The dirty little secret behind “pure squeezed” orange juice

Mmm… is there anything more refreshing than a cold glass of orange juice in the morning?

Luckily, modern technology allows us to have fresh squeezed orange juice conveniently packaged in lovely, bright-colored cartons and stocked year-round at a grocery-store-near-you.

Oh, did I say “fresh squeezed”? I meant “pure squeezed.” Silly me.

“Pure squeezed” is the term manufacturers and marketers commonly use to describe not-from-concentrate orange juice. These juices have become increasingly popular since first entering the market in the 80s, and the reason is clear: it seems that these juices are “pure” and more fresh than from-concentrate juices.

Yeah, right.

According to Alissa Hamilton, author of Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice:

Orange juice has come to symbolize purity in a glass… Orange juice marketers have succeeded in creating an aura of golden goodness around the product. The idea that orange juice is ‘an essential part of a balanced breakfast’ is familiar and for the most part unchallenged. Criticism of the processed food industry focuses on that segment of the industry that produces and markets ‘junk’ food, notably candy, chips, soft drinks, sugary breakfast products, and typical fast food fare. Little attention is paid to processed foods such as orange juice that are advertised as pure, fresh and additive-free. From the informal interviews I have conducted, it is apparent that those who buy orange juice buy the stories that the industry tells, too. They are taken aback to learn that orange juice may not be what it is made out to be.

The dirty little secret behind “pure squeezed” orange juice…

Like any fruit, oranges have a growing season. But demand is steady throughout the year, and if you’ve ever been to a typical grocery store, you will see that supply is steady throughout the year as well. In order to meet demand, orange juice companies pick the oranges when they are in season, juice them, pasteurize the juice, and then store the juice in million-gallon tanks where it is not exposed to oxygen (a process called “deaeration”) for up to a year. This process depletes the juice of most of its natural flavor.

“But my juice has flavor,” you’re thinking. That’s right. The almost-flavorless juice is then spiked with flavor packs made from orange byproducts before being bottled and shipped out to a grocery-store-near-you.

According to Hamilton:

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.

So what does this mean for me?  Well luckily, I’m not a big juice person. If you follow Body Unburdened on Facebook, you will likely have noticed that I’m a huge smoothie person, though! Yummy…

But what does this mean for you? That’s your call! To many, this is just another injustice and careful marketing ploy on behalf of the food industry. In fact, there have been a number of major lawsuits against the major orange juice producers for mislabeling their products and misleading consumers.

If you can’t stand the idea of living without orange juice and are disgusted by what you just read, consider investing in a citrus juicer and making your own fresh juice whenever you want!

Sources and further reading:

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  1. Definitely! This just applies to the big-name “pure-squeezed” or not-from concentrate OJ you find at the grocery store. Fresh squeezed (as in it was just juiced within the past couple days) is wonderful (and amazingly delicious!). Also, an article I came across said that Whole Foods 365 brand does not use this process. I’m not sure what their process looks like though.

  2. If you squeeze the juice at home you will truly have fresh squeezed. Everything else gets oxidized as minutes, hours and days go by, so you will not get all the vitamins and minerals from ‘FRESH squeezed’. Also, when you drink just the juice you’re probably consuming about 5 oranges, which means you’re ingesting unnecessary loads of sugar that will burden your body. The best bet it to eat the whole orange, you’re body will benefit form the fiber and nutrients and you will not overload your pancreas and liver, avoiding therefore glucose & insulin spikes.

  3. Is frozen concentrate better then? Is it frozen immediately so it can retain more of its nutrients? Or, do they do something else to frozen concentrate that is questionable?

  4. Thanks for sharing! I’m a health coach and while I have a Vitamix I have been holding out on buying a juicer. My daughter just talked me into buying some oj at the store the other day. Though I made her cut it with water because I don’t like that it has so much sugar I didn’t feel great about buying it. Now I know what to look out for next time.

  5. as someone who worked for the big Florida juice company in QA, Pulp free ONLY! (its strained) The USDA allows for a certain number if worms to be found before they shut down for the season.

  6. Does anyone know of a non-toxic electric citrus juicer? I’m looking for one that is NOT made of hormone-disrupting plastics. The old-fashioned ceramic reamers/catch-trays are best (if made somewhere safe like France – so no worries about lead). I suppose stainless steel might be ok – but I worry about the acids leaching the heavy metals (nickel, chromium) into the juice. Ceramic or glass would be ideal.

    Thanks!

  7. Oranges are available to the public year round. Why not store the oranges and juice them when it’s time? There must be a way of preserving the oranges, or else we would not have the oranges year round. So why don’t they just store their oranges the way our oranges are stored, and then juice them when it’s time?