Have you ever enjoyed a tall, cool glass of orange juice?
Unless you juice your own oranges, then you haven’t.
I’m serious…you haven’t had a glass of orange juice. Not once. Ever. In your entire life.
What you had was a tall, cool glass of orange water.
Let me explain.
The heat is on
If you read my post on milk, particularly the section on pasteurized milk, you know that pasteurization kills most of the beneficial bacteria in milk. Americans have been brain-washed into thinking that all bacteria is bad, so the thought of beneficial bacteria is foreign to most of us.
Nearly all orange juice on the market (98%) is also pasteurized. Have you ever stopped to wonder why on earth orange juice would need to be pasteurized? According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), pasteurization is needed to kill two particular pathogens: E.coli O157:H7 and salmonella. That answer begs the next question: why would there be salmonella, or even more unfathomably, E.coli O157:H7 (which is found naturally in the intestines of cows) on produce like oranges? That one is still a mystery.
According to the book Raw Milk Revolution, past history has shown that the CDC attributes food-borne illnesses to certain foods (like raw milk) even when there is zero evidence of that food being the source of the illness. And if you’ve watched the documentary film Food Inc., you realized that big agribusiness puts their foot on the collective throats of small farmers. So the cynical side of me says the politics of food regulation and big agribusiness is similarly what’s driving the requirement to pasteurize orange juice in order to either put small farmers out of business or force small farmers to fall under the control of big agribusiness.
What happens during juice pasteurization
Whatever the reason for pasteurizing juice, the fact remains that the “orange juice” you drink is not really orange juice at all. Since it is pasteurized, the vitamins in the juice are destroyed. This is why, if you read the list of ingredients in orange juice, OJ producers add back ascorbic acid to their juice: ascorbic acid is vitamin C. The natural vitamin C in the juice no longer exists so it must be added back.
Let’s continue. The juice is then evaporated by vacuum and heat to reduce into concentrate. Have you ever wondered why orange juice is almost always from concentrate? The reason for turning the juice into concentrate is nicely explained in this St. Petersburg Times article (under the section entitled ‘Concentrating on taste’): orange juice needed to be sold in a way that would extend shelf life.
But there’s more. When the juice is reconstituted with water, citric acid and other essences and oils are also added back to the juice because pasteurization not only destroys the OJ’s vitamins but also the OJ’s flavor by destroying those essences and oils (more on that in a bit). Check the ingredient list of your favorite orange juice…you may see these add-back items listed. If these add-backs are only trace ingredients (as they sometimes are because not much is needed to “refresh” the flavor of the reconstituted juice), then they don’t even need to be labeled on the ingredient list.
You may think it’s not so bad if the producers are adding back something that was taken away. After all, it seems like no net loss, right? Not exactly. The essences and oils that the manufacturers are adding back are chemically configured (read: man-made) in ways that are nothing like their natural configurations. They are chemical replacements (like ethyl butyrate) for the natural versions.
The pasteurization process also strips the oxygen from the juice to allow the juice to be stored in million-gallon tanks for up to a year (a sub-process known as deaeration). One year! No wonder aseptically stored juice, in the words of Alissa Hamilton, author of the book Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice, “must be doctored to taste like orange juice”.
The “Not From Concentrate” scam
Ready for even more? What do you think of when you think of OJ labeled “not from concentrate”, such as from the brand Florida’s Natural? If you think juice that is freshly-squeezed from the groves of Florida and packaged directly into cartons, you’re not alone. That’s what most people think, but that’s not what “not from concentrate” (NFC) means.
Yes, NFC juice bypasses the concentration (evaporation) process but the concentration process is not what ruins the juice’s nutrition and flavor. Re-read the paragraphs above. What ruins the nutrition and flavor is the pasteurization process, and NFC juice is still pasteurized. So NFC juice is just as doctored as orange juice from concentrate! NFC juice is a marketing gimmick designed to charge consumers more for essentially the same type of juice.
The bottom line
When you drink a glass of orange juice, the Times article mentions that there are “more than 300 chemicals in the juice so that [Tropicana] can re-create the same flavor every time.” This again reminds us there are many more things in your “orange juice” than what’s on the ingredient list. That’s why I said at the beginning of this post that when you drink a glass of OJ, what you’re drinking isn’t really orange juice but chemically-crafted orange liquid. So even orange juice is no longer a natural product but just as much a processed food as some of those items in the middle aisles of your supermarket.
About a decade ago, I made a trip to a small town in Florida (don’t remember the name of the town offhand) but we bought some orange juice at an orchard. It was the most amazing juice I’ve ever had and I’ve not ever tasted anything like it since. It was clearly different from the stuff in the Minute Maid cartons I was used to drinking.
To add injury to insult, out of convenience since my employer provides free orange juice to its employees, I drank bottled Mr. Pure orange juice on two separate occasions and each time, I got food poisoning. Coincidence? Possibly. But it reminds me that even pasteurized products can still cause sickness.
We used to buy orange juice faithfully every week, but about six months ago or so, we’ve stopped buying it. We’d rather eat the real thing.
What do you think? Will you continue buying orange juice?