A survey by the Food Commission found as little as 5 per cent juice in brands such as Ribena and Kia-Ora, 6 per cent in Libby's Apple 'C', and 9 per cent in Rowntree's Fruit Juice Drink. Even the 'best', Five Alive Mixed Citrus, was less than half real fruit.
Dr Tim Lobstein, the report's author, said it was 'tantamount to legalised fraud' to be offering such misleading products. 'Watering down milk was condemned in the nineteenth century as illegal adulteration, but watering down juice and adding the word 'drink' gives a licence to the modern manufacturer to sell fruit-flavoured products as real fruit.'
The survey, published today in Living Earth and The Food Magazine, examined 20 fruit drinks and found several had more added sugar than juice. Ribena contained more sugar than Coca-Cola.
Nearly all had added flavourings and some had colouring agents. Some had added vitamin C but contained few of the other vitamins, trace nutrients and enzymes that make fruit healthy.
In the US, such labelling would be illegal. However, rules that would force manufacturers to disclose juice content have been postponed by the Ministry of Agriculture and are unlikely to come into effect for up to seven years. The commission says pictures of fruit should be removed from cartons and the juice content declared.
A spokesman for Nestle, which makes Libby's and Rowntree's juice drinks, said the drinks were manufactured after research which showed that they suited consumers' 'tastes and expectations'.