Consumption of fruit juice in the EU has nearly doubled over the past two decades, mostly due its perceived health benefits. But what is actually in your glass: is it real "fruit juice", "nectar", or a mixture of several ingredients? A new proposal before Parliament on fruit juices aims to improve production standards and help consumers make healthier choices.
More than 80% of all orange juice consumed in Europe comes from Brazil and the US, with shipments to the EU accounting for some two thirds of worldwide exports. This, in turn has at least one negative side-effect: the carbon footprint of all those oranges, as underlined in a report by Spanish Socialist Andres Perello Rodriguez.
A new proposal being examined in Parliament, seeks to strengthen the consumption of local products. The advantages are many, from a lower carbon footprint to better oversight of the implementation of EU labour standards and food safety rules.
In addition, it is worth noting that Brazilian and US producers cultivate oranges especially for processing, whereas EU producers use fruit excluded from the fresh produce market for their small size or blemishes, but which are still perfectly good for transformation into high-quality juice.
What is proposed?
Among other proposals, the draft directive would allow EU producers to add up to 10% of tangerine juice to orange juice, which would intensify taste while adding health benefits. The report notes that non-EU producers already do this.
The new directive should also tackle the problem of insufficient consumer information, making a clear distinction between "juice" and "nectar", depending on the absence or presence of added sugar.
Specific groups of consumers, such as diabetics, children and people with weight problems have to know how much sugar a drink contains, therefore MEPs suggest that information campaigns should be launched to better inform consumers on the difference between juices, which contain no added sugar, and nectars, which are made of juice concentrate and can contain additional sugar or other sweeteners.
This is just one of several reports prepared by the Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety to improve consumer protection and food safety in the EU. In other reports, MEPs want to allow EU member states to ban GMO food on environmental grounds and impose tougher controls on the use of veterinary antibiotics.