Agriculture Minister slams Food Ministers Forum for abandoning Aussie fruit growers

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud is hopping mad as the majority of State and Territory Food Ministers rejected the Commonwealth and farm industry proposal to lock in a minimum 4-star rating for pure fruit and veggie juices.

Minister Littleproud said that pure Australian fruit juices with no added sugar will now be classified as less healthy than soft drinks.

And, that the Queensland, Victorian, Tasmanian, Western Australian, Northern Territory and ACT governments have abandoned their fruit growers, while South Australia and New South Wales supported the sensible proposal.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud added that thousands of Australian citrus and apple businesses as well as our food manufacturing sector will be disappointed that the Food Ministers Forum voted to classify pure Australian fruit and vegie juices in the same health category as soft drink.

Minister Littleproud added, “The Australian and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation has slashed the health ratings of 100%, no added sugar juices from five stars to as low as 2.5 which is lower than soft drinks such as diet cola.

“It’s madness. Fresh, pure, vitamin-rich Aussie OJ is better than soft drink every day of the week and our Health Star Rating system should reflect this,” Minister Littleproud said.

“At a time when we need more jobs, and our farm and food processing sector need more support, governments are abandoning them.

“It will cause consumer confusion and impact sales in an already difficult year for farmers.

“The disgraceful decision has undermined the integrity of the entire Health Star Rating system, and will lead to juice manufacturers dropping the health label altogether, leaving consumers worse off.

“Agriculture needs to be confident governments are making sensible, evidence-based decisions when it comes to the regulation of food products.

 “This decision doesn’t take into account personal responsibility of consumers about the quantities of any food group they put down their throats.

“I thank New South Wales and South Australia for their careful, sensible consideration of the fruit juice health rating system, but their counterparts’ actions here are astounding.

“I presented a paper about the important role fruit juice has in the diet of Australians that recommended an automatic four-star rating on 100% fruit and vegetable juice with no added sugar.

“The Forum rejected this proposal even though it’s clear to me that retaining a four-star rating would address industry concerns, maintain the commitment of our growers and juice industry to the health star rating system, and retain jobs.

“I’m all for ensuring good consumer health outcomes, but this lacks common sense. “It is a kick in the guts for our 1900 citrus farmers and the $800 million economic contribution they make through juice production.” Minister Littleproud concluded.

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