An amendment to 2003 regulations, the Fruit Juices and Fruit Nectars (Amendment) Regulations 2011, becomes law on May 16. Based on a 2009 European Commission directive it applies to producers of fruit juice and canned fruit.
But despite consultations undertaken between December and February by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in England and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) (rest of the UK), Stuart Shotton, consultancy services manager, FoodChain Europe said firms had had “little prior warning” of the changes.
Shotton said the amendment was aimed mainly at ‘fruit juices from concentrate’, and aimed to ensure consistent labelling across the EU, as well as common product quality with the introduction of legally specified Brix levels, which denote juice sweetness.
Found in translation
The changes mean that mixtures of pure fruit juices and concentrate must be labelled as ‘partially from concentrates’, rather than ‘partially made from concentrates’ (to ensure easier translation between languages across the union), while fruit juices from concentrate must meet minimum Brix levels.
The symbol °Bx denotes the sugar content of an aqueous solution: 1 degree Brix means there is 1g of sugar per 100g of solution, and DEFRA said the levels (which relate to soluble solids) provide a “measure of quality”.
Warning producers to check product specifications to avoid potential prosecution or product recalls, Shotton said: “Although many fruit juice from concentrate manufacturers may well be working to their own Brix levels, from May there will be a legal minimum in place which manufacturers need to be aware of.
“The new regulation may mean increased enforcement checks from both Trading Standards and Environmental Health,” Shotton added, although he said the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) had asked enforcers to adopt a pragmatic approach if minimum levels are not met.
Industry well prepared
But Richard Laming, media director at the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) told FoodManufacture.co.uk that he thought members were well-prepared and said: “Our view is that we’re pretty supportive of what’s being proposed.
“Broadly speaking, they follow the lines we asked for when we made a submission [regarding the proposed changes to the government] and these have come through.”
He said members were already adhering to an EU-wide industry code of practice regarding Brix levels, and “the directive will enable the industry to continue to supply top quality drinks to the consumer”.
However, Shotton warned that the changes could hit producers of composite products where fruit juice or nectar is only one constituent, since the regulation amendment also applies to their use as ingredients. "If it's a niche market for you then you may not be particularly aware of how legal changes relate to you. That said, it is harder to test Brix levels in products such as canned fruit," which contain fruit juice or nectar.
He added that one advantage of Brix levels was that they provided enforcement officers with an analytical standard with which to work, enabling "environmental health officers or the client of a food manufacturer to test levels so they can be sure they know what they're getting".
In its December consultation document, DEFRA warned that one English fruit juice maker had estimated that re-labelling to meet the ‘partially from concentrate’ requirement would cost it £7,200.
The department also revealed that English canned fruit manufacturers faced relabelling charges due to the Brix requirement of up to £144,000; DEFRA also asked canned fruit producers whether they would have to reformulate food to meet the new standard.