1 January – a new year, a new you? Or at least a new day and a fresh start. You reach for a juice – a healthy fresh fruit juice with no added sugar.
Regret to inform, we have some bad news for you.
The health star rating (HSR) for 100 per cent no-added-sugar juices has been cut from five stars to as low as two. Diet soda gets a better rating and there’s not a lot of nutrition in a diet soda.
Unsurprisingly, fruit and vegie growers are aghast.
Citrus Australia chief executive Nathan Hancock was angry and upset by the decision.
“It sends a really poor message to our consumers, who, let’s face it, need to have more fruit and vegetables,” he told the ABC.
“Being told that diet soda is better for them than a juice product, we think, is confusing.”
The health star rating system, which rates food from half a star to five stars, is being refined and tweaked as part of a five-year review. The Australian and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation, a group of state and territory ministers, has been considering the ratings but opted not to give 100 per cent fresh fruit and vegetable juice an automatic four-star rating despite a push by federal agriculture minister David Littleproud.
“What I don’t accept is the insanity of this decision, which really has no basis on nutritional value – it really just is mind-numbingly dumb,” he said.
“It would appear that our bureaucrats are working off some other scientific sheet …”
Sugar is at the heart of the problem.
Mr Hancock said: “The message that they (the forum) have been giving us is that they want people to drink more water, because it’s better for hydration, and they want to take sugar out of the diet.
“Because diet soft drinks have artificial sugars, it elevates them above juices which have natural sugars.”
But he argued that the forum had overlooked the nutritional benefits of juices and that the war on sugar was painting every type of sugar in a bad light.
“The desire to stamp sugar out of the consumer’s diet has been misconstrued and taken off in a different direction,” he said.
“There’s so many other products consumers are eating these days, unwittingly eating sugar – it’s added sugar, it’s not naturally in the product.”
Mr Hancock said he was unsure how many people based their purchases on the HSR, but was concerned there would be a knock-on effect.
“If you do use that system and you let it guide you in the choices that you make, then you’re going to be given a bum steer here.
“The other effect is that producers will stop using the HSR system on their products.
“They don’t have any faith in it, they don’t trust it – it’s sending a poor message to the consumer and I think we’ll see businesses stop using it.”
Jeff Knispel, joint managing director of Nippy’s group of companies, said it had decided to remove the HSR from its packaging to limit the negative impact.
He suggested that if the forum continued to focus on sugar, products should be given a sugar star rating.
Are you a fruit juice fan? Are you guided by health star ratings? Do you check the sugar contents of products?
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