LEETON'S mayor has labelled a proposal to lower the health star rating of orange juice to be on par with diet soft drink as "ludicrous" and "appalling".
Under the new guidelines, which will be considered at the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation next month, the health star ratings for fresh juice with no added sugar could fall from five stars to as low as 2.5 stars if the latest "calculator" is approved.
"This is a total misrepresentation of the health benefits of fresh 100 per cent juice with no added sugar," councillor Paul Maytom said.
Council has only recently been made aware of this possibility and Cr Maytom said he was disappointed the consultation process was almost finished.
However, he said council, as well as others such as Griffith City Council, had written letters and spoken to the appropriate politicians opposing the move.
He said the lobbying would continue to ensure those involved with the decision-making process were aware the impacts of lowering the health star rating for orange juice.
"Council fears any decline in sales will be a further blow to the Australian orange juice industry, which has already seen a 30 per cent decrease in the production base over the last 18 years," he said.
"In the MIA we have been hit hard enough by the drought, COVID-19 and water reform.
"We won't let a ridiculous and inappropriate health rating system further decimate our important citrus and fruit processing industries in the MIA.
"It is important to get our message across the decision makers before they meet in July. Council is standing up for an important industry in the MIA.
"It is just appalling to think this could happen. You get up in the morning and have a class of orange juice. You don't get up in the morning and have a glass of diet soft drink. It defies belief this could happen and lacks commonsense."
Citrus Australia is also fighting against the move, with CEO Nathan Hancock writing to Health Minister Greg Hunt, Nationals leader Michael McCormack and Agriculture Minister David Littleproud, asking for their direct intervention.
The organisation will also be contacting every state health and education minister, who are members of the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation.
Every state, the federal government and the NZ government has a vote each.
Growers and consumers have also been encouraged to contact their local state and federal member to ask for their assistance.
"Any decision that enables fresh orange juice to be rated the equivalent of diet cola ... will have a detrimental effect on fresh juice consumption and the future of the Australian juice industry," Mr Hancock said.
The algorithm that underpins the revised health star ratings assesses fresh juice on sugar content alone and does not consider essential nutrients, such as vitamin C, potassium, folate and magnesium or antioxidants.
The revised health star ratings is also at odds with the Australian Dietary Guidelines, which places fresh juice in the "eat more of" category.
There are allowances in these guidelines for the substitution of fruit juice for a whole piece of fruit in the diet.
"We are particularly concerned that any suggestion that fresh fruit juice is unhealthy will have a detrimental health effect on the community leading into winter," Mr Hancock said.