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.
The Federal Government’s aim in developing the ratings — which rank food from half a star to five stars — was to give shoppers an easy way to identify better choices of packaged and processed foods.
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.
Fruit juice is not guaranteed to receive a high health star rating under the new guidelines.
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.”
Juice has been compared to the health of eating a whole piece of fruit.