STATE and Federal Ministers have been asked to recognise the nutritional benefits of fresh Australian juice when they meet to discuss the future of the Health Star Rating system on November 27.
Changes to the HSR will see fresh 100 per cent Australian juice, with no added sugar, receive as little as two stars, while diet soft drink will receive four stars.
The Federal, SA and NSW governments supported a four-star rating at the last forum on Food Regulation meeting in July, while Vic, Qld, Tas, the ACT, NT, WA and New Zealand opposed it.
Citrus Australia, the National Farmers Federation, Ausveg, Apple and Pear Australia, the NFF Hort Council, Passionfruit Australia, Mangoes Australia and Summerfruit Australia support an automatic four-star rating in recognition of the nutritional benefits of fresh juice.
Citrus Australia chief executive officer, Nathan Hancock, said the Health Star Rating would be a misnomer if the current decision stood.
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"The algorithm that underpins the Health Star Rating targets sugar and disregards the health benefits provided by a glass of fresh juice," Mr Hancock said.
"The fact that diet soft drink with no nutrient value can receive four stars would suggest the Health Star Rating system is not focused on the overall health benefits of a product, but instead focused on just one element.
"A 125 mL glass of fresh juice contains eight per cent of the recommended daily intake of sugar. What is overlooked by the HSR is that juice provides crucial nutritional benefits to a population where only five pc of Australians are eating the recommended daily quantities of fresh fruit and vegetables."
Citrus Australia, using information from the Australian NZ Food Standards Code, Schedule 4, showed that 125 mL of fresh orange juice contained:
- twice the recommended dietary intake of vitamin C, which contributes to iron absorption from food and is necessary for normal connective tissue structure and function, normal blood vessel structure and function, and normal neurological function
- folate, which is necessary for normal blood formation and cell division, and contributes to normal grown and development in children, maternal tissue growth during pregnancy, normal psychological function and normal immune system function
- thiamin, which is required for energy production
- fluid necessary for body hydration
- 7g of natural fruit sugars (8pc of recommended daily intake), providing a natural form of energy
- It is low in sodium
Citrus Australia suggested the current decision supported by the states was also in contradiction with the Australian Dietary Guidelines, which placed 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," Mr Hancock said.
"Consumption of fruit and vegetables continues to fall amongst Australians, with latest statistics showing just 5pc 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.
"We call on each state government to consider the facts and not join in the unfair demonisation of juice as part of an anti-sugar campaign.
"After all, we are talking about a natural product, simply squeezed and bottled with naturally occurring complex sugars, nutrients and vitamins - isn't that the preferable way to get a small amount of your daily recommended intake?"
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