SCMP Thursday, May 17, 2001

Testing puts squeeze on fruit juice claims


Fruit juice producers make such a confusing - and possibly illegal - range of claims about their products that shoppers find it difficult to tell what they are buying, the Consumer Council said.
Spokesman Larry Kwok said the jumble of terms used on orange juice cartons and bottles showed that comprehensive nutritional labelling should be compulsory on all pre-packed foods sold in Hong Kong.
The council examined the packaging of 20 brands of juice and tested their contents against the claims made. Four of the samples described as being "100 per cent juice" were actually reconstituted by adding water to concentrate.
A further three that were labelled as "fresh", "natural" or "pure" were also made from concentrate, and one described on the box as being "fresh orange juice" was found to contain a preservative.
"The first problem is that in the law in Hong Kong there's no definition of what orange juice is," Mr Kwok said. "Secondly, we would encourage the Government to improve the labelling laws . . . requiring them to label if it's not pure orange juice and if it's reconstituted then it should be clearly on the label."
The council is calling for labelling laws similar to those in the US, where products must show the number of calories per serving, including the proportion of calories from fat. They should also set out the mineral, vitamin and carbohydrate content and the number of grams of protein in a serving.
"Our comment on orange juice should be applicable to other juices. And nutritional labelling should be applied to all sorts of food products," Mr Kwok said.
The council's testing found that some of the juice samples did not even live up to promises on the labels that are covered by existing food laws in Hong Kong.
Two juices contained much less vitamin C, for instance, than their labels promised. And six samples of reconstituted juice did not list water in the list of ingredients.
Current food laws say the list of ingredients on a food or drink label must match the contents of the product. Water does not have to be listed, however. If a product does not match its label, producers face a maximum fine of $50,000 and six months' jail.
The samples found not to match their labels have been referred to the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department for further testing.
Only four of the juices tested by the council were actual juice, rather than reconstituted from concentrate. They were made by Original Juice Co, Sunkist, Tropicana and Mr Juicy. Mr Juicy was found to contain a preservative, however.
A spokeswoman for the department said the feasibility of making comprehensive nutritional labelling mandatory was being considered. The study is expected to be completed this financial year.