If you are a Jamaican then more than likely you have memories of buying either ‘suck-suck’ or ‘bag juice’ from a school vendor at some point in your life. These frozen or semi frozen beverages were usually cheap and easily made so they were quite popular among school age children.
The flavours were not commonly used but they were referred to by their colours and I remember that the ‘red bag juice’ was sold out before any other colours. I know that my bag juice would not even have a list of ingredients on the bag but my main focus was getting the sweet juice from the bag.
As a parent I found myself being very cautious about giving my own children access to the sweet treat. The reason for this was the concern about the high sugar content of these drinks along with the various amount of food colouring and preservatives that bag juices contain.
There is also the fact that the storage and handling of the treat is not always done in the cleanest of circumstances. The main concern of course was that I was not sure what was in those drinks in the first place.
Back in 2015, the Bureau of Standards had developed standards for the labeling of bag juice that was distributed to the general public. This new standard was ‘undertaken as one of many efforts intended to regularise the operations of bag drink manufacturers’. The full article is available at this link: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/business/20150503/bsj-develops-standards-%E2%80%98bag-drink%E2%80%99-production.
However the labeling of bag juice is still a debated topic especially about the ones that are distributed in early childhood centres and primary schools across Jamaica. New developments in that area have seen questions being raised about the lack of labeling for the items such as bag juice which is sold by the source supplier to the schools, Nutrition Products Limited.
The lack of labeling is of special concern as there might be a child with allergies who will not be able to tell the difference between an orange or pineapple flavoured bag juice as they have similar colouring. Read the full article here http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20180408/labelling-nutri-products-not-necessary-bureau-standards-knocks.
I have a more pressing concern though as I wonder what’s really in our bag juices?
The typical bag juice has a lot of artificial colouring and flavours, food dyes with names like Red #1 along with a healthy dose of various food preservatives.
Of course there are some bag juices which boast that they are made from real fruit juice. These bag juices are usually sold higher than their more sugary counterpart.
There is still much concern about the level of sugar that those bag juices contain as we live in a tropical climate it would be easy to think one of these iced drinks will be refreshing. However it might be better to reach for a long cool glass of water.
So what’s your take on the issue? Do you still drink bag juice?
Teri Ann Renee Paisley
Gleaner Online writer