Ministerial forum rejects fruit juice health-star rating compromise

Australian and New Zealand Health Ministers have failed to agree to allow fresh fruit juice with no added sugar to score up to five on the Health Star Rating (HSR) system.

The ABC has reported that last Friday’s Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation voted down a proposal by Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud that fresh fruit and vegetable juice with no added sugar should receive an automatic HSR rating of four stars.

Details of the vote are not known, but the ABC quoted Mr Littleproud as saying the position was supported by the Commonwealth and the horticulture industry.

“This was it; this was my second crack at it,” Mr Littleproud said.

“I had a go in July and got rolled and then rolled again,” he said. “It would appear that our bureaucrats are working off some other scientific sheet than what reality is.”

In its final communique, the forum noted that “the federal Department of Health will provide further advice in relation to adjusting the HSR calculator for 100 percent fruit and vegetable juice (no added sugar) for discussion at the next meeting to be held in February 2021”.

Last year’s five-year review of the HSR system controversially recommended that 100 percent no-added-sugar fruit and vegetable juices receive HSRs of between 2.5 and 4 – a significant change for many juices which then received HSRs of 5.

The review also recommended that diet soft drinks and iced teas (among other beverages) receive a 2.5 HSR.

Citrus Australia chief executive Nathan Hancock told the ABC he was disappointed with the decision.

“It sends a really poor message to our consumers, who, let’s face it, need to have more fruit and vegetables,” he said.

“Being told that diet soda is better for them than a juice product, we think, is confusing.

“Ministers across the country were given the opportunity to review the information that we provided them on the health benefits of natural juices, and unfortunately states like Queensland let us down.”