19 February 2021

Fruit juice sugar content to be reflected in Health Star Rating

Reforming the Health Star Rating system to ensure that products containing high levels of sugar are not labelled as healthy.

The Australian and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation recently supported implementation of the Health Star Rating (HSR) review calculator for 100% fruit and vegetable juices without added sugar. This means that the naturally high sugar content in these products will determine the number of stars products receive where manufacturers have opted to include HSRs.

This is a significant win for public health over the vested interests of the beverage industry, who lobbied hard against these changes. Putting public health at the forefront of decision making on food labelling is critical to providing consumers with accurate information to make healthy food and beverage choices.

The ADAVB has been at the forefront of advocacy to reform the HSR system to ensure that products containing high levels of sugar are not labelled as healthy. Further work and refinements to the HSR calculator are needed to make sure that the HSR accurately reflects the overall nutritional value of food and drinks, as well as other strategies to help consumers identify added sugars.

Although fruit and vegetable juices contain nutrients such as Vitamin C, some other beneficial nutrients do not remain intact during processing. What is left is the combined sugar content of several fruit and vegetables in one serving with little to no fibre. While naturally occurring sugar is a better form of sugar than refined sugar, the body processes it in the same way. Fruit and vegetable juices can be consumed occasionally – avoid consuming them regularly to avoid tooth decay or erosion. Unprocessed fruit and vegetables are a healthier choice.

The ADA has advocated for changes to the HSR system to appropriately recognise sugar in all products carrying HSRs since the five-year review began in 2017 and has pushed for a mandatory system. A mandatory system would help consumers to directly compare products and support healthier choices. There is currently an uptake target of 70% by 2025.