 percent of your daily recommended intake of sugar, but good luck getting 50 percent of your daily vitamin C from 125ml of Diet Coke,” Hancock says. “Are dietitians really going to recommend Diet Coke to their patients?

“We will continue to encourage Australian consumers to enjoy a fresh glass of Aussie juice on occasion. You will not only receive a boost to your health, but support Australian growers, the rural communities that surround them and some great Aussie juice brands.”