The orange juice scam |

The orange juice scam

Steve Wells

There is nothing like a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice. It’s just like the TV commercials; the gray-haired farmer-model picks the perfectly ripe orange off of the tree, sticks a straw in the beautiful fruit and enjoys a delicious, refreshing drink of pure Florida goodness, the way nature intended.

Oh, how we like a good fantasy tale. This is perhaps why soap operas and extra-large pickup trucks exist — to fulfil some unattainable fantasy. The orange juice industry is no different. It’s like the old saying, “Life gives you oranges, create a multibillion dollar scam out of it.”

I have nothing against orange juice, in fact I love the stuff. I’m just saying that if you think you are drinking orange juice when you crack open that plastic bottle (made from freshly imported petroleum), you’d be disappointed.

The process of processing is always a secret, for good reason. If you saw how stuff was made, you’d think twice about eating or drinking it. As a kid I used to go to work with my grandfather, who was a health inspector for a major U.S. city — so you can image the stuff I’ve seen.*

The want for convenience far outweighs the desire for quality — this is the biggest problem that I see with nutrition. For example: the convenience store. Prices for similar items can be 20 percent higher or more at C-stores than the same items in a grocery store. Why would people pay so much more? It can’t be that the microwave burritos and scratch tickets are that awesome. Convenience over sense, that’s how.

The same holds true for O.J. It’s a pain to squeeze fresh juice. I’m all for keeping our freedom of choice, meaning we shouldn’t make laws to restrict the size of soft drinks or make people eat real food. I’m just against rigging the game. The game riggers will stop at nothing to fool you — like the orange juice commercials. The farmer might tell you what’s really going on if he wanted to lose his corporate job.

The processing process:

They juice it, pasteurize it for your safety, then they extract all of the oxygen from it so it lasts longer — up to 12 months. This kills the flavor and the orange color, so they add artificial flavor and color in what is called “flavor packets.”

“Flavor packets” sounds much more cheery than artificial flavor. Did you really think that Minute Maid tastes different than Tropicana because of the oranges? It’s because of the flavor packets, which are chemically engineered for different tastes.

Questions that get me in trouble:

Can I make a fortune by fortifying milk with vitamin C?

How should all the sugar-chemical-flavor-intolerant people get their vitamin C?

If it’s all natural, why is there more vitamin C in an orange than a glass of OJ?

Attorneys, what does “fresh squeezed” and “not from concentrate” mean exactly?

So everything that is natural is also pasteurized, and deoxygenated and has artificial flavors that do not have to be listed as ingredients because they are technically, partially made from oranges?

“Not from concentrate” was a brilliant marketing scam that worked. As it turns out, it’s more expensive and difficult to deal with concentrate. They can store the juice-like sugar water for longer when it’s not in a concentrated form. This worked out great for sales since we’re easily deceived into thinking that something is somehow healthier if it’s “not from concentrate.”

Enjoy your morning orange-flavored sugary processed drink. If it makes you feel better to “feel healthy” versus actually being healthy, you should have the right to do that. Everything is all in our heads anyway. Just don’t complain about corporate America or make me pay for your medications.

Juice is not really natural nor healthy anyway. Juice does not exist in nature. It is always processed to some degree and some benefits are lost. Minimally processed, organic, whole food juice is OK. Whole puree is even better. You shouldn’t drink a lot of any type of juice. You get some juice when you eat food. Throwing away the food and only drinking the juice makes as much sense as drinking orange juice because it’s healthy. Yes, juice is a better choice if you are chugging diet soda all day if you need to justify your sugar addiction.

Make your own juice as a treat with in-season, organic oranges. It will taste and smell delicious; not even comparable to processed junk. The effort of doing it will keep you healthier and make the experience more enjoyable.

*”Hangin’ with the health inspector” could easily be a TV show. It would be an instant hit. It would actually be reality TV. The problem is that nobody could eat or drink anything after they watched it. It would put several major food producers out of business by exposing the truth. It could quite possibly be worse than reading my articles.

Steve Wells is a personal trainer and co-owner of Midland Fitness. His column appears on Tuesdays.

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