Health Star Rating change makes mockery of government advice on health
21 September 2020
State governments will be asked to bring common sense to the Health Star Ratings system, which currently rates diet soft drink as healthier than fresh Australian juice, by voting for a 4 Star Rating for juice at a meeting in November.
Peak industry bodies have contacted Senator Richard Colbeck, Chair of the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation – the body behind the Health Star Rating (HSR) system, asking for a new vote on an automatic 4 Star Rating for fresh Australian juice.
Groups that have already leant their support to a fresh vote include the National Farmers Federation, AusVeg, Apple and Pear Australia, the NFF Hort Council, Passionfruit Australia, Mangoes Australia and Summerfruit Australia.
Every Australian state and territory government, as well as the Australian and New Zealand Federal Governments, is represented on the Forum on Food Regulation (Forum).
At the most recent meeting in July, the Federal and NSW and SA state governments voted in favour of an automatic 4 Star rating for juice, to acknowledge its nutritional benefits.
The issue was discussed and voted on as a result of agreed changes to the HSR system, which would see fresh juice lose its automatic 5 Star Rating.
Under these changes, fresh juice will receive a rating as low as 2 Stars. This is because the algorithm that underpins the system focuses on sugar content alone and does not consider essential nutrients, such as Vitamin C, Potassium, Folate and magnesium, or antioxidants.
Diet cola will receive 4 Stars, because of the additives and preservatives used as a sugar substitute.
“The Health Star Rating system is telling consumers that diet cola is a healthier product to drink than fresh Australian juice, and the majority of our state governments, some of which benefit greatly from our juice industries, agreed” Citrus Australia CEO Nathan Hancock said.
At the last Forum meeting, members asked the Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC) to consider and provide further advice on the treatment of artificially-sweetened beverages and 100% vegetable and fruit juice beverages.
Mr Hancock said the November meeting would be an excellent opportunity to revisit the absurdity of the current HSR changes.
“The promotion of diet cola over fresh juice aside, the changes also contradict 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 also contributes to immune defence and one 125 mL glass of fresh orange juice contains half the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C.”
Industry research shows a glass of orange juice is rich in Vitamin C and folate, a good source of thiamine (which produces energy), and contains polyphenols (for antioxidant defence), beta-carotene (producing antioxidants), low GI carbs (for sustained energy), and natural fruit sugar (for energy). It is also an excellent form of hydration.
Mr Hancock said consumption of fruit and vegetables continues to fall amongst Australians, with latest statistics showing just 5 per cent of all Australians over 18 consume the recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables.
“Effectively labelling fresh juice with no added sugar as ‘unhealthy’ would hinder any chance of stopping this decline.”
Mr Hancock is particularly disappointed the Queensland, Victorian and Western Australia state governments did not support the proposed changes, as citrus is a significant contributor to their regional economies, and has called for their support.
“Australian juice processors have stated that the proposed changes to the Health Star Rating for fresh juice will have an immediate and detrimental effect on sales.
“We fear any decline in sales under this false premise would also hasten the demise of not only the Australian orange juice industry, which has already seen a 30% decrease in the production base over the last 18 years, but many other horticulture industries as well,” Mr Hancock said.
For further information, contact Stephen Cooke, Industry Engagement Manager, Citrus Australia, on 0427 124 437 or firstname.lastname@example.org