Do you like to kick back with a fresh glass of orange juice in the morning? If so, are you really having a glass of orange juice? Or is it an industrialized drink that has been flavored to taste like orange juice that has the tacit approval of the U.S. Government? Alisa Hamilton author of the forthcoming book “Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice,”, provides some insight in a Q&A with Boston.com
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.
When it comes to pointing fingers at culprits responsible for the obesity epidemic, sodas are often the first to get blamed. But in my opinion, what passes for fruit juice is one of the topics that doesn’t get enough attention. At least with soda, most people realize that it is not healthy for you when consumed in excess. Mass-produced juice, be it orange or otherwise, has been marketed as overtly healthy, when in some cases it can be far more detrimental to consumer’s health. That orange juice goes through so much processing should be (but I realize, is not) surprising.
And really, when one has freshly squeezed orange juice direct from an orange, comparisons to the Minute Maids and Tropicanas of the world seem laughable. I truly believe that orange juice is one of those products where the difference between fresh and processed is so great, that once one has fresh, one can never go back to the juice aisle with a straight face.