A listed Chinese fruit-processing company has been using rotten apples to make its juice, 95 percent of which is destined for export to the United States, Canada, Europe, and other destinations, according to media reports in the province of Shandong.
The company named in the reports, Haisheng Fresh Fruit Juice, is listed on the Hong Kong stock market. It has seen its stock price fall in the past few days, as Chinese internet users sought to confirm the claims.
Reporters from the state-controlled Qingdao TV visited Haisheng’s factory and farm, and reported on Oct. 10 that rotten fruit is being used in apple juice for export.
In a video report, apple farmers told Qingdao TV that the price of rotten or unripe apples is 0.20 yuan (about 3 cents) per jin, a Chinese unit equal to half a kilogram (about 1.1 lb). The cited price is just a tenth of what good apples of the same weight would cost.
The farmers sold the inedible produce to the Haisheng factory, where reporters saw workers clearing out tree leaves and other refuse while keeping the bad apples. On a list of posted work standards, there’s a warning against leaving rotten fruit in the supply chain.
Factory manager Zhan Shangwei told reporters that if more than a 20th of an apple is rotten, it isn’t suitable for juicing.
But the workers don’t follow that standard. The factory has used rotten apples for a long time, but workers don’t think much of it because the practice is common in the industry, they said. Furthermore, the products from this factory are expensive and unlikely to be consumed by the workers themselves.
“We don’t have any chance to drink this juice. It’s high-end,” a worker said. “Even for the Chinese New Year vacation, the factory doesn’t sell this juice to us.”
In the wholesale market, a 330-milliliter (11-ounce) bottle of Haisheng apple juice costs 18 yuan ($2.59), about five times the cost of apple juice from other brands.
In Hong Kong trading, shares of Haisheng have fallen since the news broke. As of Oct. 18, the price had slipped to 0.24 Hong Kong dollars. One Hong Kong dollar is current worth about $0.13.
Chinese netizens sharing the news said it’s common for juice producers to use rotten apples. In addition, they say many factories use saccharin, food coloring, artificial flavoring, and other synthetic chemical ingredients.
On Oct. 16, an article by the state-run Beijing News said that since 2012, there have been other reports about juice factories using rotten or unripe apples, including Huiyuan Juice, China’s largest producer.
Haisheng was founded in 1996 in northwestern China’s Shaanxi province. It has 10 apple juice factories in six provinces, as well as fruit farms, vegetable farms, and three other factories. According to its official website, Haisheng is the leading enterprise in China’s juice industry, producing 380,000 metric tons of juice, while consuming 2.66 million metric tons of apples annually.
China is the world’s largest supplier of apple-juice concentrate. In 2017, it exported 654,000 metric tons of apple juice for a total revenue of $590 million.
The United States is the biggest apple-juice importer, buying 299,000 metric tons in 2017. That year, Haisheng’s revenue in the U.S. market was 378.6 million yuan ($54.57 million); in Canada, 133 million yuan ($19.2 million); and in South Africa, 97.95 million yuan ($14.1 million).