Disappointing Decision on Australia’s Juice Rating

Ernie NeffInternational, Orange Juice

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Citrus Australia expressed disappointment at the Nov. 27 decision by state ministers to endorse a Health Star Rating system that gives diet cola a higher rating than fresh Australian juice.

The Food Regulation Forum, comprised of ministers from every Australian state and territory, rejected Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud’s proposal to award fresh juice 4 stars in recognition of its nutritional value.

The states of New South Wales and South Australia supported Littleproud’s proposal. Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, Western Australia, Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory and New Zealand rejected the proposal.

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“We are gutted for our growers that produce world class juice for the Australian population,” said Citrus Australia CEO Nathan Hancock. “What message does that tell the Australian agriculture industry and Australian consumers?”

“Despite evidence that fresh juice contains nutrients vital to physical and mental well-being, these governments have deferred to the anti-sugar lobby, which has had fresh juice in its sights since the Health Star Rating system was formed,” Hancock said. “Governments have missed a chance to encourage consumption of fruit and vegetables in the form of juice, choosing to cave to the anti-sugar brigade against all logic.”

“It is a sad day not only for juice growers who already do it tough, and who now have a question mark over the long-term viability of their industry as a result of the lost sales that will result from this decision, but for the entire agricultural industry who have been let down by their elected representatives,” Hancock added.

Hancock was particularly upset with the Western Australian, Victorian and Queensland governments. “These states reap the reward of strong citrus-growing sectors, who provide financial and social benefits to rural and regional communities,” he said. “These family operations received no support from their state governments, who deferred to their health departments that had a laser-like focus on one element of juice.”

“Australians can have no confidence in this system to provide them any advice on what to eat or drink,” Hancock added. “It is government intervention where it isn’t needed and is a mockery on the Australian consumer’s good sense.”

Citrus Australia later reported that the Federal Department of Health will provide advice on adjusting the Health Star Rating calculator for 100 percent fruit and vegetable juices (no added sugar) for discussion at the next Forum on Food Regulation meeting in February 2021. Additionally, the forum delayed a decision on the current proposed changes to the Health Star Rating, which would see fruit juice fall to as low as 2 Stars, until February, when it will review and discuss alternate Health Star Rating calculator algorithms provided by the Department of Health.

See a report on this issue prior to the recent decision.

Source: Citrus Australia

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