The British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) and multitudes of health experts assert that fruit juice is good for us because it ‘contains valuable nutrients, including vitamins and minerals that contribute to a healthy diet’. It takes just a little research to expose this claim as not entirely accurate.
1. High Sugar
The supposed health gains of fruit juice are offset by its very high sugar content. Relative to a piece of fruit, concentrated juice is stripped of beneficial fibre and the sugar content is astronomical. With a recommended daily allowance of 6 teaspoons of sugar, a single juice drink can easily max out our quota. For example:
• 330ml of Capri Sun has 8 teaspoons of sugar
• 300 ml of Tropicana has 7 teaspoons of naturally occurring sugar
• 288ml of Ribena has 7 teaspoons of sugar
Some manufacturers admit the high sugar content but suggest this is benign because it is not added. Worryingly, such products are fully compliant with the BSDA stipulation against added sugar and sweetener. Yet this is only because disingenuous marketers make the distinction between added sugar and sugars which are naturally occurring; however, there is no chemical difference. Sugar is sugar, no matter what name it has.
While some argue that natural sugar and fruit will not damage your health, a 2014 motion in the UK Parliament expressed alarm at Action on Sugar's report that:
• a quarter of supermarket fruit drinks contain more sugar than the equivalent volume of Coca-Cola
• these drinks are commonly advertised as healthy and targeted at children
• a quarter of the products tested met or exceeded the maximum daily adult intake recommended by the World Health Organisation
• such products are contributing to record levels of tooth decay, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Despite clear indications that sugar contributes to disease, perhaps the biggest criticism of the all-fruit-is-healthy mantra is its failure to recognise that many fruit varieties grown today have a far higher sugar content than in the past. They are also intensively treated with fungicides, pesticides and other chemical cocktails, but that’s another toxicity issue entirely!
2. Just One Ingredient - Right?
Alongside the prohibition on added sugars and sweeteners, the BSDA also rules that fruit juice is 100% pure juice made from the flesh of fresh or whole fruit. Added preservatives, flavourings or colourings are not permitted; however scrutiny of supermarket shelves shows a different reality.
Take orange juice that supposedly comprises a single ingredient. Manufacturers want consistent taste, so once all the juice has been squeezed out, any residual oxygen is removed. This process preserves the liquid; unfortunately, it also destroys the natural orange flavours.
To solve the problem, flavour packs are added to the tasteless juice. Via clever manoeuvring, manufacturers can still assert their products are pure and natural because these flavour packs are ‘technically derived from “orange essence and oil”’  so never appear on ingredient labels. When several commercial brands of orange juice were tested, unnaturally high levels of ethyl butyrate were found which is significant evidence of added flavouring from flavour packs.
If the BSDA prohibits the addition of colourings, by what technical sleight of hand has colour been allowed? For example, the ingredients of Growers Harvest Tropical Juice Drink from Tesco includes colour (carotenes) and sucralose sweetener.
3. The Problem with Labels
Not only do juice manufacturers use technicalities to give the appearance of compliance, but they have untold ways to be disingenuous with their labels. Careful wording is used to manipulate consumer perception. For example, “from concentrate” means excess water is removed which makes packaging and transportation more efficient. Later the water is added back before the juice hits the shelves, therefore a juice with the seemingly healthy label of “not from concentrate” only means that the surplus water was never removed.
There is little difference in the nutritional content of juice from concentrate or otherwise. “Not from concentrate” is merely a marketing ploy to convey the illusion that the product passes unadulterated from orchard to glass.
4. Not So Natural
Fruit juices are heavily promoted as a naturally healthy choice. ‘Natural flavouring’ hardly looks like an alarming ingredient, but it is misleading. For example, ‘natural’ vanilla is made from wood, while artificial vanilla is a synthetic petrochemical compound. While their origin may be natural, such additives are highly processed and contain many hidden solvents, emulsifiers and preservatives.
Natural flavourings are also detrimental because they artificially stimulate taste buds. Food becomes addictive leading to over-eating and weight gain.
5. An Unhealthy Option
Mass produced fruit juice is highly processed which makes it tough to find one not subject to extraction, distillation, filtration, adsorption, evaporation, fractionation or concentration. It is hardly surprising that prolonged manufacturing degrades or completely destroys beneficial compounds in fruit juice along with any associated health benefits. How then can juice marketers proclaim dietary benefits or even outline a vitamin profile for their products? Vitamin C, for example, is notoriously sensitive to heat. To compensate for the loss of nutrients during manufacture, synthetic vitamins are added. Whole-food source vitamins can be useful but the danger of synthetic alternatives warrants its own exposé; suffice to say that those
added to fruit juices are toxic. They are less readily absorbed, so accumulate in organs and even joints. It is also hard to see how a ‘vitamin’ derived from petroleum, coal tar or formaldehyde might ever be good for the human body.
Once we see that popular fruit juice brands are not nearly so good for us as the marketers and health experts would have us believe, our buying habits become more mindful. High in sugar, seldom pure or unadulterated, disingenuous labelling to mislead consumers, far-from-natural ingredients with some that are hidden or downright toxic, over-processed with a poor nutritional profile - these are just a handful of reasons to re-think our choice to drink fruit juice.
Alternatives to consider:
• Small local ethical producers
• organic brands
• make your own
The Problem with Fruit Juice References
 Information on Fruit Juice (britishsoftdrinks.com)
 WHO calls on countries to reduce sugars intake among adults and children
 Information on Fruit Juice (britishsoftdrinks.com)
 SUGAR CONTENT IN FRUIT DRINKS - Early Day Motions - UK Parliament
 Sugar consumption now vs 100 years ago (linkedin.com)
 What’s in This?: Tropicana Orange Juice (melmagazine.com)
 Growers Harvest Tropical Juice Drink 2L - Tesco Groceries
 Natural Flavourings and What You Need To Know - Nest and Glow
 BSDA_-_FRUIT_JUICE_GUIDANCE_May_2016.pdf (britishsoftdrinks.com)
 Natural vs. Synthetic Vitamins – What’s the Big Difference? (sunwarrior.com)