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Label Shouts ‘Papaya;’ Tiny Print Whispers ‘Pineapple’

June 2, 1992

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Consumers spend hundreds of millions of dollars on exotic-sounding fruit drinks, but the papaya juice they think they’re sipping may actually be pineapple.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest said Monday it surveyed more than two dozen fruit-juice products and found that the truth about what’s inside the bottle was usually hidden in the fine print.

One label shouted ″Very Cherry,″ but the small type on the back of the bottle whispered white grape and apple juice. And the main ingredients in the Maine Coast Blueberry juice turned out to be apple juice and apple puree from concentrate, the consumer advocacy group said.

″The food industry is cheating the American consumer out of hundreds of millions of dollars annually by passing off what is mostly apple and grape juice as more expensive kiwi, peach, strawberry and cherry juice,″ said Bruce Silverglade, the group’s legal affairs director.

Maine Coast Blueberry sold at one Washington supermarket for $2.39 a quart, compared to a unit price of $1.45 per quart for a half-gallon bottle of Motts pure apple juice.

Silverglade said that because consumers spend more than $9 billion a year on fruit juices and drinks, ″people deserve the facts. ... The name of the juice on the front of the label is not what the consumer is purchasing in many, many cases.″

But John R. Cady, the president of the National Food Processors Association, said the group’s survey amounted to nothing more than a ″disinformation campaign.″

The association and the Center for Science in the Public Interest also have been wrangling over a proposed labeling regulation that would require manufacturers to list the percentage of each juice used in blends.

The Food and Drug Administration must finalize the new labeling requirements by Nov. 8. Juice manufacturers would be required to begin using the new labels by May 1993.

The processors association contends that listing the percentage of each juice is almost certain to lead to cluttered labels and ″info-glut,″ said Alan Matthys, the group’s vice president of regulatory affairs.

″If CSPI had its way, food labels would consist of nothing but green lights, red lights, sirens and warnings,″ added Cady. ″There would be no room for the brand name or picture.″

In addition to the total percentage of juice in the drink, the new labels also would require a full nutritional analysis and a listing of the juices in order of concentration, Matthys said.

″Adding to the label the percentage of each individual juice in the drink will give the consumer no useful additional information - or any health or nutritional advantage,″ Matthys said. ″In fact, it distracts from the key nutritional information.″

The labeling requirements would also require manufacturers to reveal how much juice is actually in a bottle of ″juice drink″ or ″juice cocktail.″

As a result of that proposal, many manufacturers are moving toward bottling beverages that are 100 percent juice, Silverglade said.

″The next cheapest thing to water is apple and grape juice, to use as fillers. But they’re being labeled as peach or strawberry juice,″ Silverglade said.

Under current labeling regulations, manufacturers must list ingredients in order of predominance, but not by percentage. The CSPI survey was based on reading product labels.

″Many fruit-juice producers are misrepresenting the composition of products made from two or more juices,″ Silverglade said. ″The FDA’s proposed labeling regulation, if finalized, would help prevent fruit juice producers from duping consumers.″