Health Impact News Editor Comments: This is an excellent report from the Dr. Mercola organization showing another instance where mass-produced food does not have complete transparency in the way their food is produced, leaving consumers uninformed about the real process used. Making healthy food choices is becoming more and more difficult. The article makes a reference to Tropicana, a product of PepsiCo, so one might wonder if companies selling organic orange juice use the same process. I emailed one of the largest distributors of organic orange juice and asked them. Their official reply:
The Orange Juice process begins with removing the orange peel. The remaining orange is pressed for the juice and the peel is pressed separately to extract the orange oil. The orange oil is then added back into the product at a controlled and specified amount per the USDA. The orange oil is added for flavor and aroma.
So yes, even organic orange juices use a similar process to be able to bring you shelf stable “fresh squeezed” orange juice in a box carton.
By Dr. Mercola
If you buy orange juice at the store, you may lean towards the kind that advertises itself as “100 percent juice” and “not made from concentrate”. But have you ever wondered why every glass of it tastes exactly the same? That’s because the flavor of store-bought orange juice has more to do with chemistry than nature.
For industrially-produced orange juice, after the oranges are squeezed, the juice is stored in giant holding tanks and the oxygen is removed from them, which allows the liquid to keep for up to a year without spoiling. It also makes the juice completely flavorless. So the industry uses “flavor packs” to re-flavor the juice.
According to Food Renegade:
“Juice companies therefore hire flavor and fragrance companies … to engineer flavor packs to add back to the juice to make it taste fresh. Flavor packs aren’t listed as an ingredient on the label because technically they are derived from orange essence and oil. Yet those in the industry will tell you that the flavor packs, whether made for reconstituted or pasteurized orange juice, resemble nothing found in nature.”
Dr. Mercola’s Comments:
It may come as a surprise to learn that what you find in a carton of 100% pure, not from concentrate orange juice is nothing like what you’d get if you squeezed an orange into a glass in your own kitchen. Instead, many popular orange juice brands use a chemical process to create juice that tastes and smells like oranges!
Alissa Hamilton J.D, PhD, a Food and Society Policy Fellow with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), explains the ins and outs of mass-produced juice in her book, Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice. It’s a potent reminder of just how important it is to really understand how your food is manufactured and processed because the label tells neither the whole story nor the whole truth…
If you think about it, if the orange juice was really freshly squeezed and packaged as is, the flavor would vary from batch to batch, because not every orange tastes exactly the same. Some are sweeter; others more sour. Also, each juice brand has a particular flavor that is uniquely ‘theirs,’ and the reason for this may throw you for a loop.
‘Not from Concentrate’ Doesn’t Mean Less Processed
Generally speaking, whenever you buy a beverage that consistently tastes the same, you can be sure it’s made using a patented recipe. And that recipe includes added flavors that may or may not fit the definition of natural.
In a previous article, Alissa Hamilton explains how your orange juice is really made:
“The technology of choice at the moment is aseptic storage, which involves stripping the juice of oxygen, a process known as “deaeration,” so it doesn’t oxidize in the million gallon tanks in which it can be kept for upwards of a year.
When the juice is stripped of oxygen it is also stripped of flavor-providing chemicals. Juice companies therefore hire flavor and fragrance companies, the same ones that formulate perfumes for Dior and Calvin Klein, to engineer flavor packs to add back to the juice to make it taste fresh.”
The reason you don’t see any mention on the label about added flavors is because these flavors are derived from orange essences and oils. However, the appearance of being natural doesn’t necessarily mean it is. As Hamilton states:
“[T]hose in the industry will tell you that the flavor packs, whether made for reconstituted or pasteurized orange juice, resemble nothing found in nature.”
The juice is also typically designed to appeal to the taste preferences of the market, and will therefore contain different flavor packs or chemicals depending on where it will eventually end up. According to Hamilton, the juice created for the North American market tends to contain high amounts of ethyl butyrate, which is one of the most commonly used chemicals in both flavors and fragrances. Aside from being versatile in creating a number of different flavors, including orange, cherry, pineapple, mango, guava, and bubblegum, just to name a few, it’s also one of the least expensive.
Other markets, such as the Mexican and Brazilian, tends to contain different chemicals, such as various decanals or terpene compounds.
What’s the Answer to Non-Transparency in Food Production?
If this makes you feel a bit dejected, you’re probably not alone. However, I hope it will also make you think more about how your food is created, and perhaps nudge you into using a bit more discretion and critical thinking before you fall for the next glossy advertisement.
“My intent was not to get people to stop drinking orange juice but [for them] to realize what it is they’re drinking. People have a right to know how industrialized the process has become, so they can make decisions that are consistent with their values. Many who drink orange juice also have concerns about the environment and agriculture, but don’t draw a connection. They might envision oranges growing in a Garden-of-Eden-like orchard in Florida, but I think if people took a trip to Bradenton, [the home of Tropicana, a product of PepsiCo] and went to the processing plants, then yeah, they might make different choices.”
While it’s certainly worth fighting for more transparency in the food industry and more truthful labeling, don’t hold your breath. However, there is an obvious alternative by which you can circumvent many of these hidden issues, and that is to return to fresh whole organic foods.
When it comes to orange juice, squeezing your own at home would be about the only way to get the real thing. (You know you are buying a heavily processed juice if the “Best Before” date is 60 or more days in the future, because real fresh-squeezed orange juice will only last for a few days.)
That said, drinking orange juice, whether fresh-squeezed or not, is actually NOT as healthy as it sounds. In fact, orange juice is one of the top five “health” foods I recommend avoiding, especially if you’re overweight, or have:
|Insulin resistance or diabetes||High blood pressure (hypertension)||High cholesterol|