100% orange juice… with added flavor

First we learned that there was arsenic in some of the leading brands of apple juice. Now we are hearing mixed views on what is actually in orange juice.

Although we are aware that orange juice isn’t ever just freshly squeezed, put in a container and sent straight to the store the same day, it may come as a surprise to some parents that the oranges are squeezed and processed, and the juice stripped of oxygen and put in storage tanks for months. Once the juice is ready to be shipped, it has “flavor packs” added to it to give them that oh-so-yummy and fresh-from-the-orange-tree taste. Each brand can have the flavor pack tailored to their desire, which is why you may prefer one brand of orange juice to another. Some of these brands include Tropicana, Minute Maid, Simply Orange and Florida Natural, among others.

What is in these flavor packs? Good question. The FDA says companies do not need to disclose this information in the ingredients label because “it is the orange.”

Gina Judge, a spokeswoman for Tropicana stated:  “Everything in the juice comes from the orange. One hundred percent juice is mixed with natural oils found in the peel. Nothing artificial is added.” However, Alissa Hamilton, author of the book “Squeezed” about the hidden history of orange juice, believes there is a cause for concern. Hamilton said the flavor essences are broken down into individual chemicals and recombined. “With the flavor packs, you’re getting chemicals in different concentrations you wouldn’t normally have in fresh-squeezed product.”

She writes on the Civil Eats blog:

“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. ”

What’s a parent to do?