News 11.04.2024

Misleading sugar labelling of fruit juices

  • Sugar, fat & salt
  • Traffic light labels
  • Transparency and food safety

The EU has set itself the task of labelling the juices more clearly. But the 'breakfast directive' agreed upon by the EU Council, Parliament, and Commission misleads consumers about the sugar in fruit juices.

The directive replaces the misleading 'no added sugar' claim with "fruit juices contain only naturally occurring sugars". This claim is misleading, since all sugar is indeed ‘naturally occurring’ – but this does not mean it is good to consume.  

Although the package contains some improvements in labelling the origin of honey leading to more transparency on the origin and the quantity of imported honey, labelling alone will not be enough to stop the massive fraud of fake honey. And in respect to the sugar content in fruit juices, consumers will continue to be misled. foodwatch calls for thorough review of all health and nutrition claims in the EU. 

The only sugars that are truly ‘natural’ are those in a food which is intact. Once fruit has been juiced and had all the fibre removed, it is classified as a ‘free sugar’ and has the same damaging health effects as added sugar according to EFSA.
Suzy Sumner Head of the Brussels Office

Commission bowing to juice industry 

The Commission originally proposed that fruit juice companies could use the claim ‘no added sugar’ on the front of the packet. This is despite the fact that it was decided in 2012 to ban the use of exactly this nutrition claim for fruit juice and the practice has been illegal since 2016. However, the industry claims that consumers don’t know that fruit juice is not allowed to contain added sugar, despite it clearly not being listed on a mandatory ingredients label on the back of the pack. The Commission bowed to the pressure of juice industry and proposed to turn back 2012 legislation so that the misleading claim can be used again. 

Sugar in juice is also "free sugar"

Consumers in the EU think that claims on the front of a packet are correct and checked – but they are not.  The claim ‘no added sugar’ can be seen on the front of many juice packets in the supermarket, despite it being illegal since 2016. Replacing it with another misleading and meaningless statement is not the answer. There is an absence of clear regulation of nutrition and health claims for all products and enforcement of this regulation.

Nutrition is the most important factor in cancer prevention 

The Nutrition and Health Claims legislation has to be reviewed which is now 14 years overdue. European citizens are facing a metabolic health crisis, with levels of obesity, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases sky rocketing. The OECD report on health disparities of cancer shows nutrition to be the second most important factor after smoking in the prevention of cancer.  

Around a fifth of the EU population smokes whilst 100% of the EU population eats! Nutrition therefore clearly is the most important factor in cancer prevention for the whole population.
Suzy Sumner Head of the Brussels Office

To date, the current Commission has failed to release the Food Information to Consumers legislation package which would provide a front of pack nutritional label, nutrient profiles and regulation on health and nutrition claims. foodwatch will not give up and has written to the Commission President and Minister of Health for the Belgian Presidency to ask to make this a priority.