European Parliament Press Release, 14 December 2011
New consumer-friendly labelling rules for fruit juices and nectars were approved by the European Parliament on Wednesday. They aim to prevent potentially misleading names for mixed juices and "no added sugar" claims.
Parliament approved the update to existing legislation from 2001, with 585 votes in favour, 33 against and 1 abstention. Rapporteur Andrés Perelló Rodriguez (S&D, ES) said: "Our priority was to offer consumers accurate information so they would know what they are buying. Parliament played a key role in banning added sugar in products sold as juices and in clarifying the presence of sugars or sweeteners in similar drinks."
A mix of two juices must in future have a product name that reflects the contents, say MEPs. For example, a mixture of 90% apple and 10% strawberry juice would need to be called "Apple and strawberry juice", whereas currently it may be labelled just "Strawberry juice". MEPs say there are current cases where only the minority ingredient is in the product name. A generic name like "Mixed juice" could be used if there are three or more fruit sources.
Sugars and sweeteners
MEPs know that consumers – especially diabetics, parents and people on a diet – want clear indications on the difference between a 'juice' and 'nectar', and presence of any sweeteners.
In future, fruit juices will by definition not contain any added sugars or sweeteners. 'Nectars', made from fruit purée with added water, may contain added sugar or sweeteners. "No added sugar" labels will not be allowed on nectars containing artificial sweeteners, such as saccharin, to avoid potential confusion.
Pure orange juice?
Under international standards, many products sold as "orange juice" may contain up to 10% mandarin juice, which contributes to colour and taste. This practice is common in Brazil and the US, which have a big share of the European market. To maintain a level playing field, the new rules clarify that all imported and EU orange juice will need to be pure to be sold as such, or will include mandarin in the product name, if present.
The rules had been provisionally agreed in informal talks between Parliament and Council and now need only a rubber stamp from the latter to enter into law. Any products placed on the market or labelled before then may still be sold up to 3 years later. Member States will have 18 months to update their national legislation accordingly.