The Disappointing Truth Behind America’s Orange Juice…Buyer Beware.

1 Mar

Okay folks, if you haven’t read about how store bought orange juice is made, I suggest you sit down to read this post. Now, I know this can be a hot topic, considering that up to 70% of American households have store bought orange juice in the door of their fridge as we speak, according to the Public Relations Director of the Florida Department of Citrus, Karen Mathis. This percentage was from 2011, so it may very well be higher now. I grew up with store bought orange juice and up until recently had it in our fridge too. Now, don’t worry it was always the “fresh squeezed”, “natural”, “not from concentrate” varieties. You know, the more expensive refrigerated variety that you give in and pay extra money for because you think they are better for you…WRONG. I was swept up by the advertisement appeal just like so many other people. I didn’t have my head under a rock, I obviously knew if I wanted the freshest juice possible, I should just squeeze it myself, but I had NO IDEA what manufactures were doing to make the “orange juice” that I would buy out of convenience.

Orange Juice | WholeGreenLove

When you think about orange juice, there are three big names that come to mind. Tropicana, which is owned by PepsiCo and then Minute Maid and Simply Orange, which are both owned by Coca-Cola. That alone makes me cringe when I realize that junk food companies that have monopolized and adulterated our food chain are supplying our “orange juice”. A beautiful picture has been instilled in our minds via advertisement of how orange juice is made… lush and bushy orange trees that are being kissed by the morning sun’s rays as dewy beads of water roll off the supple side of a perfectly ripe orange that is about to be picked. When in fact most commercial orange juice companies are producing and processing their orange juice in ways a consumer would never imagine, but deserves to know.

Orange Juice | WholeGreenLove

“Not from concentrate” was a phrase created by Tropicana in the 1980’s, which represented their pasteurized orange juice that was depicted by advertising as a fresher, more natural orange juice when compared to its cheaper “from concentrate” counterpart. The “not from concentrate” was higher in price not because of it’s natural freshness, but because of the cost in storing a non-concentrated juice, along with the technology it took to create an “aseptic storage” technique that would allow the manufacturer to store a million gallon tank of orange juice that would last nearly a YEAR in storage without oxidizing or becoming rancid. Doesn’t that sound tasty!? The process is called “deaeration”, which strips the juice of all is oxygen to help “preserve” it for large scale production. This process is described by Alissa Hamilton who holds a Ph.D. from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and a J.D. from the University of Toronto Law School. She is author of the book “Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice”, which was published by Yale University Press in 2009.

According to Alissa, “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. 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. The packs added to juice earmarked for the North American market tend to contain high amounts of ethyl butyrate, a chemical in the fragrance of fresh squeezed orange juice that, juice companies have discovered, Americans favor. Mexicans and Brazilians have a different palate. Flavor packs fabricated for juice geared to these markets therefore highlight different chemicals, the decanals say, or terpene compounds such as valencine.” Source

Just when you think it can’t get any worse, “The formulas vary to give a brand’s trademark taste. If you’re discerning you may have noticed Minute Maid has a candy like orange flavor. That’s largely due to the flavor pack Coca-Cola has chosen for it. Some companies have even been known to request a flavor pack that mimics the taste of a popular competitor, creating a “hall of mirrors” of flavor packs. Despite the multiple interpretations of a freshly squeezed orange on the market, most flavor packs have a shared source of inspiration: a Florida Valencia orange in spring.” Source

As I was reading this statement all I could think of was McDonalds. There is no possible way that you could recreate the taste of their burgers or French fries (not that you’d want to) because they are so chemically altered! These orange juice flavors are the same; they are chemically changed and not found in nature. It would be impossible to recreate them. No matter how many oranges you juiced or combined, you’d end up with better tasting and healthy orange juice, but you couldn’t make it taste like what’s in the carton.

This orange juice is a mix of 1 navel orange, 1 blood orange, and 1 clementine. It took only 3 minutes to get this juice ready!

This orange juice is a mix of 1 navel orange, 1 blood orange, and 1 clementine. It took only 3 minutes to get this juice ready!

I use a Breville juicer when I am juicing any mixed fruits and vegetable juices. If I am just juicing some type of citrus, I use a simple hand juicer that works great! Plus, it’s super easy to clean up. Nothing beats the fresh taste of just squeezed juice, plus you can know where the fruit came from and that you are getting all the nutritional benefits of fresh fruit that hasn’t been cooked to death through pasteurization and hasn’t been deaerated to create a non-palatable “juice”.

