Why the ‘100% fruit juice’ label is a lie

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Illustration photo by Getty Images
Illustration photo by Getty Images
  • Juices labelled ‘100% fruit juice’ may give you the impression that they are made purely from the juice of natural fruits.
  • However, this is frequently not the case.
  • Often, additives, preservatives, colourants and other liquids are added to these juices.

Every time you added a bottle of “100% fruit juice” to your cart, you probably thought several fruits had to be squeezed and pressed for its juice to be extracted. After all, that’s what the wording suggests.

But in most cases, what you’re really getting is more than just fruit. 

While many beverages claim to be 100% pure juice, some may not be, producer at Cheddar News, John Tejada says in an Oovvuu video.

Fruits that aren’t in season all year

In her book, Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice, writer Alissa Hamilton explained that what goes into producing commercial orange juice is far from natural.

As the Huffington Post explains, oranges aren’t in season all year round, but consumers search for them every month. This means that orange juice companies have to store the juice for lengthy periods, which, in turn, requires the juice to be stored in aseptic tanks, so the juice doesn’t spoil. During this process, oxygen is removed from the juice.

READ MORE | To juice or not to juice?

The removal of oxygen, unfortunately, means that the natural chemicals found in the juice that gives off the natural orange flavour and smell are also removed. The juices that are bottled are re-flavoured and re-scented with “flavour packs”. HuffPost explains that these are not natural food products but are designed by flavour and fragrance companies. In other words, they’re made from citrus essence and oils. Yikes.

Juices can be highly processed, unhealthy

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines juice as “an aqueous liquid expressed or extracted from one or more fruits or vegetables.” For example, the juice pressed from a batch of lemons would give you 100% lemon juice, and while it could be fortified with calcium or vitamin D, it won’t have anything included that changes the makeup of what the actual fruit juice is, explains Cheddar News.

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So juices containing additives (such as sugar), preservatives or additional colours would, fall out of that category. 

If you have a look at the label, you’ll notice that many juices also contain sodium benzoate - a preservative used in processed foods and beverages to extend shelf life, Healthline explains

Dr Donald Hensrud, medical director of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program, says: “I put fruit juice if it's processed highly, in the same category as sugar-sweetened beverages.”

Hensrud adds: "Even though something contains 100% fruit juice, it may be very processed and refined. So what ends up in the glass is not what came from the fruit itself. For example, apple juice: It's processed very highly, and it's basically sugar water without a lot of nutrients."

Diluting with cheaper juices

Often, to make juices more affordable, companies dilute their drinks with cheaper juices, says Cheddar News. These typically include white grape or pear juice. So, just because a bottle or carton of juice reads “100% apple juice”, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re only drinking apples.

While the finished product is still considered 100% fruit juice, it just may not be the juice from the fruit you thought you were drinking.

READ MORE | The truth about juicing

If you want to find out what you’re really drinking, the easiest way is to flip over the bottle of juice and check out the ingredients list. “Chances are you’ll find more ingredients than the front label led you to believe,” says Cheddar News. Diane Rellinger from Michigan State University highlights that a lengthy list of ingredients tells you that the product is not 100% pure fruit juice but rather a fruit juice blend.    

And if you’re wondering whether orange juice with pulp offers more nutrients than without, it does, says Hensrud - but the healthiest plan is to eat an orange and drink a glass of water, he adds.

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