Proposed changes to the health rating of orange juice could seriously harm local industry, with fears consumers are less likely to buy the product if it's marketed as unhealthy.
The Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation is considering reducing the product from an esteemed five-star rating to 2.5 stars, the same rating as diet soft drinks.
NSW Riverina dentist and Australian Dental Association president, Dr Kathleen Matthews, weighed in on the debate by saying the proposed changes aren't unreasonable.
"While fruit is nutritious and plays a role in healthy diet, most types of juice naturally contain high amounts of sugar and acid which can be harmful for oral health," Dr Matthews explained.
"The ADA recommends limiting orange juice consumption and drinking fresh tap water as an alternative to all juices.
"As well as being better for your teeth, free and containing no harmful acids or kilojoules, tap water also contains fluoride, which plays an important role in helping make teeth stronger."
The Australian Dental Association are urging locals to get their recommended daily fruit, including oranges, without drinking juices.
Eating the actual fruit compared to drinking the juice is a much better alternative according to Dr Matthews, and there are several healthy reasons for this.
"The actual amount of sugar consumed is less as it takes several pieces of fruit to make one cup of juice, you would never eat the same amount of fruit as the content of the juice, but you are consuming that amount of sugar," Dr Matthews said.
"Eating the whole fruit leads to a feeling of being full, compared to drinking juice which still leaves you feeling hungry.
"Whole fruit contains fibre and other nutrients for good health that are lost during the juicing process.
"Water should be everyone's drink of choice for a healthy lifestyle."
Around 80,000 tonnes of citrus fruit is turned into orange juice in the MIA and there are juicing plants in Griffith and Leeton.
Griffith and District Citrus Growers Association secretary, Vito Mancini, said the proposed changes could seriously "hurt" local industry.
"Their intention is to make water and water-like products as the healthiest option," Mr Mancini said.
"It's almost as if the health department is trying to push people to drink water plus 10 different artificial supplements rather than drinking health juices.
"It's going to send a very confusing message to the consumer, and once the consumer gets confused, the health star ratings go out the window."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.
"Good overall health starts with what you put in your mouth, and oral health is key to good overall well-being," Dr Matthews added.
"With community sport now restarting in Griffith and surrounds, now is a great time to ditch all sugary drinks and choose fresh tap water instead."