Review: Squeezed

Squeezed
Squeezed by Alissa Hamilton

Squeezed by Alissa Hamilton is a great kind of non-fiction, but you have to be ready for it.  Coming off some very thrilling YA novels, I found it difficult to slow down and really process Hamilton’s points.  I did find myself getting lost in all the information, but I enjoyed that feeling and I like researching again as well. I enjoy learning things like 96% of all oranges grown in Florida are processed into juice.  There was a lot to take in from this book.  I’m going to lay out the essentials here so you can skip the rest of the review if you want.  But before I do, did I like this book?  Yes, it gets 4 our of 5 stars.  Having said that this book is not for the faint of heart.  It can be dry for those not interested in the particular topic.  I’ve always been fine with dry books as I’m interested in everything.  Consider yourself fairly warned.

  • If you buy orange juice at the store and it has a best buy date of more than a few days, it is heavily processed.
  • By heavily processed I mean, pasteurized.
  • By pasteurized, I mean boiled and they suck all the air out.
  • When they boil it it loses its nutrients, when they suck the air out the flavor goes to.
  • What is left (orange colored sugar water) is stored in tanks for around a year before it is processed some more.
  • When they take it out of the tanks the add fresh orange juice (just a little) to try to add back that orange flavor and smell that they removed.  Most processors also add flavor pack, which are mostly water that has been perfumed with synthetic human engineered smell to add back the orange smell that was removed.

Most know that Tropicana Pure Premium is not from concentrate.  Few know what it is. p.147

I knew going into this book about the pasteurization, and I remember hearing about flavor packs, but I didn’t really know what that was.  Hamilton made that clear in her book.  But mostly, her book was about policy.  Policy and politics from 1961 forward.  This policy and politics dictated why we have the orange juice that we have today.  The FDA decided that since flavor packs are made from oranges (not the case anymore) that it didn’t need to be put on the label.  So, if you see anything at all about flavor packs, it might say natural flavors on the label, but this is not always the case.  A lot of processors wiggle their way out of putting anything like that on the label or in the nutrition facts section.

Many consumers would be shocked and disappointed to learn that most processed orange juice, a product still widely perceived to be the definition of purity, would be undrinkable without an ingredient referred to within the industry as “the flavor pack”. p. 159

…you taste the bulk concentrate that hasn’t has the essence added back it just tastes like sugar. p.161

Here is another quote from the book that goes over the lifecycle of making pasteurized orange juice:

…pasteurized, deoiled, put into an aseptic tank farm, and the brought out, blended, add-back [added] and put into the package. p.156

Another disturbing thought is that some of the oranges could have been bacd, but how is the consumer to realize this when it is boiled (for added shelf life, not consumer safety) and removed of all taste and smell.  The flavor pack that is added could very well cover any lingering bad smell caused bad oranges that made it through any quality assurance testing.  It can have “a protective or masking role.”

Watch the advertisement below carefully, Anita Bryant never says directly that the oranges are from Florida in this add but that the orange juice is.  The orange juice from Brazil is processed in Florida, but it is not Florida oranges.

Another eye opener is that fact that most of our orange juice is coming from Brazil now, which doesn’t have the same FDA or governing bodies that we do have here.  Why Brazil?  Does it taste better?  Nope, it is only because it is cheaper, most agree that it is inferior do the oranges grown in Florida.

Below is a short interview that the author, Alissa Hamilton gave to a local news outlet.

The book was very enlightening, I discussed that fact that back in the 60’s the average homemaker was believed to be incapable of processing too much information, like what pasteurization meant.

And I love this quote:

Brennan had evidence that processed orange juice has so dulled consumers’ senses that they were becoming attuned to the taste of less-flavorful juice.  He questioned whether North Americans desired, or would even find palatable, fresh squeezed. p.99

Great tidbits that I learned from reading this:

  • Orange derives from the French or which means gold
  • Florida’s prolific Sunshine Tree was not planted until 1560
  • Southern China was the first to grow the sweet orange commercially
  • By the 1960’s 75% of purchased food had undergone some form of processing
  • The FDA estimates that over 3,000 food additives are in use

Just two more things I want to share about this book.  Did you know Bing Crosby made millions selling the stuff in these commercials?  And before that on radio?

And lastly I leave you with this quote:

It is difficult to find an orange juice consumer who is not bothered by the fact that a product that is made out to be fresh sits in storage, sometimes for upward of a year, and is made palatable only by the addition of a flavor pack.

Squeezed: What You Don't Know About Orange Juice Book Cover Squeezed: What You Don't Know About Orange Juice
Alissa Hamilton
Non-Fiction
Yale University Press
5/26/2009
ebook
288
Amazon

Close to three quarters of U.S. households buy orange juice. Its popularity crosses class, cultural, racial, and regional divides. Why do so many of us drink orange juice? How did it turn from a luxury into a staple in just a few years? More important, how is it that we don’t know the real reasons behind OJ’s popularity or understand the processes by which the juice is produced?

In this enlightening book, Alissa Hamilton explores the hidden history of orange juice. She looks at the early forces that propelled orange juice to prominence, including a surplus of oranges that plagued Florida during most of the twentieth century and the army’s need to provide vitamin C to troops overseas during World War II. She tells the stories of the FDA’s decision in the early 1960s to standardize orange juice, and the juice equivalent of the cola wars that followed between Coca-Cola (which owns Minute Maid) and Pepsi (which owns Tropicana). Of particular interest to OJ drinkers will be the revelation that most orange juice comes from Brazil, not Florida, and that even “not from concentrate” orange juice is heated, stripped of flavor, stored for up to a year, and then reflavored before it is packaged and sold. The book concludes with a thought-provoking discussion of why consumers have the right to know how their food is produced.