Munich - Made from apples, pears or cherries, from exotic or regional fruit – fruit juices enjoy a healthy reputation and are rich in valuable nutrients.However, juice quality differs greatly. TÜV SÜD's food experts provide information on which quality criteria to look out for.
Germans drink 33 litres of juice per year, making Germany the world's biggest juice consumer. The choice of juices available is almost unlimited; while apple and orange juice top the list, pineapple, grapefruit and grape juice are also very popular. Over recent years, juice from regional fruits such as rhubarb, cherries, pears or quince have also come into fashion, predominantly produced by small, privately owned juice makers.
But how high is the actual fruit content of juices? A look at the label may provide the required information. Most consumers are aware of the fact that "fruit drinks" are sold as juice, fruit nectar and fruit juice drinks. These designations provide an initial clear indication of the fruit content in the bottle. "However, fruit contents may indeed differ depending on the type of fruit. While fruit nectars made from apples must include 50% fruit juice, nectars from bananas or morello cherries need only contain 25% or 35 % respectively", says Dr Andreas Daxenberger, food expert at TÜV SÜD. The German Fruit Juice and Soft Drink Regulation clearly defines how much water and other additives, such as sugar and flavouring, are permitted. The juice content is given on the list of ingredients. Not all types of fruit are suitable for 100% fruit juices; some fruits such as bananas may cause the juice to become too thick, while others, like red- or blackcurrants, may turn the juice too sour.
Fruit juice is made of 100% fruit and is free from all additives, including colourants, flavourings, preservatives and additional sugar. The only exception is multi-vitamin juice, which may contain additional vitamins. Juice is produced by two different methods. For "direct juice", the freshly pressed juice is filtered, pasteurised for preservation and bottled. To produce juice made from concentrate, by contrast, the fruits are pressed and then the water is extracted to obtain concentrate and fruit flavour, which is then transported to Germany. There, the two components are reconstituted by adding water to produce "Juice made from concentrate". This production method is an economically and ecologically wise choice whenever juices are transported over long distances, such as from other continents, as the transport volume is considerably reduced. When comparing the two, direct juice tastes slightly better. However, the quality differences between the two methods are generally small.
In contrast to fruit juices, fruit nectars are a mixture of 25 – 50% fruit juice and water with up to 20% of sugar. Fruit juice drinks only need to have a minimum fruit content of 6%, i.e. the fruit is only a flavouring element. Further components are water, sugar, flavours and edible acids.
Once opened, juice keeps in the fridge for about one week. As yeasts and moulds cause juice to ferment and go off, reclose bottles firmly after use. Drinking straight from the bottle is an absolute no-no. First of all, it provides common cold viruses with an easy route of attack and, in addition, the germs may cause the juice to go off quickly. Juice that forms bubbles, a skin or slimy threads or smells mouldy or sour is no longer fit for consumption.
Home-made juice produced with the help of a juice centrifuge or citrus juicer is always 100 per cent fresh. However, as Andreas Daxenberger points out, the fruits used must be clean, ripe and sound. Home-made juice is not pasteurised and therefore may ferment or form mould even more quickly, making it suitable only for immediate consumption. The fresh home-made juice can only be kept for a few hours. Garden owners with a glut of fruit from their own gardens can opt for a steam juicer to enjoy home-made juice all through the winter. Alternatively, garden owners can take their fruits to one of the many privately-owned juice makers that use these fruits to produce regional juices.