- The FDA has released final guidance Wednesday regarding manufacturers' use of the term "evaporated cane juice," used in ingredients lists to describe sweeteners derived from the fluid extract of sugar cane.
- The agency concluded the term "evaporated cane juice" is misleading because the term does not accurately describe the ingredient's basic nature and characterizing properties (sugars or syrups).
- Also, it said that use of the word "juice" is confusingly similar to the more common meaning of "juice," which refers to liquid extracted from fruits and vegetables.
The term "juice" is arguably where manufacturers are running into the most issues with consumers and the FDA. Per regulations, ingredients printed on a label should refer to their common usage or relevant regulatory requirements. The term could be giving the product a better-for-you positioning that masks the presence of the sweetener.
A class-action lawsuit filed in California against Chobani was stayed earlier this year pending the FDA's decisions on definitions for "evaporated cane juice" and "natural." Use of these terms in regards to Chobani's ingredients list are allegedly "misleading," according to the plaintiffs. Chobani is one of several companies that has faced litigation over the term "evaporated cane juice," which may have prompted the FDA to reach its conclusions for this latest guidance.
As for what manufacturers can use instead, FDA published guidance in 2009 that advised manufacturers to use the term "dried cane syrup." However, when the FDA reopened the comment period on the draft guidance, manufacturers objected to the term because "cane syrup" did not accurately describe the ingredient or process used to create it. FDA dropped that recommendation per those comments.
FDA now recommends manufacturers use the term "sugar" instead because it accurately describes the basic nature and characterizing properties of the ingredient. The agency recommends that manufacturers could precede "sugar" with "one or more truthful, non-misleading descriptors," such as "cane sugar."
If the use of "evaporated cane juice" was positioned as an example of a healthier sweetener, the manufacturer may have to think of new claims or a new modifier that retains a better-for-you positioning while abiding by the FDA's recommendations.
Soda companies have begun using cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup in certain products to fit the better-for-you profile, but any soda makers using "evaporated cane juice" may have to switch to the term "cane sugar." However, many consumers perceive cane sugar as being healthier than high fructose corn syrup. The ingredient name change may not have a huge impact if the consumer isn't trying to avoid sugar or sweeteners altogether.