Ever wonder how premium “100 percent pure” orange juice brands manage to taste delicious and fresh all year round, as though oranges never go out of season? Here’s a hint: it’s because that may NOT be pure orange juice you’re drinking. That incredible flavor comes from a “secret ingredient” that premium orange juice companies are not required to put on their labeling. (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/orange-juice-moms-secret-ingredient-worries/story?id=15154617)
That’s right, there is a dirty secret in your glass of orange juice that has been well-kept until recently. Although the carton says “not from concentrate,” that juice probably sat in a large vat for up to year with all of the oxygen removed from it (http://consumerist.com/2011/07/oj-flavor-packs.html). This process allows juice to be preserved and dispensed all year-round, even when oranges aren’t in season. Taking out all the oxygen also gets rid of all the flavor, so juice makers add flavor back into their products using pre-formulated “flavor packs” that are full of chemicals.
The dirty truth about commerical OJ
In the book “Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice,” author Aliissa Hamilton reveals that most orange juice comes from Brazil, not Florida, and that even popular premium “not from concentrate” orange juice is heated, stripped of flavor, stored for up to a year in tanks and then re-flavored before it is packaged and sold to consumers.
According to Hamilton, if one were to taste the juice coming out of these tanks, it would taste like pure sugar water, not orange juice. To spruce up the taste of this nutrient-lacking sugar water, orange juice processors add “flavor packs” to their beverages, which consist of various chemicals that are said to be oils and essences derived from orange byproducts. (http://civileats.com/2009/05/06/freshly-squeezed-the-truth-about-orange-juice-in-boxes/)
In fact, pasteurized OJ that is “not from concentrate” is more costly than “from concentrate” not because it’s closer to being fresh squeezed. Its higher price tag is because storing full strength pasteurized orange juice is more time and money-consuming than storing orange juice concentrate.
The current OJ production technology of choice is “aseptic storage,” which involves stripping the juice of oxygen (a process called “deaeration”) so it doesn’t oxidize in these million gallon tanks. It can be kept in these huge tanks for a year or more.
Delicious and fresh-squeezed or is it the chemical ethyl-butyrate?
When the juice is stripped of oxygen it is also stripped of the natural essences and nutrients that give it its flavor. Therefore juice companies hire flavor and fragrance companies, the same ones that formulate perfumes for Dior and Calvin Klein, to create flavor packs to add back into the juice to make it taste like it came straight from an actual fresh-squeezed orange.
The packs are different for each company, made from a combination of mixed and matched chemical flavorings. Most companies, including those within international markets, have their own trademark flavor of choice. For example, have you noticed that the OJ from MinuteMaid has a signature candy-orange flavor? In the US, manufacturers of these chemical packs emphasize high amounts of ethyl butyrate, a chemical in the fragrance of fresh squeezed orange juice that, juice companies have discovered, Americans favor this because it’s a flavor they associate with fresh, juicy oranges.
These so-called flavor packs aren’t listed as an ingredient on the label because technically they are derived from orange essence and oil. Yet even those in the OJ industry can’t deny the fact that these flavor packs, whether made for reconstituted or pasteurized orange juice, resemble nothing found in nature.