Australia: Don’t Downgrade Juice Health Rating

Ernie NeffOrange Juice

health

Citrus Australia, representing the nation’s citrus growers, has urged the federal government to reject proposed changes that could have 100 percent juice rated the same as diet cola on a health scale.

Under proposed guideline revisions, the Health Star Rating (HSR) for fresh juice with no added sugar will fall from 5 stars to as low as 2.5 stars. The change is slated to be considered at the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation on May 22.

Citrus Australia CEO Nathan Hancock wrote to Health Minister Greg Hunt, leader of the National Party and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, and Agriculture Minister David Littleproud, asking for their direct intervention.

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“Any decision that enables fresh orange juice to be rated the equivalent of diet cola is not only a misrepresentation of the health benefits of fresh 100 percent juice with no added sugar, but will have a detrimental effect on fresh juice consumption and the future of the Australian juice industry,” Hancock said.

The algorithm that underpins the revised HSR assesses fresh juice on sugar content alone and does not consider essential nutrients, such as vitamin C, potassium, folate and magnesium, or antioxidants, according to Citrus Australia.

The revised HSR is also at odds with 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.

“Due to this inconsistency, we ask for any proposed announcement of the revised guidelines to be postponed and further consultation held to improve what is an inequitable system,” Hancock said. “We are particularly concerned that any suggestion that fresh fruit juice is unhealthy will have a detrimental health effect on the community leading into winter.”

“We fear any decline in sales under this false premise would also hasten the demise of the Australian orange juice industry, which has already seen a 30 percent decrease in the production base over the last 18 years,” Hancock added.

The HSR is a front-of-pack labeling system that rates the overall nutritional profile of packaged food and assigns it a rating from 0.5 to 5 stars. The more stars, the healthier the choice. The system was developed by the Australian government in collaboration with industry, public health and consumer groups. Learn more about the HSR here.

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Ernie Neff

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large