Know What's in Your Food

Promoting awareness and change about the food we eat, and where it comes from.

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The Truth About Orange Juice

Top Selling Orange Juice Brands

Are you one of millions of people who drink orange juice? Did you know that orange juice is not as “all natural” as orange juice companies make them out to be? Did you know that in the near future, oranges could come from genetically modified orange trees?

A carton of orange juice purchased at your local store might lead you to believe that there is nothing in the carton, but fresh squeezed oranges. After all, that is what they claim on the package.

tropican oj back of tropicana

Here is the short story of how orange juice is made:

Millions of oranges collected from different groves that contain several varieties of oranges. Oranges are also collected from different countries to meet the large number of oranges required to make orange juice. Oranges are squeezed and the oxygen is removed from the juice and stored in storage tanks for up to a year. This process removes the flavor of the oranges and it must be reintroduced when it is packaged into cartons and ready for sale. The flavor is reintroduced by adding “flavor packets” to ensure that the (year old) orange juice you are buying tastes just the same as the last carton your bought.

“But actually, there is an important stage in between that is an open secret in the OJ industry. After the oranges are squeezed, the juice is stored in giant holding tanks and, critically, the oxygen is removed from them. That essentially allows the liquid to keep (for up to a year) without spoiling– but that liquid that we think of as orange juice tastes nothing like the Tropicana OJ that comes out of the carton. (source)”

“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.”

An ABC News article had this to say about America’s fresh squeezed orange juice flavor packets:

“But Alissa Hamilton, a former food and policy fellow at the Institute of Agriculture and Trade, said that modern technology is so “sophisticated” that these flavor pack mixtures “don’t exist in nature.” “They break it down into individual chemicals,” she said. “The flavor of orange is one of the most complex and is made up of thousands of chemicals.”  “They are fine-tuned so each company has its trademark flavor,” said Hamilton, who is author of the 2009 book, “Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice.”.”

These flavor packets are not required by the FDA to be on the ingredient label.

You can watch a video from 60 minutes (here) to learn how these flavor scientists brag about creating a taste that is equal to addiction  to keep the consumer coming back for more.

“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)”

The future of orange juice….

Lower left carton reads "No GMO Florida's Natural Premium Orange Juice is squeezed from 100% Florida oranges grown with out the use of biotechnology." least for now.

Lower left carton reads “No GMO Florida’s Natural Premium Orange Juice is squeezed from 100% Florida oranges grown with out the use of biotechnology.” …at least for now.

According to an article published by the New York Times In July 2013, the president of southern Gardens Citrus, Ricke Kress, is in charge of two and half million orange trees that produce orange juice. Confronted with a disease called citrus greening, Mr. Kress, so far, has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on producing genetically modified (GMO)orange  trees that would be resistant to citrus greening. Scientists are trying to create a GMO tree by using genes from a pig, a virus, and from a spinach plant. Mr. Kress has received  negative feedback from consumers and citrus growers. Some negative comments that should have been eye-opening to Mr. Kress:

“This isn’t like a bag of Doritos,” snapped another. “We’re talking about a raw product, the essence of orange.”

Mr. Kress was unmoved by such comments. He is anxious to get a GMO orange tree as quickly as possible.  So far the most successful experiment in producing a GMO tree comes from using DNA from a spinach plant. Mr. Kress is growing impatient with the time it will take to grow the GMO tree, produce fruit from the tree, and test the final product for quality and safety. He asked his research director Michael Irey,

“Isn’t there a gene,” Mr. Kress asked Mr. Irey, “to hurry up Mother Nature?”

“When some of the scientist’s promising trees got sick in their first trial, Mr. Kress agreed that he should try to improve on his results in a new generation of trees, by adjusting the gene’s placement. But transgenic trees, begun as a single cell in a petri dish, can take two years before they are sturdy enough to place in the ground and many more years to bear fruit.”

Fortunately, there isn’t such a gene for that at this time…. Mr. Kress chose to speed up the process by grafting branches from his experimental GMO spinach orange trees to existing orange trees.

“But visiting the field gave him some peace. In some rows were the trees with no new gene in them, sick with greening. In others were the 300 juvenile trees

with spinach genes, all healthy. In the middle were the trees that carried his immediate hopes: 15 mature Hamlins and Valencias, seven feet tall, onto which had been grafted shoots of Dr. Mirkov’s spinach gene trees. There was good reason to believe that the trees would pass the E.P.A.’s tests when they bloom next spring. And he was gathering the data the Agriculture Department would need to ensure that the trees posed no risk to other plants. When he had fruit, the

Food and Drug Administration would compare its safety and nutritional content to conventional oranges.”

The good news? When Mr. Kress first started out seeking GMO trees he gave little thought to the consumer. In the beginning of his quest he stated,

“And if the presence of a new gene in citrus trees prevented juice from becoming scarcer and more expensive, Mr. Kress believed, the American public would embrace it. “The consumer will support us if it’s the only way,” Mr. Kress assured his boss.”

As time went on, Mr. Kress has seen the organic moment grow and public awareness as the potential dangers of GMO’s. He now states,

“If we don’t have consumer confidence, it doesn’t matter what we come up with.”

Consumer confidence will be hard to gain with the use of GMO trees. The more consumers are  aware the less likely these big agriculture companies will want to use GMOs in our food. We have to create awareness and know what’s in our food. Please share this post with your friends and family.

Sources: ABC News, New York Times, Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice, Christine Scott Cheng