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.
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.
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.
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."
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
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.
‘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!
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?