When a Melbourne man asked a fruit juice maker about the exact ingredients in one of its popular juices, he was shocked by the details that came pouring back.
Having heard that some fruit drinks can contain beef and alcohol, Sonjoy Chakraborty this week asked Heinz Australia if this might be the case in his favourite Golden Circle juice.
As a Hindu, Mr Chakraborty avoids meat and alcohol on religious grounds.
The company promptly wrote back, advising him that juice in the Golden Circle long-life range was made using a clarifying agent derived from beef and that alcohol-based flavours were used across its drinks range.
“The clear apple juice used in the Golden Circle ambient (long life) juice and drink range is made clear using a variety of clarifying agents one of which is from a beef source and would not be halal suitable,” the statement said.
“Flavours, including alcohol based flavours, are used across the Golden Circle and Original Juice Co. juice and drink ranges. Unfortunately none of the ambient Golden Circle juice range would be halal suitable as they are made using either non-halal clarifying agents or contain alcohol based flavours.”
Heinz said consumers should always “carefully” read the ingredient list.
Golden Circle apple juice labelling prominently displays photographs of fresh apples, and boasts of no added preservatives. The ingredient list makes no mention of beef or alcohol.
In reply to Heinz, Mr Chakraborty called for the company to come clean and explain to consumers why the ingredients were not listed on packaging.
“This is wrong and unethical,” he said. “We are Hindu, beef is prohibited, alcohol is prohibited. But also I don’t want to give anything that contains alcohol to my kids.
“In the ingredients section it says ‘all natural’. I don't think beef traces or alcohol [can] be treated as natural ingredients.”
In a statement to Fairfax Media, Heinz said a beef-derived gelatine was generally used to remove the “cloudiness” in its apple juice.
“During the manufacturing process, the juice is filtered and the final product that reaches consumers does not contain gelatine,” spokeswoman Carolyn Fox said.
Ms Fox said “very small amounts of alcohol” were combined with concentrated flavours to keep them “stable, clean and crisp”.
“Alcohol has the functional purpose of allowing the flavour to disperse more readily in liquids," she said. "It evaporates from the juice during the pasteurisation process when heat is applied and if any remains in juices afterwards, it is so small that it is below detectable levels."
Ms Fox said its products met regulatory standards, which did not require declaring processing aids, or components of flavours on the ingredient lists.