Saturday, July 10, 2010

Tropicana OJ: All Natural and Indestructible, too

This week the 7GenBlog brings word of lead in 85% of kid’s juices. Do we say ho-hum, or get mad as hell? Unfortunately this study did not include orange juice, everyone’s favorite breakfast drink and what I served guests for breakfast without a second thought, that is until recently.

Once upon a time, to drink orange juice, it was necessary to squeeze an orange with your hands. This was messy so machines were invented to make the process more efficient. Several types of juicers became available. The first was a glass bowl with a pointy center. You know the drill. Cut orange, apply half to the rosette, twist. The juice runs down the sides and collects in the bowl. The squeezer gets to drink his reward.

For more than an individual portion of OJ, families used to use a different machine, made of aluminum. It looked like a meat grinder on legs, and with a crank. Here’s how it worked: you put a glass under the spout, place half an orange in the machine, then squeeze by lowering the lid. The orange presses against a sieve and presto: OJ dribbles into the glass. Today we don’t even bother to squeeze oranges. We buy OJ at the supermarket in half-gallon cartons.

I started thinking about OJ a few days ago when Alisa left this comment on my post about Purity organic drinks: “I remember the first time I went to Florida to visit my husband's parents who live there. They have orange trees in their yard. My husband pulled some oranges off the trees and made OJ. It was the best stuff I ever tasted – and it was just pure OJ. NOTHING ADDED TO IT. Just think of how much more OJ they could sell – and how much money they could save – if they just only put OJ in the dang bottle?”

Then, during the heat wave, I left a half-gallon of Tropicana in my car for two days – at least. Oh, God! I said to myself when I realized my mistake. Surely this juice has gone bad. It will taste sour and be totally rancid, curdled, or have turned some scary shade of brown.

Not at all. I opened the carton and poured myself a glass. Same old fresh-tasting OJ. Did not suffer one bit from the ordeal.

“What’s in this stuff anyway?” I said to Sven who was making himself a sandwich. “100% Pure & Natural Orange Juice. Never from concentrate. Contains orange juice from the US and Brazil.” The carton also says “pasteurized.”

I could not help but wonder what Tropicana put in to preserve the juice for days. So, I called their hotline.

A friendly woman told me Tropicana undergoes a “fast pasteurization by heat” process, done quickly so the juice “doesn’t lose nutrients.” The OJ contains, “no water, no preservatives.”

I asked her if the oranges were organic and the answer was no, that Tropicana uses a “low level of pesticides.” When I asked for more information, she described them as a “wide variety of pesticides to control insects,” then quickly added, “We follow FDA guidelines. There’s a waiting period after the crop is sprayed prior to harvesting, and all fruit is washed several times. Removes any residue.” (Anyone who wants the real nitty-gritty on pesticides go to What’s On My Food.)

Online, I found a food scientist who claims to have worked with Tropicana in the past. He writes, “They are really Pepsi. (Co.). So they have the same moral compass. Basically if juice is over 99% of the formulation, then it can be called 100%. As for natural flavors, it is probably a bunch of aroma chemicals that are derived from nature or are naturally occurring in nature. They could also be extracts of citrus fruits to boost the impact. And then they could also be some chemicals that are used to preserve the flavor. Basically ‘flavors’ is a general heading for thousands of different compounds. These companies are just working within government regulations. They are not going to declare the names of chemicals if they don't have to, that would scare consumers …”

I told the Tropicana woman about having left the carton of OJ in the hot, hot sun. She pronounced herself “flabbergasted” and said three hours max outside the fridge is what she recommends, that I should have thrown out the carton.

No preservatives?? Hmmm …

I bought Purity organic drinks for guests this month, but they contain only 25% juice. I would love to hear from readers on this. Have you found a breakfast drink you feel comfortable with? Should I switch to serving smoothies, or use smaller glasses and squeeze oranges myself? Do you believe Tropicana can be good for you if it does not spoil after two days of hot sun?