[Not] 100% Pure and Natural

Used with permission from Microsoft.

What comes to mind when you think of Tropicana “pure premium” orange juice? Groves of orange trees in the Florida sun, being picked and shipped fresh to you as juice, the image from past advertisements of a straw stuck right into an orange….

Chances are, you don’t think of flavor packs, deaeration, and million-gallon tanks that store orange juice just above freezing for a year before it’s packed and shipped.  But that’s exactly what you’re getting.

Here’s how it works, according our research and as partially confirmed by Tropicana’s website.  The oranges are picked and “fresh squeezed” as Tropicana says.  However, after this stage, the juice is not shipped directly to you.  Instead, it is pasteurized (heated to a high temperature to make it “safe”), then cooled, and then stored in giant tanks just above freezing.  In these tanks, the oxygen is removed from the juice (deaeration), which prevents the juice from going bad.  Once in this state (cold and with no oxygen) the juice will keep for up to a year.  Tropicana’s website doesn’t hide this part of the process.

However, no mention is made of the fact that storing the orange juice for a year, just above freezing and with no oxygen, takes the flavor out of the juice.  So, orange juice companies use “flavor packs.”  These flavor packs are made up in part of orange byproducts, so technically the product can be described as “natural” or “100% orange juice.”  Some, however, say that the flavor packs also have chemicals added to them.

Now, is that what you thought you were getting when you bought “100% Pure and Natural” orange juice?

These flavor packs are not just an urban myth, and it’s clear from the tacit non-denials made by the orange juice industry. Take, for instance, this letter written to the Huffington Post, in which the Florida Department of Citrus wrote to address the reasons why flavor packs are used, but did not deny their existence.

In partial defense of the industry, we have to note that consumers want orange juice 365 days a year, but oranges only have a limited growing season.  So, it is out of necessity that some juice must be stored.  With that said, we believe consumers have a right to know what they’re really getting. It’s just plain wrong for juice to be marketed as being “fresh squeezed” when that’s only a half truth.

This situation is reminiscent of a consumer class action brought on behalf of consumers who bought Citrus Hill Fresh Choice orange juice. The plaintiff alleged that the juice was represented to be fresh orange juice made from the heart of the orange, 100% pure, additive free and from oranges picked and squeezed on the same day when, in fact, the product wasn’t fresh, but instead was  reconstituted from frozen concentrate, contained additives including water and flavor enhancers, was made from the entire orange and was not made from oranges picked and squeezed the same day.  The California appellate court did not let the case, Caro v. Procter & Gamble, proceed as a class action, primarily because the company had already agreed to remove the word “fresh” from its label as a result of FDA proceedings brought against it.

Do you think that Tropicana should have to change its label?

If you think that you have been misled in connection with your purchase of a consumer product, please tell us your story.

Abbey Spanier, LLP, located in New York City, is a well-recognized national class action and complex litigation law firm.