Fruit growers have slammed a proposal to change the Health Star Rating (HSR) system which would see fresh Australian juice labelled with 2 stars… whilst diet cola gets 3 ½ stars.
Government Ministers will meet at the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation next week (Nov 27th) to vote on whether they agree to the change – which has been criticised as illogical and damaging for the fruit growing industry.
Under the proposed change, fresh 100% Australian apple juice would be labelled with 2 stars, while 100% Australian orange juice would receive 2 ½ Stars.
Citrus Australia CEO Nathan Hancock claims the unfair labelling of fruit juice would see a $67-million impact on Australian orange growers alone, with further losses to be felt in the processing and retail sectors.
“The algorithm that underpins the Health Star Rating targets total sugars indiscriminately and disregards the health benefits provided by 100% fruit juice, which contains natural sugars from the fruit as well as essential nutrients,” Mr Hancock said.
“The fact that diet soft drink with no nutritional value can receive 3 ½ Stars while fresh juice gets 2 Stars would suggest the Health Star Rating system is not focused on the overall health benefits of a product, but instead focused on just one element.
“This change would undermine confidence in the health star rating system itself.”
At the last Forum on Food Regulation meeting in July the Federal, South Australian and NSW governments supported a 4 Star rating whilst Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, the ACT, NT, Western Australia and New Zealand opposed it.
Dietitian Teri Lichtenstein says the changes may create consumer confusion by penalizing naturally occurring sugar in foods that provide nutritional value.
“It doesn’t make sense that 100% orange juice – which is recognized as a core food group in The Australian Dietary Guidelines (when ½ a cup is consumed occasionally) due to the presence of important nutrients would receive only 2 ½ stars, while diet soft drink which provides no nutritional value, will receive 3 ½ Stars.”
“The most recent Australian health survey found that around 3 in 4 adult Australians are not eating the recommended intake of 2 serves of fruit each day.1 The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend eating two pieces of fresh fruit each day, and half a glass of real fruit juice, such as 100% pure orange juice, can be consumed occasionally to help meet fruit requirements,” Ms Lichtenstein said.
“A serve (1/2 cup) of 100% orange juice is a rich source of vitamin C and folate, important nutrients for immunity and psychological well-being. It is important to consider the bigger picture when comparing 100% orange juice with diet soft drinks or other discretionary beverages and take into account the nutritional value that the beverage provides.”
Citrus Australia, the National Farmers Federation, AusVeg, Apple and Pear Australia, the NFF Hort Council, Passionfruit Australia, Mangoes Australia and Summerfruit Australia are all calling on State and Federal Government Forum representatives to support an automatic 4 Star rating in recognition of the nutritional benefits of fresh juice.
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