The Health Star Rating calculation for 100 per cent fruit and vegetable juices will remain unchanged following the recent meeting of the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation.
In December the Forum agreed to a minor HSR adjustment to ensure fresh juices did not receive a lower rating than diet soft drinks for further review in the 12 February meeting.
Industry bodies including Ausveg raised concerns fresh 100 per cent Australian apple juice and orange juice would receive two and two-and-a-half stars, respectively, while diet cola would be given three-and-a-half stars.
The Australian Beverages Council (AusBev) said it was disappointed with the decision and that it goes against the federal government’s Modern Manufacturing Strategy’s intent to support the beverages industry. “The juice industry in Australia comprises more than 5000 jobs and contributes more than $900 million to the nation’s economy,” it said.
In July 2020, the forum endorsed the HSR Review Implementation Plan with a two-year transition period commencing 15 November 2020. In November 2019, the forum received the report of a five-year review into the HSR and its 10 recommendations, some of which related to the treatment and classification of minimally processed foods.
Under the proposed changes, the lowest score for fresh juice with no added sugar is 2.5 stars and the highest is 4 stars. Diet soft drinks can score from 0.5 up to 3.5 stars, with the highest score given to those that have no or low sugar content.
AUSVEG said that under the proposed change, fresh 100 per cent Australian apple juice would be labelled with 2 stars and 100 per cent Australian orange juice would receive 2.5 stars, while diet cola would be given 3.5 stars.
CEO James Whiteside said: “People reading labels that tell them a soft drink, which has added sugars and artificial sweeteners, has a higher HSR than a natural juice would be confused and could be led to believe that fruits and vegetables are not healthy, which is simply not the case.
“We should be making it easier for people to decide what is healthy and what is not; myriad research and advice from nutritionists and scientists highlights the importance of eating more fruits and vegetables for maintaining a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle.”
A person in the industry told Food & Drink Business: “Juices have some amazing macronutrients playing an important role in providing vitamin C, potassium and folate. The science behind the consumption of juice and its link to the consumption of fruit and veg is particularly enlightening. It doesn’t seem to be front and centre in the minds of the Forum.”
AusBev said the vote to award juice between 2.5 – 4 stars was likely to impact the livelihoods of thousands of Australians working in the juice industry from growers through to the entire supply chain.
“The Beverages Council supports the HSR scheme and the vital role it plays in helping Australians make healthier choices. Today’s decision not to award an automatic 4 stars for juice with no added sugar is extremely disappointing as it confuses the important role juice can play in the diet.
“With some juices now set to receive a health star rating as low as 2.5 stars, this decision also contravenes the HSR’s intent to distinguish products in line with the Australian Dietary Guidelines,” it said.