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 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.
At the most recent meeting, the Federal and SA and NSW state governments voted in favour of an automatic 4-Star rating for juice.
Under current changes, fresh juice will receive a rating as low as two stars.
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.
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The algorithm will see diet cola receive four stars, because of the additives and preservatives used as a sugar substitute.
Groups that have already given their support to a fresh vote include the National Farmers Federation, Ausveg, Apple and Pear Australia, the NFF Hort Council, Passionfruit Australia, Australian Mangoes and Summerfruit Australia.
Citrus Australia chief executive officer, Nathan Hancock, said the November meeting would be an excellent opportunity to revisit the absurdity of the current HSR changes.
"The promotion of diet soft drink over fresh juice aside, the changes also contradict the Australian Dietary Guidelines (ADG), which places fresh juice in the 'eat more of' category," Mr Hancock said.
"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 125ml glass of fresh orange juice contains half the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C."
Fresh produce could be rated
IN a broader view than just fresh juice, the Australian Fresh Produce Alliance (AFPA) warned that changes to the guidelines could mean calculations of whether a food is healthy or not are applied to raw, unprocessed, fresh fruits and vegetables.
AFPA chief executive officer, Michael Rogers, said the Health Star Rating system was developed to better inform consumers of the nutrition of processed and packaged food products.
"This is a commendable objective but surely extending the Health Star Rating system to natural, whole foods like fruit and vegetables is the clearest example of policy overreach and unintended consequences," Mr Rogers said.
"Should we also apply the Health Star Rating to water to make sure it is healthy?"
He said in the wake of the COVID pandemic, an increase in home cooking has raised the need for clear information for consumers.
"We need industry and government working together to encourage Australians to eat more fruit and vegetables, and consistently meet the recommended daily dietary intake," Mr Rogers said.
"Applying the Health Star Rating system to fruit and vegetables will simply confuse Australian families in the supermarket and decrease consumption."
Citrus Australia's 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," he said.
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