AUSVEG, Australia’s peak industry body for the vegetable and potato industries, has backed the calls of Australia’s fruit industries for common sense to prevail with the Health Star Ratings to ensure consumers have simple, clear information around the health of the products they buy.
Government Ministers will meet at the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation this week to vote on whether they agree to changes to the Health Star Rating (HSR) system that would see fresh juices given a lower HSR than diet soft drinks.
Under the proposed change, fresh 100 per cent Australian apple juice would be labelled with 2 stars, while 100 per cent Australian orange juice would receive 2 ½ Stars, while Diet Cola would be given 3 ½ Stars.
AUSVEG CEO James Whiteside said that the broader health benefits of natural fruit and vegetable juices must be taken into account with decisions around HSRs, especially for natural products such as fruit and vegetable juices.
“When the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation meets this week it must apply common sense and give automatic ratings of at least 4 stars to fruit and vegetable juices – anything less than this would undermine the entire system,” said Mr Whiteside.
“Fruit and vegetable juices have a range of health benefits, and it is deeply concerning for growers and consumers that this change is being considered.”
AUSVEG is aligned with other industry bodies, including Citrus Australia, Apple and Pear Australia Limited and the National Farmers’ Federation Horticulture Council, in calling for the change.
“While about 3 per cent, or 93,000 tonnes, of total annual vegetable production in Australia is consumed in juice form each year, it is important the messaging around the Health Star Rating system doesn’t confuse consumers,” said Mr Whiteside.
“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.”