Whether it is Diwali celebrations at home, at the club, a corporate Diwali event or a celebration in your housing society, it is important to offer guests the right choice of healthy and safe beverages. There is a vast array of branded juice and soft drink options which include fruit juices, fruit drinks, milk based drinks, carbonated drinks, water and soda based drinks and nectars. In recent times fruit juices have taken a lead as many consumers prefer them over other beverages. They are also being included in Diwali gift hampers along with dry fruit, snacks and chocolates. Here are some tips that will help you select fruit juices and beverages that are healthy and safe to consume.
Which are the various fruit drinks available?
In India, many sweetened drinks are marketed on a large scale, but out of these some are erroneously labelled ‘fruit juice.’ The truth is that many of these drinks only have a small percentage of fruit content. Others contain only fruit flavours and should actually be called fruit drinks, fruit beverages, fruit nectars or flavoured drinks and not labelled as ‘fruit juices.” Here are some facts about fruit drinks you could be unaware of:
- Fruit drinks have 5 -10 per cent of fruit content which could be pulp or juice and could contain added flavour, colour, preservative, sugar and water etc.
- Carbonated fruit drinks are like fruit drinks which also contain 5-10 percent of fruit content, but with soda.
- Fruit Nectars have 20 per cent fruit juice content.
- Fruit Juices on the other hand are composed of hundred percent fruit content, but could either contain added sugar of up to 5 percent or could have no added sugar.
- Fresh juice means that it does not contain any additives, flavours or juices that have undergone a concentration process. Fresh juices might not be pasteurised, stored frozen or contain frozen juice and have a short shelf-life.
Some juices like kiwi, lemon, lime, blackcurrant or other sour juice, generally do not have 100 per cent juice and are diluted with water and could contain added sugar of up to 20 percent, so as to give a desired taste, which will appeal to the consumers.
Most of the fruit drinks contain added sugar, but 100 per cent fruit juices must contain only natural sugar. So, when selecting the right drink, the best is 100 per cent fruit juice which is without added sugar, followed by a fruit drink with low sugar content and high quantity of fruit content and then the fruit drinks, which would have at least 10 per cent fruit content. Last in the order are flavoured drinks as they contain no fruit content, but only fruit flavours. Avoid these as all they will do is quench your thirst, but will provide no nutrients and health benefits.
Are your fruit juices and drinks free of contaminants?
Many consumers are unaware of the kind of contaminants that can enter juices from agricultural practices, during handling, processing, storage and transportation. The truth is that contaminants can enter fruits, if good manufacturing and hygiene and sanitation practices are not maintained all along the food chain from farm to consumer.
Microbial contamination in juices
Fruits have a short shelf life and harmful pathogens from contaminated fresh fruit can enter fruit juices at any time during handling, preparation and processing. Salmonella typhi, the pathogen that causes typhoid can reach apple and orange juices through cross-contamination and poor sanitation practices. Salmonella, Escherichia coli and Cryptosporidium may cause outbreaks of gastroenteritis, if juices are not pasteurised. Moreover, improperly packaged fruit juices and soft drinks encourages growth of fungi and moulds. Juice manufacturers normally pasteurise juices with a quick high–heat treatment, so they are free from pathogens, yeast and moulds and which extends shelf life to between 9-12 months depending on the packaging. So, buying pasteurised juices will help prevent food borne illnesses. Now a days some juices are cold pressed and these need to be stored with temperature controls or they can get contaminated.
Fresh fruits are susceptible to chemical contamination as insecticides are sprayed on them to prevent pest infusion. Aldrin, DDT, Dicofol, Malathion, Pyrethrins are some of the many pesticides that could enter the juices. Chemical contaminants can also be leached into the juices and soft drinks from packaging material like cans. Tomato juice is particularly susceptible to lead contamination, while orange, grape, tomato, pineapple and lemon must be tested for copper, arsenic and tin. Apple juice and apple juice ingredients used in other beverages could contain patulin, which occurs because of mould growth. Exposure to excessive chemical contaminants can lead to some serious health issues. Food Regulator FSSAI has fixed the maximum limits for chemical contaminants.
Food colours and preservatives
Most natural juices do not contain artificial colouring, however, carbonated drinks, fruit drinks and fruit beverages could contain permitted colours which are indicated on the labels. FSSAI has permitted the use of artificial colours like Canthaxanthin, Annatto, Ponceau 4R. Carmoisine, Erythrosine, Tartarzine, Sunset Yellow FCF, Indigo Carmine, Brilliant blue FCF and Fast green FCF. FSSAI has also permitted the use of preservatives called sulphites like sulphuric dioxide, Benzoites like benzoic acid and sorbates like sorbic acid in carbonated and other soft drinks. Since these artificial colours and preservatives are chemicals, they can cause health problems when used in excess.
What to check for on the labels
A look at the list of ingredients and nutritional facts will give a true picture about the fruit content, quantity of sugar and other substances and additives used in the drinks like colours, preservatives and flavours in fruit drinks.
- List of ingredients– The ingredients are always mentioned in the descending order of their composition by weight or volume. There could be additives to the fruit juice like water, sugar, salt, herbs and other permitted additives.
- The name of the juice and whether it is 100 per cent fruit juice or fruit drink.
- Nutritional Information for the percentage of sugar: Juices labelled beverage, drink, or cocktail often contain added sugars like high-fructose corn syrup. Fruits naturally contain sugar, so for 100 per cent juices; the sugar listed on the label should be shown as carbohydrate, but not added sugar. If sugar content is more than 1.5 per cent, then the word ‘sweetened’ has to be mentioned on the label.
- Manufacturing/ Packaging Date
- The name and address of the manufacturer/packer along with the FSSAI Logo and License Numbers
- Net Quantity
Most Indian consumers consider packaged fruit drinks to be healthy, but it is important to read the labels carefully or these packaged drinks could lead to lifestyle diseases. It is also important to know how much sugar these drinks contain because most drinks are high on sugar and so are considered unhealthy. Since fruit based drinks have become popular, all those consumers who are health conscious, should select and choose their packaged juices and soft drinks wisely.