[UPDATE June 2, 2009: See response of Florida Department of Citrus in the comments]
More than 620 million gallons of orange juice are sold per year in the United States. There is an undeniable health halo to OJ, but most of it may be unjustified. This, according to author Alissa Hamilton, who has just published “Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice”.
From a recent interview with the author:
[Orange juice is]…a heavily processed product. It’s heavily engineered as well. In the process of pasteurizing, juice is heated and stripped of oxygen, a process called deaeration, so it doesn’t oxidize. Then it’s put in huge storage tanks where it can be kept for upwards of a year. It gets stripped of flavor-providing chemicals, which are volatile. When it’s ready for packaging, companies such as Tropicana hire flavor companies such as Firmenich to engineer flavor packs to make it taste fresh. People think not-from-concentrate is a fresher product, but it also sits in storage for quite a long time.
What you need to know:
Brazil, not Florida is the primary exporter of oranges these days.
Most of the vitamin C is lost during processing and added again to the juice just before packaging.
The “flavor packs” added to juice include ethyl butyrate, an additive commonly used as artificial flavoring in alcoholic beverages as well as in perfumery products. It is added to orange juice because its odor is akin to fresh orange juice.
What to do at the supermarket:
Dietitians will tell as well that while drinking processed orange juice is not unhealthy, the health benefits of starting your day off with a glass of OJ have been greatly exaggerated. Your best option to enjoy the full health benefits of an orange are eating the whole fruit (peel it first, though).
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