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Don't believe what you read
on orange juice cartons

Back in 2007, I wrote a quick review of Macleans Magazine, comparing and contrasting it with Time Magazines Canadian edition.

There was no comparison, really Macleans won it by a long shot. Its a livelier, more interesting read, with plenty of fantastic Canadian content. I like how they dont attempt to just neatly summarize the weeks news because, if they did, wed just get warmed over news thats two or three weeks old.

No, Macleans offers stories or, at very least, story treatments you dont find anywhere else. This, combined with their offbeat approach, insightful political commentary and intriguing arts/entertainment section, elevates the magazine to must-read status. (Yes, sometimes they lean a little too far right for my liking, and their covers can be sensational as all get-out, but I overlook these flaws.)

Which brings me to a story from a recent edition, about a new book called Squeezed: What You Dont Know About Orange Juice by Alissa Hamilton. The book exposes the inner workings of the orange juice industry, and its a real eye-opener.

Do you drink fresh, store-bought orange juice? The kind in the two-litre carton? If so, youre in for a letdown.

You and I both have been consuming juice made from fresh oranges and happy in the assumption that it really is fresh. Relatively so. Made in the last month or two. Right?

Wrong.

However, its easy to form such an impression. I have an empty Tropicana carton in front of me, fished from the recycling bin in the basement. Heres what it says on the label:

Why does Tropicana Pure Premium taste so good? Because it is 100% Pure Natural Orange Juice. Our juice is made from fresh hand-picked oranges. Nothing added. Nothing taken away. Only Oranges.

Now, read this paragraph from the Macleans article, about Hamiltons book:

Squeezeds description of the manufacturing process, however, suggests nothing added, nothing taken away is semantic choreography of the highest order. Not from concentrate juice, the industrys term for pasteurized, is produced by heating juice to a high temperature to kill bacteria, deactivate enzymes and extend shelf life. Its stripped of oxygen to prevent oxidation, which removes flavour, then stored in aseptic tanks for upwards of a year. Before being packaged, flavour is reintroduced to correct deficiencies in taste, colour, or aromaeither via juice held over and stored frozen or via flavour packs engineered by flavour and fragrance conglomerates using orange essence and other orange parts; because they are considered naturalthat vague, unregulated termthey dont have to be listed in ingredients. Without these infusions, Hamilton writes, processed orange juice would be undrinkable.

In short, the manufacturers claim that nothing is taken away or added. They make no mention of processing including pasteurization which strips away flavour. They talk about fresh hand picked oranges, which implies a fresh product, yet the juice sits in vats for more than a year. They say nothing is added, yet flavour packs are added to bring it back to a drinkable state.

Semantic choreography indeed. It would seem like the FDA in the United States has bent over backwards to allow juice manufacturers to use language that suggests their product is fresh when, in fact, it isnt. Regulators in Canada have looked the other way, and allowed it here as well.

If you are suitably outraged by all this, you should read the full article in Macleans. And if that pisses you off even more, buy the book!

So whats a consumer to do?

Simple. Stop drinking packaged orange juice. Eat fresh oranges instead. They are naturally juicy and much better for you.

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