Pomegranate Juice Adulteration: Grape Expectations

Mon, 04/08/2013 - 3:38pm
Dr. Robert J. Packer, PerkinElmer Inc.

Fruit juices with high levels of antioxidants, such as pomegranate and cranberry, have become very popular over recent years due to perceived health benefits of antioxidant compounds and the increased accessibility through a number of global producers selling through global retailers. This is highlighted by a six-fold rise in consumption of 8-ounce servings of pomegranate juice between 2004 and 2008 and, in this time, pure pomegranate juice becoming more popular than blended juices. The blended juices do have advantages, however. First is the cost, where a gallon of pomegranate typically costs 5–10 times that of a predominately apple and grape pomegranate blend. The second factor is the taste; the addition of apple and grape juices makes the overall blend less bitter.

These factors mean that pomegranate juice blends are pretty common in supermarkets, and if a pomegranate juice product is labelled as a blend with apple and grape juice, the consumer can expect to pay less than the cost of pure pomegranate juice.

The issue

If pure pomegranate juice is being purchased, both consumers and processors must ask themselves the question, what if lower cost juices are added and they are not mentioned on the label? The appeal to the growers or distributors is obvious; they can charge $30-60 for a gallon of juice that is only worth $10-20.

To discover how this may happen, we must first consider which parts of the world the pomegranate has traditionally grown. Most pomegranates are grown in Iraq, Syria and Iran stretching north through to a number of the southern, former Russian states such Georgia and Armenia. All of these countries have had their own problems in the recent or near recent past, with suspicious food products being one of them. Recent data suggests a very high percentage of adulterated pomegranate juice is coming from this region.

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