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I have condemned drinking orange juice for years because of its high sugar content. Like most fruits, juicing them concentrates the sugar. A glass of orange juice (even organic!) can have 24 grams of sugar – which is almost as much as a can of Coke.
What most people do not know about their orange juice is that it is flavored with a “flavor packet” that reconstitutes the fresh OJ taste. Years ago, commercial orange juice companies, such as Tropicana, would have frozen freshly squeezed juice stored in above-ground tunnels to have juice ready to go throughout the year. (2)
One problem… optimal growing conditions for oranges in the United States are extremely limited. (3) To get around that, juice-makers imported oranges from Brazil, but even then, there was always a risk of shortage. So they came up with a “better” plan, which is used by most large OJ-makers like Simply Orange and Minute Maid (owned by Coke), Tropicana (owned by Pepsi), and Florida’s Natural. (1)
What Happened to Orange Juice?
Fresh squeezed orange juice, like all fruit juices, have a tendency to spoil quickly. Manufacturers use a heating process or “deaeration,” which removes the oxygen so it won’t oxidize or spoil. This process allows them to store the orange juice in huge million gallon tanks for up to one year. The heating process, however, strips away the flavor of the juice – rendering the taste to be more like sugar water rather than fresh orange juice. (1,2)
To add the flavor back, manufacturers added “flavor packs” to the juice, developed by perfume companies. These flavor packs are derived from the essential oils from the orange and orange skins. For the orange juice consumers, this wholeheartedly ruined the fresh orange juice taste.
According to the FDA, these “flavor packs” do not have to be listed in the ingredients, because the chemicals in the flavor packs are derived from the oranges themselves. The problem is that when these essential oils are extracted, toxic solvents are used, and when they finally reconstitute the orange juice with the flavor packs, the chemical no longer resembles anything found in the orange itself, or nature for that matter. (1)
The flavor packs added to juice for the North American market are loaded with a chemical called ethyl butyrate, which has the fragrance of fresh oranges that Americans associate with fresh squeezed oranges. The orange juice sold to Mexico and Brazil contains different fragrances, like valencine, which Mexicans and Brazilians associate with fresh orange juice. (1)
To get the real taste of orange juice, buy a bag of organic Florida Valencia oranges and have one for breakfast, or juice it yourself. It will remind you of the days when an orange was still an orange!