What's In My Orange Juice?
We've had some good discussions in other threads that at times branch out into other interesting topics such as GM foods, food processing techniques and so on. Since this is a website devoted in part to fresh wholesome breads I make the assumption that many posters here are conscious about their food choices and make extra time to research and understand more fully what they are eating and drinking. This kind of research can be
long and arduous at times but I thought that whilst we all sitting patiently for our bulk fermentations and overnight retards we might run a few threads in this "Off Topic" section of the forum to discuss some of these foody issues to share what we know. I therefore invite the creation of such threads and people's open views on the issues raised, that we might all benefit from our collective knowledge and practical experience.
For this thread I bring up the topic of Orange Juice and the labelling laws relating to it.
We're all familiar with different types of O.J in our supermarkets and stores and we are somewhat used to the varying terminology used on the packaging such as :
"Pure" juice, Freshly Squeezed Juice, Juice from concentrate, juice not from concentrate and so on.
It turns out that people's perceptions and preconceived notions about what those terms actually mean is pretty poor and is not helped much by the labelling laws. I found a research report on this which outlines how people interpreted the terms which, though old (2002), is still useful in highlighting the issues:
One of the most startling things I discovered in relation to O.J, was that the product can be up to a year old. I guess when one thinks through the fact that oranges are seasonal and yet we have O.J sold every day and it always tastes exactly the same, something in our heads ought to be ringing questioning bells.
It turns out that in the processing of O.J, the manufacturers often put the juice in large asceptic containers and pump out all of the oxygen and can then leave it there for up to a year. The removal of the oxygen unfortunately strips the product of it's orange taste and thus before it can be sold, they add special "flavour packs" into it to restore an orangey taste. After reading about these packs I find some sources refer to them as chemicals (rightly or wrongly) and that they are derived from the orange peels and thus are essences and oils and the like. As such, being technically part of the orange, our good friends the FDA do NOT require these flavour pack additions to be recorded separately on the product labels ! Thus when you pick up that carton of O.J. which might say "not from concentrate" thinking it must in some way therefore be fresh and recent and somehow better than "from concentrate" juice, it could in fact be up to a year old already, have been stripped of its natural orange flavour (through removal of oxygen) and had an artificial "orangey" flavour put back into it via these flavour packs.
References to flavour packs can be found here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orange_juice (search in here for flavour packs)
It turns out that different countries have different expectations of what their O.J. ought to taste like and so there are differently created flavour packs for each and I've read in some places that consultants from perfume manufacturers are sometimes brought in to help with this.
A couple of issues arise out of all of this for me personally which are:
1. If the FDA doesn't require flavour packs and their ingredients to be listed on the label, on the basis they are derived from oranges, then how come the main ingredient listed is orange juice, why isn't the entire product sold as "a drink derived from oranges"? Why does the juice element from the orange get listed and the other elements from the orange not get listed? There doesn't seem to be much consistency here imo.
2. Exactly what IS in these flavour packs and are they either nutritional and / or are they healthy or unhealthy?
I ask this because whilst we might deem O.J. itself to be healthy, drinking massive quantities of it isn't. It takes many oranges to make a glass of juice yet we would not typically sit there and eat that many oranges in one sitting. Same for apples and apple juice. If we ate lots of apples our intake of sugars woud be high and the state of our teeth probably poor. Do these flavour packs contain essences and oils and other parts of oranges in very large quantities in order to recreate that orangey flavour? With no labelling requirements in place for them, it seems impossible for the consumer to know. What I do surmise from these packs is that they are concocted recipes, (like the secret Coca Cola formula) and as such are entirely unnatural. They may be made from natural things, but the final flavour pack is not something found in nature.
If you're wondering whether the brand of O.J. that you drink does or does not have flavour packs, then the link below may help. This is someone's attempt to assemble a list having contacted the manufacturers and asked them. The results are far from clear though as typically the responses from manufacturers were unclear in many cases:
In the end, despite learning about flavour packs, and terminology, I personally reach a simple conclusion
If I want some orange juice . . . . go eat an orange!