EU legislation relevant to fruit juices

Fruit juices are not only healthy, they are also subject to very detailed legislation guaranteeing the safety and the quality of the products that you can buy and providing you with all necessary information on their composition, nature and nutritional benefits.

The composition and quality of the products are covered by a specific European Fruit Juice Directive. This Directive stipulates the specific characteristics of fruit juices and fruit-based drinks to guarantee the best possible products are put on the European market. It defines the composition of the various products that can be produced, including not only fruit juices, but also dehydrated fruit juice and fruit nectars. It specifies the criteria with which the various products must comply, including which fruits can be used, their minimum content, what ingredients can or cannot be added and how these products must be designated on the label. As an example, it must be clearly indicated on the label when a product has been sweetened or when it has been obtained from concentrated juice.

In addition, fruit juices are subject to various European laws that regulate the safe manufacturing and correct labelling of these products. These include:

  • The food labelling and nutrition labelling Directives, specifying all necessary elements that need to be mentioned on the label of the product, including the list of ingredients, the net content and best before date. If nutrition claims are made, the content of the nutrients present in the product also needs to be declared.
  • A new Labelling Regulation has just been adopted and the European Parliament and the European Council have introduced a number of new requirements.
  • The description of nutritional and health benefits is now regulated by the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation, This law requires that no nutrition claim or health claim may be used if it has not first been approved. It will in future also specify nutritional criteria (nutrient profiles) that products need to respect before a health claim can be made.
  • Vitamins and minerals may be added to fruit and vegetable juices and nectars to optimise their nutritional composition and make them suitable to complement the intake of certain nutrients in cases where this might not be optimal. The requirements for such addition of nutrients are also covered by a specific European Addition of Nutrients to Foods Regulation.
  • In some products, specific additives can be used to optimise stability, maintain taste and quality over a longer shelf life or improve other properties of the product. Only additives which have been assessed and approved as safe in use at EU level are allowed to be used and, in some products, no additives are allowed. This is covered by both the Fruit Juice Directive and the EU Additives legislation.
  • New foods that have not been on the market before 1997 require a pre-marketing authorisation after the assessment of their safety. This is regulated by the EU Novel Foods legislation.
  • There are also strict rules on the Plant Protection Products & Pesticides that are allowed and the residue levels that may still be present in the final product.
  • Organic fruit juices and nectars are subject to specific EU organic legislation. Two Commission Regulations were adopted in 2008 regulating organic production, the import and distribution of organic products as well as their labelling. In addition, producers of packaged organic food must use the EU organic logo as of 1 July 2010. The use of the logo on organic foods from third countries, however, is optional.
  • The obligations of companies relating to food safety are laid down in the General Food Law Regulation. This law also covers rules for traceability, the provision of information to the authorities and product recall in the rare event that a defective or unsafe product reaches the market despite all the care and controls of the manufacturer. Food safety is also regulated via specific legislations for example on hygiene and contaminants.