The addition of sugar would be allowed only for nectars and some specific products where the labelling specifies the addition of sugar.
Richard Laming, media director of British Soft Drinks Association, told BeverageDaily.com that the proposal would help to end confusion about the sugar content of fruit juices.
“Although at present hardly any products do contain added sugar, and those that do say so clearly on the label, the fact that it is permitted at all can cause some confusion amongst consumers,” he said. “The Commission proposal will give everyone confidence that a carton of fruit juice is made 100 per cent from fruit and contains no added sugar.”
A spokesperson for the European Fruit Juice Association (AIJN) told this publication that it needed more time to study the proposal. But the ban is something the industry wanted and the huge majority fruit juice manufacturers do not add sugar, she said.
“This ban would help (to highlight) fruit juices’ positive image as a natural healthy product,” she said.
Some fruits, such as cranberry and peach, require the addition of sugar and or honey in order to make nectars, said the spokeswoman.
The EU juice and nectars market reached 11.3bn litres last year, confirmed the association. Sales of 100 per cent fruit juice accounted for two-thirds of total consumption at 7.5bn litres.
Nectars with a juice content of 25-99 per cent accounted for 3.8bn litres.
EC agriculture spokesman Roger Waite told BeverageDaily.com that the proposed directive was in response to industry requests. “One of the drivers has been the industry itself to underline the healthy nature of juice products and we can support that,” he said.
The proposal will now be considered by the European Parliament and the member states in council which may be able to reach a decision in 12 months. But, the process may be delayed by a further 18 or 24 months if a second reading is required, said Waite.
Then member states have a further 18 months to transpose the directive into national legislation.
The directive also proposes to include tomatoes in the list of fruits used for fruit juice production.