From Field to Fridge: The Facts About 100 Percent Fruit Juice Processing

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There’s a lot of confusion about the manufacturing techniques used to bring your food and beverage choices to the grocery store shelves. While “processing” often gets criticized, the steps used to process commercial fruit juices – namely pasteurization and juice concentration –are in place to protect the safety of our food supply and ensure the health and wellness of American families.

Fruit juice processing:

  • Does not impact the quality or nutritional value of 100 percent juice
  • Allows for a high-quality product that is available year round
  • Promotes safety and guards against dangerous bacteria, including E.coli, which have been reported in fresh and minimally processed juices

According to the Food and Drug Administration:

“Juices provide many essential nutrients, but consuming untreated juices can pose health risks to your family. The FDA has received reports of serious outbreaks of foodborne illness that have been traced to drinking fruit and vegetable juice that has not been treated to kill harmful bacteria. Only a small portion of all fruit and vegetable juices sold in supermarkets is not treated to kill harmful bacteria. These products are required to carry the following warning label: WARNING: This product has not been pasteurized and therefore may contain harmful bacteria that can cause serious illness in children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems.”

At a Glance: The Juice Processing Dictionary

Pasteurization: The process of heating a fluid or food at a moderate temperature for a definite period of time in order to destroy undesirable bacteria without changing its chemical composition.

Juice concentrate: Juice that has had the water removed to reduce the volume and allow for easier storage.

Learn more about how your favorite 100 percent fruit juice makes it to your table below:

 

100 percent Apple Juice Processing: The first step in any processing procedure is inspection of the raw fruit. During this most critical step, the apples are examined by a trained inspector for “integrity and sanitary condition” and are randomly tested for spray residues or mold. Apples not meeting processing standards are rejected. Before raw apples are processed into apple juice, they are put through a handling process designed to remove external surface dirt and topical chemical residues. Using various methods, the juice is extracted from the apples and heat-treated (pasteurized) to kill any microorganisms that might be present. This heat treatment also helps improve the overall clarity of the apple juice. Before being packaged, the juice may be further filtered and given an additional heat treatment to assure safety.

100 percent Orange Juice Processing: Once harvested, oranges are squeezed in a process that is similar to that of a home juicer.  The juice may be flash pasteurized (pasteurized very quickly and cooled down quickly) to sterilize the juice and ensure that the naturally occurring vitamins and phytonutrients are not harmed. This fresh squeezed juice may be made into concentrate by removing the water (water is added back at the time of bottle filling or added by the customer after purchase).   As oranges are only harvested for a limited period of time (November – June), juice is stored so it is available year round.

100% Grape Juice Processing: Juice grapes are harvested in late summer and early fall in North America. Unlike table grapes and many other fruits, juice grapes do not store well, so they must be processed immediately at the time of picking. Once harvested, the grapes are brought into the processing facility, crushed and pressed into juice. The juice can either be pasteurized and stored as single strength juice, or it may be concentrated (water removed) and stored. This juice and juice concentrate is stored under refrigeration so that it is available year round. At the time of bottling, grape juices (single strength and/or concentrate) are blended together. Some 100% grape juices are fortified with vitamin C, which is added at this time. The juice is then filtered (to make it clear) and pasteurized again just before it goes into the bottle.