Fruit Juice


Ethical shopping guide to Fruit juice, from Ethical Consumer

Ethical shopping guide to Fruit juice, from Ethical Consumer


This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

We take a fresh look at the fruit juice industry


The report includes:

  • ethical and environmental ratings for 37 brands of fruit juice
  • Best Buy recommendations
  • Price comparison of the brands
  • Workers' Rights
  • Packaging
  • Spotlight on The Wonderful Company

 

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Last updated: December 2017 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fruit Juice

 

This guide explores issues relating to 100% fruit juices including the welfare of fruit growers, the use of agrochemicals in the fruit growing industry, and the climate impact of packaging and shipping. 

We have only covered nationally-available brands on the score table but we also provide information on finding small-scale local juice producers.

Many of the companies in this guide also make smoothies. For other soft drinks, including juice drinks see our dedicated guide. 

 

Image: Orange Juice

 

If you want to avoid all the ethical dilemmas involved in buying fruit juice, while also reducing costs, then you could juice your own, or there is always the option to just eat the fruit.

 

Price Comparison 
 

We have compared the prices of our four Best Buy companies to the best selling brand of juice, Pepsico's Tropicana. 

 

Table: Price Comparison

 


 

 

Workers’ rights
 

Very few juices are certified Fairtrade, despite sourcing fruits from high-risk areas. In 2015, orange juice accounted for 68% of UK fruit juice consumption. Brazil is now the world’s top supplier of oranges, a lead that is set to increase as Florida’s orange harvest is beset with problems.

Many top brands, such as Tropicana, use Brazilian oranges for their juice. Unfortunately, Brazil’s orange groves are rife with exploitation and worker’s rights abuses.

 

Image: SOMO

 

According to a 2017 report by SOMO – The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations – 420,000 people work in the Brazilian orange juice industry, mostly seasonal workers with poor job security. Precarious employment, extreme low wages, excessive working hours, poor health and safety, discrimination, and anti-unionism have all been identified as key problems faced by Brazilian orange juice workers.[1]

It is not just Brazil and not just oranges that have been be linked with worker’s rights abuses. For example, in 2014, Fresh Del Monte Produce was among companies ordered to pay $12.3 million in compensation to Thai workers who experienced hostile working conditions and discrimination on pineapple farms in Hawaii.

 

 

Choosing Fairtrade
 

Especially when buying juice made from fruits such as oranges or pineapples, buying Fairtrade products helps ensure higher standards in working conditions, as well as fair pay for growers and workers. Producers under the Fairtrade label reported a better quality of life, and that they were now able to invest in education and improved housing. The Fairtrade label also helped them become more resilient to difficult conditions in the orange juice market.

 

Image: Fruit Juice

 

In this guide, only three brands make Fairtrade juice: Fruit Hit (all its juice is Fairtrade), Calypso, and the Co-op. Although not foolproof, locally made juice, with British-grown fruit, can be less likely to be linked with extreme workers’ rights issues. However, watch out for added ingredients that might not be Fairtrade, such as ginger or other spices. Buying organic also helps because it means workers are not exposed to any pesticides or other harmful chemicals, although the Fairtrade Foundation also places some limitations on use of agrochemicals.

 


 

 

Toxic Chemicals

 

 

Agrochemicals in the fruit growing industry
 

Many of the non-organic companies on the table lost marks under Environmental Reporting because they failed to address, or in many cases, even mention, the use of agrochemicals on the crops used in their products. Yet, it seems to be highly relevant to the fruit and fruit juice industries as numerous pesticide residues have been found in fruit juice.

Apples frequently make it into the Environmental Working Group’s ‘dirty dozen’ list of most pesticide-contaminated produce, along with pears and grapes. Oranges are often grown as mono-cultures, which heightens the threat from pests and disease, increasing reliance on pesticides and fungicides. As discussed previously, Brazil has become the world’s top exporter of orange juice.

In 2012, it also surpassed the US as the top buyer of pesticides and the lack of tight regulation means that Brazilian oranges can be grown using pesticides and chemicals banned in many countries.

While the UK might be celebrating the recent decision to back the European ban on bee-harming neonicotinoids, in the US, the Trump administration has just reversed a ban on chlorpyrifos, which are widely used on orange groves in California and are linked to serious health risks in people. The widespread use of agrochemicals has serious negative impacts both in relation to human rights and the environment.

 


Human impact
 

Fruit workers, as well as people living near fruit-growing sites, are at risk of exposure to dangerous levels of pesticides and other chemicals. The consequences of lack of regulation and lax enforcement can be fatal.

For example, Reuters magazine reported on the death of an employee at a Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. pineapple plantation from over exposure to paraquat, a highly poisonous herbicide banned in the EU, restricted in the US, but still used in Brazil.

