The Orange Juice Deception

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition

A while back I wrote a blog about Why Fruit Juice Sucks, and today we are back with even more evidence to prove the truth of that statement. Orange juice is one of the most popular drinks in the country. Something like 40% of it is consumed in the Northeast, without a single orange grove for about 1000 miles. This alone should send off a few alarms, but the technology for shipping OJ is quite impressive, and actually doesn’t take all that long. So should we be worried?

An interesting article on boston.com with author Alissa Hamilton about her book Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice recently caught my attention. She explains many of the quirks and rather disturbing practices of the orange juice industry. In theory it seems like orange juice should be a simple and straightforward product right? It is merely the juice of an orange, nothing more nothing less, and more than 620 million gallons of this “natural” OJ are sold in the US per year. How natural and simple it seems, how completely deceived we are. The truth about OJ is that it is actually the result of real oranges, just not necessarily from Florida, combined with the ingenuity of chemists and their flavor packs to actually make it taste like juice after pasteurization and being held in storage tanks for upwards of a year.

Maybe not as pure and wholesome as we thought, eh?

Some of my favorite pieces from the article:

IDEAS: You write that the first question everyone asks when they hear about the book is whether orange juice is good for us. So – is orange juice good for us?

HAMILTON: I tell people if you like it, drink it, but not because you think it’s good for you. You’d be better off with a whole orange than a glass of orange juice. It has more fiber and more vitamin C. But I’m not a dietitian. The book is not about whether you should drink orange juice and whether it’s healthy. It’s about how little consumers know about how popular and – in the case of orange juice – seemingly straightforward foods are produced and the repercussions for agriculture.

After reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma I couldn’t agree more. Our agricultural system is an absolute nightmare, and if people really knew where their food came from, and we have the right to, I think a lot of things about our food production would change.

Next is my favorite section, as it shows just how sneaky and honestly how deceptive the OJ industry is, which is really just a microcosm for the entire food industry as a whole.

IDEAS: What isn’t straightforward about orange juice?

HAMILTON: It’s a heavily processed product. It’s heavily engineered as well. In the process of pasteurizing, juice is heated and stripped of oxygen, a process called deaeration, so it doesn’t oxidize. Then it’s put in huge storage tanks where it can be kept for upwards of a year. It gets stripped of flavor-providing chemicals, which are volatile. When it’s ready for packaging, companies such as Tropicana hire flavor companies such as Firmenich to engineer flavor packs to make it taste fresh. People think not-from-concentrate is a fresher product, but it also sits in storage for quite a long time.

IDEAS: What goes into these flavor packs?

HAMILTON: They’re technically made from orange-derived substances, essence and oils. Flavor companies break down the essence and oils into individual chemicals and recombine them. I spoke to many people in the industry at Firmenich, different flavorists, and at Tropicana, and what you’re getting looks nothing like the original substance. To call it natural at this point is a real stretch.

IDEAS: Why isn’t orange flavor listed in the ingredients on the carton?

HAMILTON: The regulations were based on standards of identity for orange juice set in the 1960s. Technology at that time was not sophisticated at all . . . I don’t think the concern is so much “are these flavor packs unhealthy?” The bigger issue is the fact that having to add flavor packs shows the product is not as fresh and pure as marketed. The flavor industry can lend diversity to products that aren’t really that diverse. Soft drinks are a perfect example: They’re corn syrup and flavor. With orange juice, it’s masking the processing procedure rather than the diversity of ingredients.

I know I am putting quite a bit of the article in here, but I just couldn’t help myself, I found almost every question and answer to be interesting and important to the discussion at hand. The last bit:

IDEAS: To what degree is orange juice still made from Florida oranges?

HAMILTON: Most concentrate is now from Brazil. Shipping it is relatively easy. Until recently, you could count on [Tropicana] Pure Premium being from Florida, but shipping technology has advanced. Companies like Tropicana have started shipping full-strength juice from Brazil rather than buying and squeezing in Florida. The majority of not-from-concentrate is coming from Florida-squeezed oranges, but that’s certainly changing. The orange growing is moving to Brazil, which grows the most oranges for juice by far. Land is cheaper, and environmental regulations are almost nonexistent.

