Fruit Juice Adulteration:

Detection Is Difficult, and Enhanced Efforts Would Be Costly

RCED-96-18: Published: Nov 3, 1995. Publicly Released: Nov 3, 1995.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the sale of adulterated fruit juice to school meal programs, focusing on: (1) the nature and extent of the problem; (2) whether federal inspection and testing methods can detect juice adulteration; (3) recent federal enforcement actions taken against juice adulterators; and (4) options for enhancing the detection of adulterated juice.

GAO found that: (1) juice adulterators have cut costs by adding less expensive ingredients to juice and labeling the product as pure; (2) although most school districts require that the juice it serves be 100 percent pure, they generally rely on the product label and the vendor's integrity to ensure that the juice meets nutritional standards; (3) the extent of juice adulteration is unclear, since juice plant inspections and laboratory tests are not designed to detect adulteration; (4) government and industry officials believe that apple juice adulteration is not a major problem, but as much as 20 percent of the orange juice sold to school meal programs may be adulterated; (5) the Department of Justice has convicted six juice adulterators and the Department of Agriculture has debarred three companies that remain in operation; and (6) in-plant inspections and juice testing programs are potentially effective but costly options for enhancing the detection of adulterated juice.

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