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Jams – Mixed Fruit

Jams – Mixed Fruit

Fruit Jams

Ever heard of Mala"s and Pan? These are the two jams that beat heavyweights like Sil and Kitchens of India, in overall quality.
Comparative testing of 12 most popular brands of India reveals a high dosage of chemical preservatives in jams – as much as five times more than the maximum limit prescribed in national standards.

Among just some of the violations of national standards, the mandatory FPO mark is missing on 3 brands.

Labelling is the bane of processed food in India as no brand has either the ISI mark. And if one thought fruit jam would mean that the primary ingredient would be fruit, there could be nothing farther from the truth. Going by labelling on jams, it is sugar that is listed as the main ingredient by manufacturers.

Jams are a perfect accompaniment with bread, toasts, and pancakes for breakfast, and for ice creams anytime during the day. While jams are consumed extensively, and across the board by all age groups, what is not known is the actual quantity of fruit pulp in the jam, the pesticide contamination, or the quantity of preservatives added in the product. Tests on 12 brands of mixedfruit jams have some interesting findings to report. The quantity of preservatives like Benzoic Acid, and Tartaric Acid are 5 to 6 times (respectively) above the maximum permissible limit. The quantity of fruit pulp or fruit content is barely above the minimum requirements of national standards. Kissan and Sil may be the most advertised jams on television, but they certainly are not the best in terms of overall quality. What"s more, brands that score the highest in overall performance are also the ones that are the cheapest! 

So a Mala"s or a Mapro will not just give you least metallic contamination and sulphur dioxide residue, and other undesirable excessive ingredients like benzoic acid, but also not hurt your pocket so much. While a 500 g Kissan jam bottle costs Rs 60, you will get Mala"s and Mapro at Rs 52 and Rs 54 respectively. Jams are sweet, no doubt, but is the sugar quantity in jams so high, that it constitutes the main ingredient in the product? Yes, if jam labels are to be believed. It is sugar, and not fruit pulp that is labelled as the top ingredient by jam manufacturers. What"s more, no label mentions the quantity of ingredients used, in descending order. This essentially means that a consumer has no way of knowing if a jam has a predominance of fruit content or fruit pulp in it (which is how it should be), or if it is sugar or pectin which have been used to increase the volume of the food product.


Jams : Brands Tested

Brand Tested

  •   Mala"s 
  •   Kissan 
  •   Pan 
  •  Mapro 
  •  Sil 
  •  Tops 
  •  Karen Anand 
  •  St. Dalflour 
  •  Mortan 
  •   Druk 
  •  Stute Diabetic 
  •  Kitchens of India


Eating Fruit Pulp or Pectin?
The most common gelling agent is pectin, which is used to make jam. All fruits contain pectin in their skins and to a lesser extent in the pulp. However the amount of pectin varies with the type of fruit and stage of maturity. Apples fruit content, thus reducing value for money.
Standards allow a maximum pectin content of 1% in weight.
The lowest pectin content was found in Pan, followed by Sil and Malas, whereas Mortan and Karen had the highest pectin content.

Fruit Content: Bare Minimum!
It is not just fruit content that goes on to make a bottle of jam. The total mass is made up of ingredients like sugar, fruit pulp, pectin, preservatives, salt, food colour and other soluble solids present naturally or added in combining form. All of these make the total soluble contents of a jam.Indian standards specify that the Total Soluble Content (TSC) should be at least 68% of the total weight. However standards remain ambivalent on the minimum required total fruit content in jams. This way, a consumer has no way of finding out how much fruit she is actually having when she buys fruit jam. When ConsumerVOICE tested jams for their total soluble content, we were at a loss to ascertain what test methodology to adopt to detect the total fruit content in jams, as Indian Standards do not lay down any guidelines on how the total fruit content can be detected.
Consumer VOICE tests reveal that all 12 brands tested keep their total soluble solid content just at the bare minimum level, hovering near 68% minimum requirement as set by the Bureau of Indian Standards—the highest TSC being that of Sil and Druk, and the lowest being that of Malas.