(cough)bullshit(cough)

(cough) bullshit (cough)

This is scarily true, I looked at the OJ in our fridge, Tropicana Pure Premium, and wouldn’t you know it oranges from Florida and Brazil. I am tired of crap like this, why can’t we just get good quality products made with integrity, what is so hard about that? Don’t even get me started on what happens to the vitamin C content of the OJ after pasteurization and storage and shipping, a whole other can of worms.

On a good note, I found out that my mom has been reading my blog and she is looking for fresher food options. She walks every day and she passes a “farm”, it’s not really I just don’t know what else to call it, a family with some animals and a little land, and she bought a dozen freshly laid eggs from “the farmer” for 1 dollar. These chickens get to go outside every day, they eat their natural diet in the warm spring and summer, and these eggs aren’t being shipped for hundreds of miles and sitting for who knows how long before being consumed. Pretty exciting stuff in my world. And just for clarification, my family is from Maine, but we don’t live in the boonies where there are farms all over the place, we live in the second biggest city in the state (which isn’t saying much, but still), so it is nice to know that it is still possible to get eggs the old-fashioned way.

PS – Goi, you had a question on a recent blog post of mine which I accidentally deleted while getting rid of spam. If you read this, please repost and I will gladly answer. Sorry.

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Posted on April 14th, 2009 by Brian St. Pierre

11 Comments

  1. Sharon Says:

    And we wonder why our country is so laden with depression, ADHD, ADD & other types of chemical imbalances!!!

  2. Lisa Rymer Says:

    Dear Brian,

    The interview in the Boston Globe between Devra First and Alissa Hamilton provides sound cautionary advice to all consumers who think they are enjoying a fresh glass of orange juice. The concept that all orange juice is created equal is blatantly false and well documented in Alissa Hamilton’s new book, “Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice.”

    Quoting the author, “Consumers have a right to know what they are consuming.” This certainly is the intention behind listing ingredients on labels and truth in advertising mandates. However, overzealous marketers sometimes have a way of clouding information.

    The article states that juice is stripped of flavor through extensive processing and stored in huge vats for up to a year, only to have “flavor packs” added to make it taste like orange juice to unsuspecting consumers. However, there are orange juice companies that do not follow such practices and simply make juice the old fashioned way.

    Orchid Island Juice Company, family owned and operated in Ft. Pierce, Florida, has been squeezing fresh citrus juice on demand for 20 years. The juice is immediately chilled and shipped to grocery store shelves throughout the United States and many foreign countries without any additives or artificial flavoring.

    Orchid Island Juice Company encourages consumers to learn to read the label on the carton before purchasing any juice. Paying attention to the shelf life of a product helps consumers to be less susceptible to marketing hype. Nothing fresh could possibly last on a grocer’s shelf for more than 2 – 3 weeks. Anything with a longer shelf life must be “industrial strength.”

    Orchid Island Juice Company takes great pride in using only Florida grown citrus — no imports — to support Florida farmers. We believe it’s important to produce fresh food right here at home to feed our nation. From the beginning, our company’s motivation for making juice was to produce a pure, raw, whole food product to feed to our own children and to create jobs in the community.

    Not only is Orchid Island Juice good for you, it tastes delicious. Our company was judged as having the best tasting juice in America by Cook’s Illustrated magazine. The magazine is an impartial publication dedicated to bringing “truth” to consumers about a variety of food products. In addition, we were chosen best tasting orange juice among leading brands on NBC’s Today Show and, just the other day, by Real Simple magazine.

    While the low-carbohydrate movement may eschew fruit juices, an 8 oz. glass of orange juice contains 25% of the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables. Moreover, the Vitamin C in orange juice is an essential nutrient, the absence of which can cause scurvy. Vitamin C may also help synthesize neurotransmitters associated with mood elevation. In addition, the phytochemicals in orange juice are imbued with antioxidant qualities, which have been proven to help fight chronic disease. There are studies that indicate that the antioxidant benefits of drinking orange juice cannot be replicated by vitamin supplements.

    We believe one sip of Orchid Island Juice will convince you and your readers that all citrus juices are not created equal. You can taste the Florida fresh difference in Orchid Island Juice. Please, visit us online at http://www.OIJC.com or call us at 1-800-FRESHHH to learn more about our company.