The point I wanted to get across with this article was not to make you feel bad about the juice you are drinking, but to bring awareness to what is happening to the “food” around us! We can’t trust that companies have our best interest in mind. Support your local farmer by buying direct from them or through farmers’ markets in your area whenever possible. Heck, grow your own if you can. Ultimately, if you want fresh and healthy juice, juice it yourself, or get if from a trusted source that utilizes transparency with their food preparation practices.

This post was shared on Fat Tuesday.



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20 Responses to “The Disappointing Truth Behind America’s Orange Juice…Buyer Beware.”

  1. Sharon January 19, 2014 at 8:23 pm #

    I have heard that Uncle Matt’s is the only OJ brand to buy because they do not treat their OJ this way. Does anyone know about Uncle Matt’s process?

    • Joanna | WholeGreenLove January 20, 2014 at 5:29 pm #

      Hi Sharon,

      I have not heard anything about Uncle Matt’s orange juice. If you find out be sure to let us know. We’ve just stuck to juicing our own when we’ve got a taste for a cup :)

      Take care!

  2. Tammy March 6, 2013 at 10:08 am #

    Where does that leave us? To fresh squeeze is great – but what about farmers altering the fruit – aren’t oranges supposed to have fast amounts of dye injected into them, as well as pesticides, waxes, anti-mould sprays and so on. I think I am going to give up eating.

    • Lisa W March 10, 2013 at 10:47 am #

      Unfortunately, there is nothing on this Earth that is untouched by manmade chemical contamination. Nothing. They are spread by wind, rain, surface water, humans. People and animal predators who completely live “naturally” off the land in the arctic, are among the most chemically contaminated living things on Earth.

      We do need to make the best choices we can with what we have. Weigh the pros and cons. For example, eating certain conventionally-grown vegetables during times when organic is not available is better than not eating any vegetables at all. On the other hand there are some conventionally-grown crops that are never a good idea (apples, peaches, strawberries) (see EWG’s list of best/worst produce – they tested pesticide residue levels). Oranges are about halfway down the spectrum of pesticide residue results. Maybe you’d feel better choosing grapefruit.

      The sad truth is that we cannot sustainably, organically, and 100% cleanly feed all 7 billion of us. If we are lucky enough to be able to afford the higher prices that are required for organic produce, we are truly lucky, and we are doing our part to help those farmers who choose to farm organically continue their good practices.

      • WholeGreenLove March 10, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

        Hi Lisa – thank you for your comments. It sure is hard to avoid the food/environmental toxins in this world. Blah! All you can do is be well informed and everyone just do the best they can. The dirty dozen list is a great guide in making decisions about organic vs. conventionally grown food.

    • WholeGreenLove March 10, 2013 at 7:49 pm #

      Tammy – navigating our food system is frustrating and yes, I’ve heard to about injected dyes, waxes, etc. although I’m not sure about the specifics on that. Knowing your farmer and eating locally from sources you trust are your best option. Don’t give up eating!! :)

  3. Nadia Amiel March 3, 2013 at 7:35 am #

    I am shocked and very disappointed. Didn’t think about the Pepsi/Coca Cola link but you’re right. Junk food companies selling us “healthy” drinks too. If they don’t care about all the chemicals they put on one side, why would they care about the other?

    What kind of oranges do you recommend for juicing?

    • Joanna | WholeGreenLove March 10, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

      Hi Nadia,

      I love mixing different oranges together when Im juicing. I would just pick what looks ripe and delicious. My most recent juice had tangerines, navels, clementines, and blood oranges…you can’t beat the fresh taste of it. It’s so naturally sweet I like it as a “dessert” after a meal :)

  4. Libby-eatplaylovemore.com March 3, 2013 at 1:15 am #

    I knew enough to stay away from apple juice so I would allow my kids the very rare glass of OJ while out with more conventional eaters. After reading your article I feel mad and deceived. Our poor, precious, innocent children are being contaminated from all angles. Thank u for exposing this con.

  5. Lisa White March 2, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

    I was banned from a Facebook page that shared this because I took a critical look at the claims in this blog post. I am an environmental chemist with a background in biology and do not feel that all the facts are presented neutrally. I guess that makes me a troll? Somebody even accused me of working for the food industry. I can’t defend myself because I was blocked. I simply aimed to point out that not everything on the internet provides thorough information and is usually slanted. I thought that the way this was written left a lot of holes.

    When I responded to the Facebook post, I happened to save most of my thoughts to clipboard, so I’ll share them again here. I would be happy to discuss any of these points and hope not to simply be banned for not being 100% in agreement:

    “Aseptic storage” is a scary sounding phrase, isn’t it? Aseptic storage simply means stored in an environment free from microorganisms. In this case, the air has been purged from the vat containing the OJ. You know those little boxes of milk or juice or COCONUT WATER that don’t need refrigeration? ASEPTIC STORAGE!!! Nobody is ripping oxygen molecules away from your food. Cans of black beans? Aseptic! Those fresh tomatoes you canned last summer? Aseptic storage. Think hospital room. Actually, don’t. They’re gross. Your OJ is much safer.

