Choice criticises fruit juice claims

Posted by Isobel Drake on 4th March 2009

Straight fruit juice sold in supermarkets can be just as healthy than those which make health claims based on added extras such as herbal supplements or antioxidants, according to a report by consumer group Choice.Choice found juice promoting the likes of aloe vera, echinacea, ginkgo, ginseng, spirulina, barleygrass and wheatgrass did not contain enough of these extracts to be of any significant health benefit.

Many of the products, which go by names such as Kickstart, Energy Lift and Green Recovery, are mostly inexpensive apple juice with a few added extras, some of which verge on the ridiculous, according to the consumer representatives.

One juice from Berri which claims to contain “over 30% of your daily needs” of omega-3 fats for your “heart and mind” in fact contains only 8% of the Heart Foundation’s recommended daily dose (for men), the report claimed.

A serving also has just one per cent of the beneficial fat that you would find in a 140g slice of Atlantic Salmon. Berri Superjuice Immune had just 16% of the recommended dose of echinacea and Kickstart only 3% of the recommended dose of ginseng and ginkgo.

However, the low levels may actually be an advantage because the “natural” extracts at higher doses are not necessarily safe. Gingko can interfere with other medications such as anticoagulants (blood thinners), while ginseng should not be taken during pregnancy and only in small doses if you have high blood pressure, Choice advised.

“In our view the use of medicinal herbs in products like juices should be banned unless specific approval is given after a proper safety assessment, an idea which our food regulator has abandoned,” said Choice spokesman, Christopher Zinn.

Another concern the consumer group held was in regard to the promotion of extra antioxidants. Choice said that studies found no evidence that taking antioxidants as a supplement provides a preventative health benefit for cancer or heart disease.

“Apple juice has only 14% of the antioxidant capacity you’d get from actually eating an apple. The juice market is rife with claims which are not matched by reality and it’s often best to stick to the whole fruit or vegetable,” Mr Zinn suggested.