The report goes on to tell how a campaigner for tighter controls on pesticide use was murdered a few years later in the same area. Repeated or high-level exposure to pesticides has also been linked to various health problems ranging from skin irritation, headache, vomiting and diarrhoea to more serious problems such as cancer, infertility, asthma and neurological disorders.

 

 

Environmental impact

 

The UN stated that “Pesticides can persist in the environment for decades and pose a global threat to the entire ecological system upon which food production depends”.

The use of agrochemicals can lead to soil degradation, contaminated water and loss of biodiversity as birds, fish, bees and other wildlife are harmed or killed. One of the UK’s chief government scientists has also recently argued that there is a worrying lack of research into the long-term effects of dousing large areas of land with chemicals.

He stated, “The current assumption underlying pesticide regulation – that chemicals that pass a battery of tests in the laboratory or in field trials are environmentally benign when they are used at industrial scales – is false”.

 

Choosing organic
 

The UN has recently stated that the idea that pesticides are necessary to solving the global food crisis was wrong. Well-planned organic farming methods can provide an effective and sustainable solution to pest problems. Going organic when choosing your fruit juice can help protect workers, wildlife and the environment from harm. 

The following brands in this guide make organic juice: Luscombe (all its juices), Biona (all its juices), James White, Suma, and Grove Organic (all its juices). Many of the supermarkets also stock own-brand organic juice, such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose’s Duchy Organic.

 


 

Climate impact of Fruit Juice Production 

 


Food miles
 

When it comes to the climate impact of fruit juice it is usually a case of comparing apples with oranges (or pomegranates, or pineapples, or cranberries …) Juices made from fruit not grown in the UK will carry a much larger carbon footprint. As we have seen, orange juice is by far the most popular flavour in the UK. Yet the oranges will mostly be grown in North or South America. This means that the fruit or juice has to be shipped half way around the world before it ends up on shelves in your local shop.

 

Concentrate
 

‘Not from concentrate’ has come to be an indication of quality in the juice world. However, buying juice from concentrate means that the juice can be shipped in a much smaller and lighter form to where it is bottled or packaged, which saves fuel. So maybe, for the sake of the environment, we should look for ‘from concentrate’ on the label, especially when not buying locally.

One step further is buying juice that is sold in its concentrated form. There are two concentrates in this guide; our Best Buy Suma Concentrate, and Rocks’ concentrate. Concentrate drastically cuts down on packaging because it can be made back into juice in a refillable container from the tap at home. Both brands also come in a glass, rather than plastic, bottle. Good for the planet as well as your pennies!

 

Water usage
 

There has been a running theme in all our latest drink guides that it seems to take a lot more water to manufacture a beverage than is actually in the beverage itself. Fruit juice is no exception. The Water Footprint Network calculates the water cost of different products and industries. It found that, on average, a 200 ml glass of apple juice costs around 230 litres of water. A 200 ml glass of orange juice costs around 200 litres of water. You can find out more about the water footprint of your juice and other products by going to waterfootprint.org.

 


 

 

Packaging – Tetra Paks
 

Fruit juice comes in a range of different packaging, mainly in glass or plastic bottles, or in Tetra Paks. Our bottled water guide clearly showed glass as a better choice than plastic, but how does the Tetra Pak measure up? 

 

Image: Tetra Pak

 

Tetra Pak, and many of the companies that use them, are certainly quick to claim a variety of green credentials for the packaging – namely, that it is recyclable, comes from Forest Stewardship Council (FCS) approved materials, cuts carbon footprints by allowing juice (and other foods) to be stored for longer without refrigeration, and is shaped in a way that allows for closer packing and therefore more efficient transportation. And also simply that it is not a plastic bottle.

 

 

Recyclability
 

It has arguably got easier for you to recycle your Tetra Paks. They are now collected at the kerbside in most areas of the UK. You can use the Tetra Pak recycling map to find out about your area. 

However, just because something can be thrown in the recycling bin doesn’t necessarily make it green. Tetra Pak state on their website that they have increased recycling rates from 20% in 2010 to 25% in 2016.

However, due to an increase in Tetra-Pak use (32 billion up to 47 billion), this actually equates to over 9 billion more Tetra Paks being wasted in 2016 than 2010. Tetra Pak’s 2020 target is for 40% of Tetra-Paks to be recycled. If usage keeps increasing who knows how many wasted Tetra-Paks that other 60% will equate to? A wasted Tetra Pak is arguably worse than a wasted glass bottle because of the plastic content.

Furthermore, glass can be recycled endlessly and in a closed loop (glass bottles recycled into more glass bottles). Tetra Paks are not recycled into new Tetra Paks and contain materials that can only be recycled a limited number of times. Tetra Paks are also single use whereas a glass bottle can actually be reused instead of recycled. Reuse is always better than recycle!  

