Apricot preserves should not be judged by their packaging, appearances are deceiving

When making jams and “marmalades” at home, their makers are clear about how much fruit and sugar they have used. Simply put, the more fruit a jam contains, the better the quality. The consumer organisation dTest has investigated the quality of the ones bought. An independent test of apricot preserves revealed wide variations in fruit content, including misleading information on the packaging.

From a wide range of jams, dTest shone a light on single-variety, pure apricot products. It bought 18 jams from major supermarkets and examined their fruit content, sugar content and taste. “We selected almost identical products for the test, but according to the declarations on the packaging they were from four different categories. The majority of the products were extra jams, four belonged to the less sweet extra jams, one was a regular jam and the rest were fruit spreads,” says Hana Hoffmannová, editor-in-chief of dTest magazine.

The decisive chemical test was the analysis of the fruit content. “We determined the amount of fruit by an indirect method. From the measured content values of, for example, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, sorbitol, selected organic acids and the formol number, we calculated how much fruit the producer used. We compared this result with what the manufacturer declares on the packaging,” explains Hana Hoffmannová. The laboratory measured the biggest difference against the customer in the case of Globus Aprikose Konfitüre Extra, which declared 60 g of apricots, but actually contained only 47 g in 100 g of product. It was therefore given a failing grade for misleading information on the packaging. On the other hand, eight of the products contained more apricots than they claimed on the packaging. This fact is in the customer’s favour and therefore dTest scored it positively.

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Blueberries are one of the more expensive fruits, so the lab investigated whether manufacturers were replacing them with cheaper apples. Food chemists can now safely detect apples in fruit mixtures by measuring the presence of phloridzin. There was no adulteration; none of the apricot preserves tested were set with apples.

In addition to fruit content, dry matter content is also important to jam quality. Its values are determined by the decree. A higher dry matter content gives a more pronounced flavour to fruit spreads and ensures greater resistance to spoilage. An environment with at least 60 % dry matter is not conducive to undesirable microbes. With the exception of the Italian Santa Rosa Albicocche jam, there have been no problems with non-compliance with the prescribed dry matter requirements.

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The food didn’t escape the sugar measurement. There is no restrictive regulation for the sugar content of preserves. Indeed, the differences were significant, with sugar content ranging from 36% to 59%. “It should be added that these values include the sugar that went into the jam with the apricots. Sugar has a great function in jam, protecting the product from spoilage,” notes Hana Hoffmann.

DTest tips:

– Jams and fruit spreads with less than 60% solids spoil faster, always store them in the refrigerator after opening.

– The category of jam usually listed on the back of the package can be a definite guide when choosing a jam. The Decree knows several types of preserves with different compositional requirements:

  • Selective jams (Extra) – expected to be of the highest quality, they must be made only from whole, sliced or crushed fruit. With few exceptions, the producer must use at least 450 g of fruit per 1 kg of extra jam. Furthermore, the Decree prescribes a minimum of 60% dry matter for this category.
  • Selective less sweet jams – the proportion of fruit must be the same as for selective extra jams, but the dry matter content is between 52 and 59 %.
  • Selective special jams – the proportion of fruit must be the same as for the selective extra jams, but the dry matter content is up to 40%.
  • Jams – a step down in the hierarchy, generally at least 350g of fruit must be used per 1kg of jam and exceptions apply here too for selected varieties. The pulp, i.e. the passion fruit, can also be used for making ordinary jams. Passion fruit may be deprived of some of its valuable fibre, which is an important component of the diet. The dry matter must also be at least 60 %.
  • Marmelades – are a specific type of jam, according to European legislation they can only be called citrus fruit products.
  • Rosols and select jellies are not made from fruit pulp like jams, but from fruit juice. The requirements for the proportion of fruit juice and dry matter are the same as for jams and selection jams.
  • Fruit spreads – this is the name given to all preserves that do not fit into any of the previous categories. There are no special quality requirements for them. As the dTest tests have shown, fruit spreads can also include quality products made from more expensive fruit that do not reach the prescribed dry matter values.
Source: TZ