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New health star rating system ranks fruit juice below diet cola in shift to sugar based grading

Date Added: February 12, 2021 11:33:44 PM
Author: Sutra Web Directory
Category: Society & Culture: Food & Drink

Food regulators have classed fruit juice as less healthy than diet cola under new guidelines confirming Australian health star ratings (HSR) on food packaging will focus more on sugar content.

Friday's decision by the Australian and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation, made up of state and territory ministers, will reduce the five-star rating for fruit juice to as low as two stars.

The Federal Government's aim in developing the ratings — which rank food from half a star to five stars, depending on its nutrients — was to give shoppers an easy way to identify better choices of packaged and processed foods.

Baseline points are allocated according to a food or drink's energy, saturated fat, sugar and sodium, and then "positive" aspects such as dietary fibre and protein are taken into account to determine the product's overall health rating.

The decision to lower the health star rating for fruit juice, based on its sugar content, is a blow for fruit producers and left federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud infuriated.

But nutritionists argue fruit juices should be rated according to their high levels of sugar and low levels of fibre, or how a drink compares to a piece of fruit.

Blow for agriculture sector

Mr Littleproud said giving 100 per cent fruit and vegetable juices a HSR as low as two stars was "madness".

"States and territories who supported this, including Queensland, the Northern Territory, the ACT and Victoria, have let down our farmers," he said.

"This will mean 100-per-cent-pure orange juice will have a health star rating lower than that of a diet soft drink.

"How can anyone believe that the health star rating for drinks with no nutritional value should be higher than 100 per cent fruit and vegetable juices?"

Citrus Australia chief executive Nathan Hancock said hundreds of millions of dollars could be ripped from rural communities nationwide, with fruit juice contributing $736 million to the economy.

"The governments of Australia need to know that it is not OK to put juice behind diet soft drink," he said.

"Australians need to consume more fruit and vegetables, and drinking juice is one way they can do that."

In July, Mr Littleproud pushed for 100-per-cent-fresh fruit and vegetable juice with no added sugar to receive an automatic HSR score of five stars, which was knocked back.

He later proposed an automatic four HSR, a rating he said was supported by the Commonwealth and the farm industry.

The ABC has contacted members of the Australian and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation for a response.

Sugar content

Leanne Elliston, a dietician with Nutrition Australia, said there was a slight variation to the different types of juices.

"Some of what we may call cold-pressed and contains some of the pulp will contain less of the sugars than the juices that you might find in a lot of the poppers that parents put in lunchboxes," she said.

"But it's still a form of concentrated fruit sugars."

Ms Elliston said, when considering a health star rating, it had to be in comparison to a whole piece of fruit.

"In whole fruit, the sugars are intact within the structure of the fruit and how nature intends us to consume sugars — that's what's going to get us a five-star rating," she said.

"Fruit juice, where it is quite concentrated in those sugars, it does not make sense, it should not have the same health star rating as whole fruit."

But Ms Elliston agreed that fruit juice should receive a higher HSR than soft drink.

"They need to take into account nutritional value, and fruit juice does contain some nutritional value, it has some vitamin C," she said.

"Juices that do at least contain the pulp have a little bit more fibre, therefore have better nutritional value than a lot of the reconstituted juices, but we should really be drinking water, and fruit is best consumed as a whole fruit."

~ Via ABC