Orange juice could drop to 2.5 health stars under proposed change
Orange juice could have the same health star rating as diet soft drink under a proposed change.
The Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation is meeting later this month, where a decision is expected to be made about a proposal to change some food and drink health star ratings.
Citrus growers say that they have been told the rating for fresh Australian orange juice could be reduced from its five-star rating to as low as 2.5 stars, which is what diet soft drinks are rated.
The rating could drop because of the sugar content of orange juice.
The Dietitians Association of Australia says that ‘fruit juice can be nutritious, but most types naturally contain a similar amount of sugar and kilojoules to soft drinks,’ and recommends limiting juice to 125ml occasional servings.
‘A natural product’
Nathan Hancock, chief executive of Citrus Australia, said that the algorithm used to make up the star rating put too much emphasis on sugar and should take into account other nutrients like vitamin C, potassium and folate.
“They’re looking at one component of a complex beverage, and we think it needs to be scrapped, or if not scrapped, a new category to be considered for natural products such as juice.
“We say that our sugar level is derived 100 per cent naturally from the fruit on the tree — it’s a natural product.”
Last year, consumer adovocacy group, CHOICE, called for the algorithm used to score food products to penalise “added sugars” that are not naturally found in foods.
Industry ‘could be damaged’
Mr Hancock rejected suggestions that juice was unhealthy, and said that if the change went ahead, it could damage the industry.
“If you’re wandering around the shops and you see the same health star rating for soft drink and juice, that person isn’t going to know what the algorithm is or what the reasons behind the rating are.
“They’re just going to think ‘wow, the orange juice has been downgraded in consumer value’.”
Citrus Australia said the juicing segment of the market had already declined 30 per cent over the past two decades because of poor prices, and any changes to labelling could accelerate that decline even more.
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud declined to comment.