Residual sulphur dioxide
One decided disadvantage that processed foods have is that of preservatives, flavour, and colours being added to them. Sulphur dioxide is one such undesirable (albeit a technological necessity) product. The national standards prescribe a maximum sulphur dioxide limit of 40 ppm for jams and in Sil and Mortan, the sulphur dioxide content is the highest at 34.98 and 33.90 ppm. Kitchens of India had the least sulphur dioxide content.Residues of sulphur dioxide are found in processed food due to the excessive use of sulphites preservative. Sulfuring is a process through which raw fruits and fruit pulps are subjected to sulphur dioxide fumes as sulphur dioxide maintains the quality and nutrition of foods during drying and storage. However, it destroys Vitamin B1 content and more seriously, can cause severe adverse reaction on consumption, especially in asthmatics.

The missing label

If one would pick up a bottle of packaged jam somewhere in UK, one would be surprised to find that the food regulations in that country require labelling to declare residual sulphur dioxide in the list of ingredients, or even the source of sugar (for e.g. apple sugar, if put in jams as “reduced sugar”). The type of fruits used is declared in descending order of weight used in the preparation. The declaration of both the fruit and sugar content must appear in the same field of vision as the name of the product, and clearly. In India, the story is diagonally different. None of the 12 brands tested by Consumer VOICE declared the quantities of ingredients and preservatives used. The ISI mark standard was introduced for jams in 1993. Thirteen years later, no brand has taken the ISI mark (which is voluntary) or the Ecomark. No FPO Mark: The Food Product Order (FPO) mark, along with the license no., is mandatory labelling for processed and packaged fruit and vegetable food items in India. Druk, Stute Diabetic Apricot jam, and St. Dalflour did not have the FPO mark. No instructions for storage: Kissan, Kitchens of India, Sil, Mapro, Druk, Pan, and Mala"s do not given any information on storage instructions.

Benzoic acid content rings alarm bells

What is neatly hidden and clustered under the head class II preservatives” in food label is an array of substances like benzoic and tartaric acid. These acids are added to fruit juice to bring the pH level within the range that is necessary for jam-making. Benzoic acid is a common preservative added to prevent growth of moulds, yeast and other bacteria. It is also added in soft drinks as a widelyused food preservative. Benzoic acid contributes to increased overall acidity of the product and people suffering from gastric or acidity problems would do well to keep away from processed foods that have high benzoic acid content. Jams, unfortunately, fall in this category. Indian standards allow for a maximum of 200 ppm of benzoic acid content in jams. Shockingly, all but one of the 12 brands tested overshoot this upper limit by a wide margin. The ITC brand "Kitchen of India"–that claims on its label to have no preservatives, violates themost with its benzoic acid content being the highest at 984.80 ppm instead of the maximum limit of 200 ppm. Mala"s was the only saving grace, with its benzoic acid quantity being 145.43 ppm. Kissan was at 230.48. Kitchens of India and Druk also perform poorly in the microbiological tests. While other brands had their yeast & mould value less than 10 cfu/gm, these two jams had a value of 45 and 22 respectively.

Key findings

  • Benzoic and tartaric acid (class II preservatives) quantity above maximum permissible limit in all brands. Kitchens of India that claims to have no preservative at all has benzoic and tartaric acid five to two and a half times respectively in excess.
  • Sugar, and not fruit pulp, is the main ingredient in jams. All brands, except for St. Dalflour, label sugar as the main ingredient in jams.
  • BIS standards for jams still voluntary in India. No brand has the ISI mark.
  • Bhutanese-made brand— Druk, and St. Dalflour of France, and Stute Diabetic Apricot Jam do not have the mandatory FPO mark.
  • Karan Anand Mix Fruit Conserve has the highest quantity of arsenic and lead contamination, but within permissible limits. Sil and Mortan have the highest quantity of sulphur dioxide residue in their jams.

Tartaric acid: Six times in excess than safe limit
Tartaric acid is not an ingredient that you would generally find on your jam"s label, but it is present in all jams. It is used as a taste enhancer in foods to make them taste sour. Standards limit this ingredient to a maximum of 600 parts per million (ppm). All the 12 brands wantonly flout this limit. St. Dalflour has the highest tartaric acid concentration at 3969 ppm, followed by Stute Diabetic Apricot.

When Consumer VOICE looked at the high quantity of sugar in jams (jam labels mention sugar first in the list of ingredients – a sign of high sugar content), we could not help but make a deduction that perhaps it is to mask the high sugar content that tartaric acid has been used in such high quantities in jams. Tartaric acid imparts a sourish taste to jam, perfect to camouflage the sugary-taste that one would get while eating jam, given the high sugar content in jams.Tartaric acid imparts a sourish taste to jam, perfect to camouflage the sugary-taste that one would get while eating jam, given the high sugar content in jams.