 

Are they better than plastic bottles?
 

There is one glaring issue with the argument that a Tetra Pak is better than plastic – that Tetra Paks actually contain plastic. Not only do they comprise of thin sheets of polyethylene in between the cardboard and aluminium, but the lids are also made from plastic. Tetra Pak have started to move towards a bio-plastic HDPE (High Density Poly Ethylene) which is manufactured from sugar-cane.

This is positive in terms of reducing reliance on non-renewable fossil fuels for making plastic. However, it does little to address the increasing plastic pollution problem as it is essentially chemically identical to oil-based plastic and resistant to breaking down. Bio-based does not necessarily mean bio-degradable or compostable.  

 

Carbon footprint
 

It has to be said that Tetra Paks are certainly lighter than glass. The fact that empty ones can be transported flat also means that you can fit a lot more Tetra Paks into one shipment than you could glass bottles. There is also an argument that the square shape allows for more filled Tetra Paks to fit into one shipment too. More efficient packing is the area where Tetra Pak does come out on top compared to its packaging counterparts. 

Nevertheless, when considering all the other issues, it still looks like glass is the more eco-friendly option. After all, reuse is not an option for Tetra Paks and so they are, like plastic bottles, only a single-use packaging material. 

Of our Best Buys, Suma, Rocks and Luscombe only come in glass bottles, Biona juices mainly do and James White organic juices and Classic apple juices are in glass.

 


 

 

Fruit juice not so healthy as you think

 

The reputation of juice for being a healthy drink has taken a tumble in recent years amid reports of its high sugar content and the loss of important nutrients, like fibre and vitamins, in the juicing process. As one article points out: “We are inundated with the message that juice is healthy ... The commercial juice industry is happy to build on this idea ... what people should really be talking about is a much simpler fact: The product takes healthy fruits and vegetable and makes them much less healthy”.

 

Sugar content
 

The Soft Drinks guide takes you through the key issues surrounding sugar. 100% fruit juices, that is juices without added sugar, are exempt from the sugar tax in the UK but a recent study in the British Medical Journal showed that almost half the juices analysed contained a child’s entire recommended daily allowance. Of the 21 fruit juices analysed, they averaged 10.7 g of sugar per 100 ml. That’s more than Coca-Cola, which is 10.6 g per 100 ml.

While these are naturally occurring sugars they still contribute to tooth decay, obesity, diabetes and other sugar-related health issues.

Eating fruit does not pose the same problems as drinking the juice, say the authors of the study. “One key difference between whole fruit and juice is fibre content,” they write. “Whole fruit slows down consumption and has a satiating effect. Research shows the body metabolises fruit juice in a different way compared to whole fruit.” Drinking juice and smoothies does not seem to reduce children’s appetite in the way that eating fruit can.

The researchers recommend that fruit juices, fruit drinks and smoothies with high sugar content should not count as one of the ‘Five a Day’ recommended by the government. “Ideally, fruit should be consumed in its whole form, not as juice,” they write. “Parents should dilute fruit juice with water, opt for unsweetened juices and only give them during meals. Portions should be limited to 150 ml a day.”

Public Health England is campaigning for more awareness on this issue so that parents can make more informed choices about providing their children with a healthy diet.

 


 

 

Make your own

 

Whilst we have said that it is better for you and the environment to just eat fruit rather than drink fruit juice, fruit juice may still be a better option than a soft drink because of the latter’s other unhealthy ingredients including sweeteners, artificial colourings and preservatives, etc.

 

Image: apple basket

 

Freshly squeezed juice made at home, preferably from locally grown organic fruit, will contain more nutrients and will eliminate packaging issues.

If you are doing without completely, a piece of fruit and a glass of tap water should have everything covered.

 

 


Company profile

 

The Wonderful Company, owned by billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick, has been subject to criticism for its use of water in drought-ridden California, where it owns land with access to a number of crucial water sources.

It has also been accused of using oil wastewater to irrigate its fields, a practice that is currently still legal in California, and which has possible health and environmental implications due to the dangerous chemicals present.

The Wonderful Company is also the owner of Fiji water, a very popular brand in the US, which has drawn criticism for its monopoly on a water supply in Fiji, a country which suffers from many water related issues. That’s not to mention the madness of transporting bottled water from the middle of the Pacific Ocean around the world. The company has also found itself in court for funding biased research to support claims that its POM Wonderful juice reduces likelihood of heart disease and cancer.

 

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See detailed company information, ethical ratings and issues for all companies mentioned in this guide, by clicking on a brand name in the Score table.  

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References:

1. Squeeze Out: The truth behind the orange juice business, Christian Initiative Romero and Global2000, 2015, p.36-41  

 


 

 

 

 

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