A fourth generation orchardist has questioned a recent change that could allow diet soft drinks carry a higher health star rating than pure fresh juices.
But, Spreyton Fresh director Michelle Distill said after checking the guidelines voted in on Friday she believes their premium 100 per cent juice with no added sugar will not be impacted by it.
“I’ve looked at it and checked it all and what we make fits the five-star rating criteria,” Mrs Distill said.
Her comments follow a decision to cut the health star rating for fresh pure juices from five stars to possibly as low as two stars, while diet soft drink could be rated as high as three or four stars.
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said in a report that he could not persuade the vote at the Australian and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation against making the change.
Mr Littleproud said he didn’t accept the decision which had no basis on nutritional value and called it “mind-numbingly dumb”.
A spokesman for the peak body for vegetable growers AUSVEG said it advocated for common sense to prevail and for an automatic four-star rating for untouched natural juices.
Spreyton Fresh uses its leftover fruit to make pure fresh juice and the orchard also makes cider.
“I thought what they were saying was stupid and at this stage we have no plans to change our five star rating,” Mrs Distill said.
“The only one we have that is a little bit different is the pineapple juice because we do put concentrate in that reflected accordingly on the label but our pure juice fits the criteria.We only use fruit we don’t add anything to it and I honestly don’t understand their reasoning to me it makes no sense at all.
Mrs Distill said it seemed to be more about a fight against sugar rather than a consideration of the nutritional value and if that was the case they should say so.
“Everybody needs some sugar and naturally occuring sugar doesn’t do as much harm as refined processed sugars. I just think they are being ridiculous,” she said.
Meantime, the battle to get enough workers for the upcoming harvest is the issue farmers face right now.
“We are hopeful we have enough workers,” Mrs Distill said.
“We have been doing an awful lot of work contacting people…and we’re hopeful that if all the people who have returned the paperwork to us are still available when we are ready to start picking that we will get through it.
“I’m not going to say we are confident but we are hopeful.
“We have got quite a few locals and there are still a few backpackers floating about that didn’t get home.
“We use a lot of locals every year to harvest the cherries and we get a lot of kids returning each year who come from Don College and university.
“They work really hard over the summer and that’s their spending money for the year.”
National Farmers Federation Horticulture Council representative for Tasmania, Forth farmer Mike Badcock, said the natural fruit juices should receive a good HSR (health star rating).
“That’s crazy for diet soda to have 3 to 4 HSR. We don’t think it should have a higher HSR than our 100 per cent fresh juices,” Mr Badcock said.
“The campaign against sugar is painting all sugar in a bad light and that’s where the problem was. It’s not fair if diet soda is rated healthier than what natural fruit juice is it’s not right”.
Tasmania’s Primary Industries Minister Guy Barnett said the State Government recognised the need to support “our vitally important agriculture industry while helping to guide and educate consumers towards healthier food and beverage choice”.
“This is particularly important as we continue to progress our goal to grow the value of Tasmania’s agriculture sector to $10 billion a year by 2050. Our agriculture industry is a vitally important part of our economy and I will continue to engage with everyone in it on the issues important to them.”