    Sincerely,

    Lisa Rymer
    Director of Education and Public Affairs
    Orchid Island Juice Company

  3. Bob Parr Says:

    I like these food industry exposes you’re doing, Brian, even though it’s disturbing information.

    Ironically, there’s this TV commercial for Florida orange juice where the guy starts off by reading the ingredients on some sort of diet energy drink. He’s reading stuff like Riboflavin and Pyridoxine hydrochloride and comparing it to the single ingredient in the juice. Meanwhile I’m laughing, thinking “Yeah, those are just vitamins B-2 and B-6, so if you’re not going to eat an actual orange, that could be better than ingesting a whole day’s worth of natural fruit sugar in one glass.”

    While I don’t think energy drinks are a healthy choice either, it’s even funnier now that I know the commercial mention the flavor packets!

  4. sal Says:

    This is just another example of why you should eat locally and as directly from the source as possible. If you want fruit juice, buy organic fruit from a local farmer, and juice it yourself. Same thing with nut butter for example.. Buy the nuts and grind them. When you buy stuff in a package, you have no idea whats in it, how long ago it was made, and what the nutritional quality is.

    Also, the closer to the source, whether it is dairy, meat, or fruits/vegetables, the easier it is to tell the quality of the product. If you buy local and organic you can talk to the farmer about how they raised the cows, or when they picked the fruit. Good luck talking to the farmers in brazil. Sure it is more expensive, but you are paying for an orange that was picked the day before and brought directly to you. Not an orange that was picked 3 months ago, and has been processed and has chemicals added to it, and has been sitting on the shelves forever.

    Also, when buying from the farmer, 100% of the money you pay goes to the farmer. When you buy from tropicana, your money goes to some rich CEO who doesn’t care about anything but making as much OJ as cheaply as possible. meanwhile the farmers are barely able to survive on the pennies they are making.

    Find some local farmers that know what they are doing, and care about the products they make, and not simply about the money. You may pay more for the food, but you will make it up with your health in the long run. http://www.caff.org/

    A few years ago, I made the switch to local and organic. I don’t buy anything that comes in a package. I know (personally or have researched)the grower of almost everything I buy (except spices, and a few things that are not available locally). I havent gotten sick since I made the switch. I feel better every day. My skin, my vision, my dental health have all improved. I used to have asthma and I no longer have problems. Eating healthy has changed my life. I recently started a garden in my backyard, and I have easy access to tons of produce that I GREW, and know exactly what went into making it.

    Think about your daily meals. How often do you eat things that are truly fresh? i.e. fruit, vegetables, or herbs that were picked in the last 2-3 hours (let alone 24 hours). For most americans that is almost never.

    Even people that buy “organic” and think they are healthy have it wrong. Organic has become an industry. There is a difference between organic and healthy (we have organic pop tarts now). Apples grown in ecuador that are picked before they are ripe so that they are ripe when they get to you, and are shipped to the US, then driven in trucks to the grocery store, and sit there for weeks until someone buys them may be organic, but they are not fresh. That has an effect on the taste and nutritional quality. I know I am rambling, but I am really passionate about this. I think everyone should try to go a month eating only from local sources. Try to live off of farmers markets only. It will change your life.

  5. Brian St Pierre’s Nutrition and Training Blog « UltiTraining.com Says:

    [...] The Orange Juice Deception/Why Fruit Juice Sucks – I think these articles are incredibly interesting, spelling out that [...]

  6. Aaron Reid Says:

    Fantastic Article!! I’m definately gonna blog about this. I heard her on CBC radio today.

    THANKS!

  7. Stella Says:

    Your blog really makes some awakening on my part as a consumer. Thank you! This stuff really is a great help to the study I’m conducting right now.

  8. Isaac Lule Says:

    Thank you for your support. I humble request to you
    i need assistance from your office.
    Iam in process to making orange juice and pineapple juice.etc Im looking for table chemical in gradients in 20litle juice to be safety to 6 month.
    Thank you.Isaac Lule

  9. The Home of BSP Training & Nutrition » Blog Archive » Healthful Drinks with Actual Flavor! Says:

    [...] you insist on consuming a glass of OJ every morning (and who could blame you, it is delicious, but beware companies with poor production methods), here is some new data on the best options. While it seems intuitive that orange juice with pulp [...]

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