How 'natural' is your orange juice?


First aired on Eyeopener (01/08/12)

Many of us like to start our day with a tall, cool glass of orange juice. After all, it's full of vitamin C. It's fresh tasting. It says "natural" on the carton. But is it as natural as juice companies would have us believe?

Recently, a series of lawsuits were launched in the U.S. against Tropicana, one of the world's leading orange juice producers, over the company's use of the word "natural" in its marketing.
Alissa Hamilton, author of Squeezed: What You Don't Know About Orange Juice, says there's very little that's natural in that glass. 

"Tropicana orange juice is a pasteurized orange juice, and what they do is they store this juice, which is a full strength juice, in these million-gallon aseptic storage tanks for upwards of a year," Hamilton told Calgary's Eyeopener. "And when the juice goes into the tanks, it's stripped of oxygen so it doesn't go bad in the tanks. However, when they strip the juice of the oxygen, they're also stripping it of the flavour-providing chemicals that are natural to the juice. So what companies such as Tropicana do is they hire flavour and fragrance companies, the same ones that make high-end perfumes and cologne, to engineer flavour packs to add back to the juice to make it taste fresh."

squeezedsmall.jpgFlavour packs don't grow on trees. They're created through an engineered process that breaks down oils from oranges into individual chemicals. These chemicals are then recombined into formulas that give pasteurized juice that fruity flavour.

"That's really what you're tasting in your favourite brand of pasteurized orange juice," Hamilton said. "You're tasting the flavour pack."

Over the past several years, a number of other major national brands have been attacked for what consumers have called deceptive labeling. Tostitos, SunChips, Snapple and Ben & Jerry's ice cream have all faced similar criticisms.