Unless you purchase your oranges from the orchard and juice them yourself, chances are the ‘daily fresh’ store bought beverage you have at breakfast is anything but.
Aseptically processed juice saves companies money giving them bargaining leverage over growers who rely on seasonal profit. By buying more oranges than they need when prices are cheap, companies can use aseptic processing to store the excess. Ron Gray, a citrus grower for most of his life, claims processed juice can be up to 12 months old.
“They are boiling them up and putting them in large aseptic bags into cool store,” Ron alleged.
When supply is low and prices should rise, Ron says the companies offer unrealistically low prices, knowing they have stores of aseptic to fall back on.
“They’ll say to the poor old grower, ‘we don’t want your fruit, we have plenty of aseptic juice’, and a month later they’ll come back and offer half of what the original price was.”
Besides the impact on industry, consumers are unaware of the stale stock lining shelves in the supermarket. Labelling laws allow companies to use aseptic juice without having indication and many well known brands promoting their range as fresh are not merely misleading but false.
Aseptic processing involves flash-heating fresh juice at temperatures between 195° and 295°F (91° to 146°C) to remove bacteria then juice is stored in sterile containers where it will keep for years without the need of preservatives.
“You are removing a lot of the fresh tasting components of that juice, so it becomes a much blander orange juice,” the maker of Polly’s juice, George Polymiatis said.
A microbiologist by trade, George said aseptic is an inferior damaged product. “The moment you heat it, the Vitamin C level is reduced by 50%,” George said.
A whistleblower for National Foods also revealed additives including highlighter are often mixed in. “We’ll also add a little highlighter to it, to give it a bit more flavour. The highlighter is called Valencia Essence, it is a liquid that tastes like Valencia orange,” he claims.
He went on to say, “When you buy fresh juice in winter, 20% would be fresh and the rest of it would be aseptic and concentrate.”
Until legislation enforces stricter labelling laws companies like National Foods, Coca Cola, and Heinz will continue to cash in on cold stored stale juice as growers like Ron struggle to survive.
For health conscious consumers the challenge remains the same – to source genuine produce we must rely on honest labelling but this fresh fruit farce does nothing to instil our faith.
Instead of waiting for politics to police our produce perhaps it’s time we all join Ron and real honest growers in a fight to keep things fresh!
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Inga Yandell
Explorer and media producer, passionate about nature, culture and travel. Combining science and conservation with investigative journalism to provide resources and opportunities for creative exploration.