Australia’s health ministers have endorsed changes to the way health star ratings are calculated for unsweetened fruit and vegetable juices.
The decision to move to a sugar-based assessment for calculating Health Star Ratings (HSR) means 100 percent unsweetened fruit or vegetable juice will be ranked at two stars – below diet cola and other artificially sweetened carbonated drinks.
It follows last year’s five-year review of the HSR system which recommended ratings be calculated based on total energy, saturated fat, sodium (salt), and sugar content, as well as fibre, protein, fruit, vegetable, nut and legume content.
This meant that fruit and vegetable juices that previously received ratings of between 4.5 and 5 would now rate between 2 and 4 stars.
In a communique from its 12 February meeting, the Australian and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation “noted the [new HSR calculator] system adequately reflects the variation in sugar content for juices which is important for consumers in assisting in their choice of beverages”.
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud told the ABC that giving 100 percent pure juices a HSR as low as two stars was “madness”.
“How can anyone believe that the health star rating for drinks with no nutritional value should be higher than 100 percent fruit and vegetable juices?” he said.
Last 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.
This failed to gain support at the forum, and Mr Littleproud later proposed an automatic four HSR, which he said was backed by producers and the juice industry.
ALGA – which has observer status at forum meetings – supports the Commonwealth’s position on how juices should be assessed, arguing that any changes would potentially undermine growers.
Following Friday’s meeting, some growers and processors are reported to be considering dropping the HSR system.