Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Orange Juice or Orange Junk?

Have you bought any orange juice lately? Ever noticed that based upon the brand purchased that no matter when you buy it, March, August or December, it takes EXACTLY the same? Yeah, I never gave it much thought either, just chalked it up to the OJ farmers and their magic. Until now. Until I read an article that told me everything I didn't want to know about that beloved orange drink that I have been purchasing and consuming for more years than I will tell you. For those of you who can't part with your daily or weekly glass of OJ, you might want to stop reading now.

How exactly is it that OJ is processed in order to provide the same taste month after month after month? Can you say one big science project? All those big, sweet oranges are juiced into industrial-sized tanks and then all the oxygen is removed from them. This leaves a juice that is completely tasteless, but can be stored without spoiling for up to 12 months. Then, when the "juice" is ready to be prepared for our consumption, flavor packets are added to it. Flavor packets that have been carefully engineered to make it taste and smell fresh. And you won't find that flavor packet listed on the ingredient list as "technically" they have been derived from orange essence and natural oils.

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. She explains how OJ 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."

"[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.

I hope I've opened your eyes to what we are really consuming and how our food is really created. Logic would tell us that a freshly-squeezed glass of OJ will last a day or two and yet that carton of OJ in your refrigerator has an expiration date of 30+ days in the future. There will be no more of those cartons in my refrigerator. My family and I will only be drinking OJ that I have personally squeezed from oranges that I have purchased.

Alissa says:
"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."

Sources: Food Renegade, Dr. Mercola

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