Jams have synthetic food colours
Except for the ITC brand "Kitchens of India", and St. Dalflour, all jams use synthetic food colours like Tatrazine & Ponceau 4R, that are permitted synthetic food colours, which impart yellow and red colours respectively. The maximum permissible limit for food colours is 200 ppm, and the good news is that all brands conform to this maximum limit. Among the ten brands that have synthetic food colours, Stute Diabetic Apricot jam has the least colour at 29.57 ppm, followed by Mapro.

Kissan and Tops—the most visible brands in terms of advertising have the highest amount of food colour at 74.68 and 47.16 parts per million (ppm) respectively.

Make Your Own Jam!

A fruit jam is relatively simple to make and the best thing about a home-made jam is that it can be had fresh, without having to add too many preservatives to it. One is also assured of the quality of fruit and fruit pulp put in as ingredient. A two-teacup quantity jam can be made in roughly 25 minutes.
Here’s one easy-to-make recipe of strawberry jam for you from Consumer VOICE!

  • Take a teacup full of strawberries
  • Take ¾ cups of sugar
  • Juice of ½ lemon

Cook the sugar and strawberries to a thick consistency after mixing them together.
When the mixture has cooled, add the lemon juice to it. Store tightly in a dry glass jar.
With other jams, you can experiment with a pinch of cinnamon powder, to liven up the taste a little.

Jams give money"s worth in net weight
All the 12 brands of jams tested had declared their net weight between250 to 500 g. When Consumer VOICE weighed them under laboratory conditions, we found that all of them actually weighed more than the quantity declared on the label. And among these, "Kitchens of India" performed the best—its 305 g jar (declared value) containing 351 g of jam.

Sensory tests fail to detect any fruit
Apart from laboratory testing of jams according to national standards, Consumer VOICE also conducted sensory testing of jams with seven panelists in laboratory conditions. What is noteworthy is that no panelist could identify the taste of any fruit in the jams tested. Most panellists reported sweet and sour taste of the jams.


Successful Jam-Making

  • Always use fruit that is in peak condition, preferably slightly underripe—the pectin content will be at its best. Over-ripe or damaged fruit is not ideal—the pectin has begun to change to pectose and the jam will not set well. The result is likely to deteriorate rapidly. Jam jars need to be very clean.
  • To sterilise jars, wash in soapy water, rinse well and then place in a cool oven - 130C/250F/Gas ½ - for 15-20 minutes.
  • Use the correct amount of sugar as indicated. The sugar reacts with the pectin to set the jam.
  • The amount of sugar you need depends on the amount of pectin in a fruit, but generally, the fruit to sugar ratio for traditional jams is 450gm (1lb) sugar to 450gm (1lb) fruit. The sugar content is sometimes a little higher or lower depending on pectin and acid content. Very acidic fruits such as blackcurrants have good pectin content—these can take an extra 50 to 100gm of sugar to get a really juicy jam. Fruit such as strawberry—lower in pectin, but also much sweeter—can take the usual amount or possibly a little less.
  • Use coarse-grain sugar such as preserving or granulated—this ensures a good clear jam. Coarse grains dissolve more slowly and evenly giving a better result. Fine sugars dissolve less easily and are usually more expensive too.
  • Dont add water when cooking fruits already high in sugar, such as strawberries, raspberries and blackberries.
  • Dont overboil the preserve. Once the sugar is added it usually takes a fairly short period of time to reach setting point, as long as the pectin content is good.
  • To test for setting, put a spoonful of the jam on a cool plate and put into the fridge for a few minutes. After that time the jam or jelly will form a wrinkly skin if it is ready.
  • Always cover the jam immediately after it has been poured into the jars as this gives a good seal and prevents mildew appearing on the surface.
  • Always store preserves in a cool, dry area, away from direct sunlight, and use within the year.
  • Know the pectin content of the fruit used—the higher the pectin content, the better the set. If you use fruit with a low pectin content, try adding some fruit with high pectin content such as apples, damsons or redcurrants to give a good result. Alternatively, commercial pectin can be added to low-pectin fruits to ensure a good set. Pectin is best added to the fruit before the addition of the sugar.


How We Test
The testing of 12 brands of jams was carried out by Consumer VOICE at an independent NABL-accredited laboratory according to the voluntary national standard IS 5861:1993.
The provisions of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1956, and FPO were also referred to.

Performance Chart, Jams Click Here....

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