THE citrus industry is optimistic it can win its battle to retain a high Health Star Rating for fresh Australian orange juice.
Government ministers will meet today at the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation to again discuss new ratings that would reduce fresh juice from five stars to two while diet soft drink would be rated 3½ stars
Citrus Australia CEO Nathan Hancock said there had been constructive discussions with the Victorian Government that had earlier this year voted for slash the orange juice rating.
“We have had positive commentary from Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes,”Mr Hancock said.
“We are confident that she has heard the industry and we hope that message has gone through to Health Minister Foley and they will support our position at the meeting.
“Overall we only add a small amount dietary intake of sugar in an orange juice and the rating totally disregards all of the other nutritional benefits that are in our products.
“Some of those benefits go to mental health – they go to people’s enjoyment of life – a whole range of things that we’ve uncovered that science has shown comes from drinking orange juice. You cannot derive that from drinking some manufactured diet soft drinks.
“It’s been a long haul, we aren’t sure what the outcome will be – we are confident that we have the support of a number of agriculture ministers, it’s the health ministers that are struggling a little bit with.”
Mr Hancock claims the unfair labelling of fruit juice would see a $67million impact on Australian orange growers alone, with further losses 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 per cent 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 3½ stars while fresh juice gets two 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.”
Dietitian Teri Lichtenstein says the changes may create consumer confusion by penalising naturally occurring sugar in foods that provide nutritional value.
“It doesn’t make sense that 100 per cent orange juice – which is recognised as a core food group in The Australian Dietary Guidelines (when half a cup is consumed occasionally) due to the presence of important nutrients would receive only 2½ stars, while diet soft drink which provides no nutritional value, will receive 3½ stars. The most recent Australian health survey found that around three in four adult Australians are not eating the recommended intake of two serves of fruit each day. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend eating two pieces of fresh fruit each day, and half a glass of real fruit juice, such as 100 per cent pure orange juice, can be consumed occasionally to help meet fruit requirements,” shesaid.
At the last Forum on Food Regulation meeting in July, the Federal, South Australian and NSW governments supported a four-star rating while Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, the ACT, Northern Territory, Western Australia and New Zealand voted against the proposal.
“We hope that the other states and territories take the direction of Minister Littleproud who is putting forward a proposal to support the juice industries across fruit and vegetables and rate juice with four stars,” Mr Hancock said.