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12 September 2005Printer-friendly versionEmail a friend

Juicing the truth
A new ad by US orange juice promoters tries to scare consumers away from 'chemical-packed' rivals.

by Elizabeth Whelan

A recent ad by US orange juice promoters the Florida Department of Citrus - referred to on its website as 'The Laboratory' (1) - shamelessly plays on consumer fears of 'chemicals' lurking in competing beverages. Particularly chemicals you cannot pronounce.

Why the scare tactic by orange juice flacks?

Orange juice sales are down - way down. What with families on the run skipping breakfast, and obsessive adherence to low-carb regimens, there are fewer and fewer cartons, jugs and bottles of orange juice in the shopping cart.

So it is no surprise that the Florida Department of Citrus has upped its advertising to get people to drink up. One of the ads is just plain silly and a bit revolting: it features a guy popping raw fish, rutabaga, liver and brussel sprouts into a blender to make a 'healthy drink', then suggesting that downing a glass of Florida orange juice was a more palatable route to good health.

The ad's orange juice hero sprints through a lab filled with foaming test tubes, pointing to cauldrons of high fructose corn syrup, inositol, pyridoxine hydrochloride, stumbling while trying to pronounce these ingredients and suggesting that people who drink processed juices and soft drinks are exposing themselves to scary 'chemicals'. The alternative? Drink Florida orange juice because it is 'simple' and 'natural' - and, of course, 'natural' has come to mean free of chemicals and thus, it is implied, safer and healthier than other drinks.

But what exactly is orange juice? It is the juice from Citrus sinensis (the botanical name), and all natural oranges contain a spectrum of chemicals, some with volatile properties, including: phenylethyl alcohols; acetone; formic acid; acetaldehyde; esters of formic, acetic and caprylic acids; geraniol; and terpineol.

Could our hero pronounce all the chemicals in the orange juice he is promoting?
The juice also contains B-sitosteryl-D glucosde and B-sitosterol. In the process of juicing, orange juice inevitably picks up bits of the orange peel, which has d-limonene, citral, citranellal and methyl ester of anthranilic acid, with a chaser of caprilic acid esters and decylic-aldehyde. Some of these chemicals - like acetaldehyde and d-limonene - even cause cancer when fed to rodents at high dose.

I wonder if our hero dashing through the lab could pronounce all the chemicals in the orange juice he is promoting?

Advertisements of this sort are just plain misleading - and completely unnecessary. Orange juice is a perfectly wholesome drink and a delicious way to pick up some ascorbic acid (vitamin C), folic acid, potassium and more. Why use scare tactics to frighten consumers about drinking (harmless) 'chemicals' in other drinks - just to promote sales of the 100 per cent natural chemicals that comprise orange juice?

Dr Elizabeth M Whelan is president of the American Council on Science and Health.

Read on:

spiked-issue: Food scares

(1) Florida Juice marketing

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