THE five-star rating for fresh orange juice with no added sugar has been removed under the revised Health Star Ratings system.
The Food Regulation Forum of Australian state and territory health ministers rejected Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud’s proposals to retain a high rating for juice it has enjoyed since the star classification was introduced in 2014.
Under the revised rating, diet cola will have four stars while 100 per cent fresh juice with no added sugar, preservatives or additions would receive 2 ½ stars.
Citrus Australia CEO Nathan Hancock said the decision beggared belief. He said only NSW and South Australian governments opposed the federal proposal. Victoria voted for the change.
“We are genuinely concerned that the suggestion that fresh fruit juice is unhealthy will have a detrimental health effect on the community, particularly in winter,’’ he said.
Mr Hancock said the effective demonisation of fresh juice – a 100 per cent natural product with no additives or preservatives – defied common sense.
“Under the revised HSR system as it stands, 100 per cent fresh juice would receive less stars than diet cola which contains additives and preservatives and no nutritional benefits,” Mr Hancock said.
“The algorithm that underpins the new HSR assesses fresh juice on sugar content alone and does not consider essential nutrients, such as Vitamin C, Potassium, Folate and magnesium, or antioxidants.
“It also contradicts the Australian Dietary Guidelines (ADG), which places fresh juice in the ‘eat more of’ category. There are allowances in the ADG for the substitution of fruit juice for a whole piece of fruit in the diet.
“Vitamin C contributes to immune defence and one 125mL glass of fresh orange juice contains half the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C.”
Member for Mallee, Anne Webster, said the decision was disappointing and ‘’puts Australia’s $880 million fruit juice industry at risk’’.
‘In making this move, the Food Forum has not recognised the nutritional benefits of 100 per cent fresh fruit and vegetable juice with no added sugar.
‘’How can a fresh orange be good for you at 5 stars and once it is squeezed it becomes 2.5 stars?’’
Dr Webster said the decision was short-sighted, risking local jobs, the livelihoods of local growers, regional communities and people’s health.
Victorian Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos told the Mildura Weekly that a national decision was made “not to support that 100 per cent fresh fruit and vegetable juice with no added sugar should receive an automatic Health Star Rating score of five and further advice has been requested’’.
“’We want all Victorians to enjoy the benefits of healthy, active lives and that’s why we support healthier food and drink options,’’ she said.
‘’Victorians should be given the information they need to make healthy choices – that’s why we have legislated kilojoule labelling, advocated for added sugars labelling on infant food and continue to support the national Health Star Rating.
‘’We are currently developing a childhood obesity strategy to protect Victorian kids from the serious health risks associated with obesity and we will consider all sensible suggestions when it comes to supporting families to live healthy lives.’’
Ms Mikakos said it was known water was always the healthiest drink option and that juices were concentrated products that contained more sugar than a single piece of fruit and less of the fibre.
‘’Victorian fast food and supermarket chains are now required to display the kilojoule content of ready-to-eat food and drinks, along with the average adult daily energy intake of 8700 kilojoules,’’ she said.
Mr Hancock said Citrus Australia would continue to work with Australian growers to promote the health benefits of fresh juice to consumers and reassure them that the contents within the bottle have not changed, despite the new rating.