Label language: Fruits

Understanding food labeling language, especially when it comes to juices.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends making half your plate fruits and veggies. All fruits and 100 percent fruit juices are counted as part of the fruit group. All vegetables and 100 percent vegetable juices are counted as part of the vegetable group. To find out what counts as fruits and vegetables visit the MyPlate website. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is important and 100 percent juice can be part of a healthy diet.

How do I know if it’s 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that all juice must be labeled with the percent of juice contained. This includes carbonated and non-carbonated drinks, juice made from concentrate and diluted juices. If the drink is anything less than 100 percent juice, it does not count as a fruit or vegetable.

Where do I find the percentage?

The percent of juice must be put on the information panel near the top. This is usually located above the nutrition facts label. If there is not an information panel, the percent of juice can be placed on the front of the food label (where the product information is). It can be stated in a couple different ways including “contains 100% juice,” “100% juice,” or include the name of the fruit or veggie like, “contains 100% carrot juice.”

What about juice drinks, beverages and cocktails?

Drinks that are not 100 percent juice are not legally allowed to be called juice, even if they contain some juice. They must be followed by another word like drink, beverage or cocktail. Cranberry juice cocktail is an example of a drink that could contain some real fruit juice but will not be 100 percent juice. A drink that might appear to be a juice but is not would be orange drink. These beverages might only be fruit flavored but are not the same as juice and should not be considered part of your daily fruit intake.

What about vegetable juice cocktail? Does it count as a vegetable?

This is where checking to see what the percent of juice comes in handy! Some products may be a blend of multiple juices from many different vegetables. This is why they are calling it a cocktail. Some of these vegetable cocktails are still 100 percent juice. So, always make sure to check the percent symbol!

Is fruit punch a juice?

The word punch is not a word that is regulated on food labels. This means that the product could be or contain relatively anything including real fruit juice, artificial flavors, teas or other ingredients. Always make sure to check for the percent of juice located above the nutrition facts label to make sure you know what you’re taking in.

Michigan State University Extension offers nutrition education classes for adults and youth that include information on fruits and vegetables and making healthy choices. More information can be found at http://msue.anr.msu.edu/topic/info/nutrition.

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