On 8 March 2012, the Council of the EU adopted the amendment to the Fruit Juices Directive (Directive 2001/112/EC). This step puts an end to the legislative procedure, as the text of the new rules has already been agreed by the European Parliament. The new rules are aimed to be more consumer-friendly as they tend to limit the possibilities to mislead consumers.
The major changes in comparison with the current fruit juice labelling rules concern:
- Mixed juices - a mix of two juices must in future have a product name that reflects the contents. For example, a mixture of 90% apple and 10% strawberry juice would need to be called "Apple and strawberry juice", whereas currently it may be labelled just "Strawberry juice". A generic name like "Mixed juice" could be used if there are three or more fruit sources.
- Sugars and sweeteners - in future, fruit juices will by definition not contain any sugars or sweeteners, therefore, use of a claim "no added sugar" will no longer be permitted on fruit juices. 'Nectars', made from fruit purée with added water, may contain added sugar or sweeteners. "No added sugar" labels will not be allowed on nectars containing artificial sweeteners, such as saccharin, to avoid potential confusion.
- Pure orange juice - all imported and EU orange juice will need to be pure to be sold as such; added mandarin juice, which is currently a common practice for reasons of colour and taste, will need to be included in the product name.
- Labelling according to descending order of the volume of juices – fruits will be listed in descending order of the volume of juices in the final product; the words "several fruits" may be used for three or more fruits.
- Tomatoes are added to the list of fruits used for fruit juice's production. This means that tomato juices will be subject to the same specific rules as other fruit juices, rather than solely to the general EU food law as it is currently the case.
- The Brix values (designing the soluble dry matter content) for four fruit juices (blackcurrant, guava, mango and passion fruit) are aligned with the levels of the Codex Alimentarius.
Companies will have to review the labelling of their fruit juice and fruit nectar products in order to comply with the new rules. Importers will have to be more vigilant as regards this type of product placed on the EU market.
The Directive will be published in the Official Journal of the EU sometime in June 2012 and will enter into force on the day of its publication. Member States will then have 18 months to update their national legislation accordingly. Companies will have additional 18 months to market their products that were placed on the market or labelled before the entry into force of the new rules.