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Lemon Juice Might Be The Latest Food Labeling Scandal To Hit Grocery Shelves

We've already been burned by dubious extra virgin olive oil and Chinese honey parading as American fare.

Now lemon juice is the latest consumer product being taken to task by activists who say it doesn't always live up to its label.

The National Consumers League put four common lemon juice brands that bill themselves as "100% Lemon Juice" products to the test. After running two bottles of each brand through their lab, the watchdog found all of four were "heavily diluted with water."

From their report:

  • “NaturaLemon 100% Lemon Juice from concentrate – Natural Strength” contains only about 35 percent lemon juice.

  • "Lira 100% Lemon Juice from concentrate” contains only about 25 percent lemon juice.

  • “Lemon Time Lemon Juice from concentrate” contains about only 15 percent lemon juice. The product states on its front label, “Contains 100% Lemon Juice with added ingredients.”

  • “Pampa Lemon Juice from concentrate” contains only about 10 percent lemon juice. The product states “Made with 100% Juice.” The label also includes the statement “Natural Strength.”

Why lemon juice producers would fudge details on their own products is apparent when you consider the beating America's citrus crops have taken. In a recent report, U.S. Department of Agriculture blamed weather disruptions for a 12 percent reduction in lemon crops this year.

"The higher grower prices for most major citrus fruit (navel oranges, grapefruit, and lemons), partly resulting from smaller domestic crops, are also translating to higher prices to consumers," the report says. "Retail prices for lemons and Thompson seedless grapes showed the biggest increase in May from the same time a year ago."

The U.S. Federal Drug Administration prohibits the practice of watering down concentrated juices, a fact the NCL points out in this letter it wrote in March urging the agency to investigate its findings further.

We've reached to the companies tested by NCL for comment and are waiting to hear back.*

In the meantime, there's one simple way to be sure you're squeezing the most lemon juice out of your hard-earned dollars––try making it yourself.

*Here's the response from Transnational Foods, Inc., which produces Pampa Lemon Juice:

"Our company has more than 10 years shipping high quality products into the US and more than 25 countries around the globe. With an GFSI (SQF) certified facility we strive ourselves of keeping our customers safe and satisfied with their purchases. As you can imagine, our Lemon Juice has been inspected several times by FDA and large retailers across the US to whom we’ve been packing their private brands over the last 5 years. In all cases, we got satisfactory results." ––Americo Preneste, Chief Operating Officer.

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