    On to all of those horrible unnatural chemicals. Terpenes sound like scary chemicals. But, they are mass produced by your favorite plants! They are the essential oils that make lemons lemony, oranges orangey and pine needles piney. Not all chemicals are doomsday, folks. Just wash them down with your favorite dihydrogen monoxide-based beverage!

    According to the article, ethyl butyrate is a “chemical IN the fragrance of fresh squeezed orange juice.” A chemical not only found in nature, but found in orange juice. It is added back after pasteurizing to enhance the flavor of mass produced orange juice, and stored in chambers that have been purged of oxygen.

    Obviously, eating an orange is best. But we make choices of convenience sometimes, right?

    • Emily March 3, 2013 at 10:41 am #

      Thank you for bringing some sanity back into this mass hysteria.

    • Barb March 6, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

      Lisa W – You are correct that there are some very natural terms in this article that are presented in a rather scary way.
      That said, do you not think that the public has the right to know (and truly understand) that the “fresh squeezed, natural” beverage they are consuming was actually ‘fresh-squeezed’ a year or more ago, and that the ‘natural’ taste was whipped up in a laboratory? Shouldn’t they know that much of the nutritional value of the product is not from the original orange, but artificially added back in, along with lots of sugar?

      It’s no surprise to anyone that mass-produced orange juice does not have the beneficial fiber, living enzymes and exact nutritional benefit of eating an actual orange. But when I learned just HOW different they are about a year ago, it was a very simple choice for me. I wanted real orange juice, and that is most definitely NOT what they are selling!

      Now, if they want to label it honestly, it could be called “The tastiest year old orange juice product our scientists could create!”. At least that would give consumers a fair basis for making their food choices. Sadly enough, it would probably still sell.

      • Lisa W March 8, 2013 at 11:29 am #

        I agree that “fresh squeezed” is a lie, and that drinking a carton of OJ is not as good as eating whole oranges. I never said that it was as good as eating an orange. I also agree that “100% natural” is a stretch in the case of carton OJ, and that labels should be less misleading. However, the stuff that they put into OJ comes from oranges. So that’s how Tropicana can say (yes they are stretching it) 100% pure orange juice (with no sugar added BTW). Drinks where sugar is added shouldn’t even be included in this conversation. Consumers should be able to read the label and see that something like Sunny Delight is not “juice” anyway.

        I am not sure what a “living enzyme” is, but terms like that seem to be popular with health enthusiasts. An enzyme is a protein that helps chemical reactions. Nothing alive about it, no matter where it comes from. Basic chemistry.

        As far as age of the beverage goes, I still haven’t heard anybody bemoaning the age of coconut water, almond milk, fruit preserves, that year’s worth of tomato sauce that grandma always made every summer, cans of coconut milk, beans, etc. All “old,” yet… fine? Should labels on those products also boast how old they are?

        My argument has always been with the unscientific sensationalism of these claims. “It’s not natural therefore it’s non-nutritious chemicals” sounds very honorable and awesome, but that is MUCH more of a stretch than saying that a carton of orange juice contains 100% orange juice.

        • Lisa S. January 21, 2014 at 12:41 pm #

          Preferably ALL food products were clearly labeled with production date and not just expiration date, for sure!

        • Jean Dessureault January 21, 2014 at 5:26 pm #

          Hi Lisa W,thank you for taking the time to bring some common sense to this discussion!

  6. Rachael March 2, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

    Yikes! No, thanks. I’m glad I stopped drinking this stuff a while ago. It just made me feel tired.

  7. JulesR March 2, 2013 at 7:43 am #

    That’s just crazy!! What are the FDA standards for “fragrance and color packs?” and why is it not listed on the packaging?? I dont live under a rock either and I appreciate that some processing must be done for convenience but claiming “all natural” …to me…seems deliberately fraudulent.

  8. Jessica March 2, 2013 at 5:00 am #

    What about frozen juice? Is it made the same way?

    • Joanna | WholeGreenLove March 10, 2013 at 8:54 pm #

      Hi Jessica,

      From my understanding concentrate is evaporated under vacuum and heat. Once a majority of the water is removed it is frozen in a concentrate form. It is “reflavored” following the vacuum and heating process. Since this form of “juice” is so concentrated it allows for cheaper more compact storage on the manufacturer’s part. Thanks for visiting our blog :)

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