Citrus Australia has called for a review of the Health Star Rating (HSR) system to rectify flaws.
The Forum on Food Regulation approved changes to the HSR calculator on Friday, which will see diet coke receive 3 ½ Stars and fresh 100% Australian juice as low as 2 stars.
Changes suggested by the Federal Department of Health which would have recognised juice’s nutritional qualities were rejected by the majority of state governments, including Victoria and Queensland.
Citrus Australia CEO Nathan Hancock said the system as it stands was confusing for consumers.
“Queensland and Victorian state governments amongst others missed an important opportunity to support primary industry on Friday,” Mr Hancock said.
“To our understanding, the proposal put forward by the Department provided options to be more nuanced with their approach to the health message when it comes to juice.
“However, it’s now obvious that we have a national health propaganda instrument manipulated by anti-sugar lobbyists and a rating system not based on facts but instead voted on down party lines.
“It seems that the HSR is an anti-sugar rating, as opposed to a health star rating, so this should be advertised clearly for consumers.
“Even then, when chocolate cereal with additives can get 3 ½ Stars, and a natural product like juice only 2, primary industry is left confused what they are trying to achieve.
“Under this system, dried fruits and many cheeses will continue to be considered less healthy than snacks such as potato chips.”
Mr Hancock said the Health Star Rating system was misguiding and needed to be overhauled.
“It does not provide enough information for consumers to make educated decisions; it does not recognise the importance of fresh fruit and vegetables in the diet; and it is easily manipulated by manufacturers of highly processed goods who simply adjust their additives to beat the system.
“Are dieticians really going to recommend diet coke to their patients?”
Mr Hancock said he can see juice processing businesses opting out of the voluntary HSR system based on confused decisions like this proving detrimental to certain products.
“Consumers deserve a health star system that does not focus on one element of a product at the detriment of all the others. Our industry has been unfairly compromised by this shallow system and we won’t stand for it.”
With Australians not eating enough fruit and vegetables, Citrus Australia will continue to promote the value of fresh juice as an alternate source.
“Natural 100% orange juice may give you 20% of your daily recommended intake of sugar, but good luck getting 50% of your daily vitamin C from 125ml of diet coke,” Mr Hancock said.
“We will continue to encourage Australian consumers to enjoy a fresh glass of Aussie juice on occasion.
“You will not only receive a boost to your health, but support Australian growers, the rural communities that surround them and some great Aussie juice brands.”