Tropicana: Our 100% Juice Could Contain "Anything From Nature," Even Dairy

It’s apparently a whole lot of fun to try to get a straight answer out of Tropicana as to what “natural flavors” are in their 100% juice.

Reader Kristina says:

What follows is a conversation between myself (me) and the customer service (CS) representative from Tropicana. (I called their 1.877.342.1813 number around 9:30 am, EST on 5 September 2008):

me: Hi, I am calling to ask about one of your ingredients listed in one of your products.

CS: Ok, go ahead.

me: the label on your juice product says its 100% juice but lists “natural flavors, ingredient not found in regular orange juice.” Could you please let me know what, besides juice, is in your product?

CS: It’s natural flavors, natural flavors come from anything in nature.

me: Can you please tell me what the specific “natural flavors” are that are added to your orange juice?

CS: Natural flavors can be anything from nature.

me: OK, but if it says “100% juice” doesn’t that have to mean that the natural flavors are from another source of juice?

CS: No, its from anything in nature, it could be from dairy.

me: Dairy? But can’t it NOT be from dairy, because it says 100% juice?!

CS: Well, its not from dairy, because dairy is a top 8 allergen and we would have to list that on the label, but I am saying it COULD be from dairy.

me: Can you please divulge what that said ingredient is?

CS: The product you have is from concentrate, any drink from concentrate has natural flavors.

me: I understand this, but what I am asking is WHAT are the natural flavors added to this specific beverage?

*** More back and forth, but ultimately getting her to understand why I was asking the question (re: food sensitivities)

me: Well I would urge your company to list all ingredients and not hide behind all encompassing terms such as “natural flavors” so that your consumers can know exactly what is in your products. I picked up your bottle of juice thinking it was safe because it listed “100% juice” on its label and now you are giving me *possible* contradictory information.

CS: Let me send you out a coupon for our Pure Premium line of juices that are not from concentrate and 100% juice.

Hmm. Maybe they think dairy is “cow juice?”

(Photo: Bonzo McGrue )

Comments

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  1. Dobernala says:

    Poop is 100% natural. Tropicana really sucks for being so evasive.

    • TechnoDestructo says:

      @Dobernala:

      There’s 100% natural arsenic in the groundwater around many gold deposits, too.

      On the subject of Tropicana sucking: Tropicana Pure Premium used to be all American oranges. They now use Brazilian oranges. THERE IS NOTHING PREMIUM ABOUT BRAZILIAN ORANGES.

      To my knowledge, the only remaining all-American national brand is Florida’s Natural.

      Please, if you’re going to buy orange juice in a carton, get Florida’s Natural. Show your support for superior orange juice (and US orange juice IS a lot better than South American, and a little better than Mexican). It isn’t even more expensive. (It just has a lower profit margin, I guess.)

  2. BrianDaBrain says:

    So, in reality, the term “natural” when it refers to flavors is very misleading. The FDA has very loose standards on what is and is not “natural”. It depends on the process used to make said flavor. That means you are likely drinks some synthetic ingredient that just barely meets the FDA’s natural flavoring standard (hence the stonewalling and the lack of a more thorough ingredient list).

    Read Fast Food Nation if you want more information. It has a very clear and easy-to-read explanation of what does and does not constitute “natural”.

  3. Smooooth says:

    What about bacon? That’s a natural flavor and isn’t a “top 8″ allergen. Plus, who doesn’t love bacon with their OJ in the morning? And you could even do tofu-bacon for vegetarians!

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      @Smooooth: That explains the change on Buffet’s Honey BBQ chicken wings. The ingredients used to include “bacon fat”. Now it just says “natural smoke flavor” or some such BS.

      @cookmefud: They’re hoping that no one will be able to prove anything should something ‘natural’ turn out to be harmful.

    • Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

      @Smooooth: Suddenly I have a craving for a bacon-OJ smoothie…..

  4. cookmefud says:

    I have noticed a lot of these juices that state in bold letters “100 percent juice” in big letters have a little disclaimer hidden on them that says (with other natural ingredients).

    bull crap is a natural ingredient. is it in my juice?
    just might be.

  5. Adisharr says:

    The natural flavor is coffee. Mystery solved.

  6. Sockatume says:

    How about the sweet, natural taste of lead acetate? If it was good enough for the Romans, it’s good enough for us.

  7. cookmefud says:

    also, what are these companies thinking by being deceptive? that people just won’t notice? what do they have to gain by pissing of consumers who are obviously just buying their products because they are discerning and health conscious and want something they believe is pure and natural? a small or large profit now won’t help if it destroys their product’s credibility for their current customer base towards all future purchases and drives them towards a different company’s product.

  8. techstar25 says:

    My toddler daughter always asks for juice before bed, so I give her a glass of milk. We call it “moo juice”. Get it?

  9. The Porkchop Express says:

    Could it be that the natural flavor is a juice from a different fruit? or maybe rodent juice from the little critters that get stuck in the machinery?

    Still my daily dose of vitamin C.

  10. LorneReams says:

    I guess I would have to ask, how they are defining “juice”

  11. pfox280 says:

    So I am a food scientist who has worked with Tropicana in the past, they are really Pepsi…So they have the same moral compass.
    Basically if juice is over 99% of the formulation, then it can be called 100%. As for natural flavors, it is probably a bunch of aroma chemicals that are derived from nature or are naturally occuring in nature. They could also be extracts of citrus fruits to boost the impact. And then they could also be some chemicals that are used to preserve the flavor. Basically “flavors” is a general heading for thousands of different compounds.
    These companies are just working within government regulations, they are not going to declare the names of chemicals if they don’t have to, that would scare consumers.
    OK, so overall these companies are deceptive but only because the government allows them to be. But its the same story in most of the world.

  12. katylostherart says:

    it’s “moo” juice.

  13. Insparkle says:

    I work for another orange juice company – “natural flavors” are not as scary as this phone call makes it sound – most likely it’s just from a different citrus fruit.

    ALL orange juice – every single one – that you buy in the market contains natural flavors added – it just doesn’t have to be listed on the label if it’s “from the named fruit” – ie in the case of orange juice, oranges.

    And that said, “natural flavors” are just chemicals that are “naturally” derived, not synthetic.

    • Spinfusor says:

      @Insparkle:
      “ALL orange juice – every single one – that you buy in the market contains natural flavors added”

      I just looked on the Florida’s Natural label and it only lists one ingredient: pasteurized orange juice.

      Doesn’t seem like there are any flavors added to me…

  14. Gman says:

    The Tropicana CS rep was just trying to get across that Tropicana at this moment in time does not break the laws of physics and create substances where none existed previously.

    Hey anything is “natural”. So far that I know [Science is advancing fairly fast] we do not have the technology to make edible objects out of nothing. So everything we do has to have come from this planet at one point. Thus “Natural”.

  15. Ein2015 says:

    I suppose technically you could “juice” anything with liquid in it…

    Either way, did anybody else thought it was HILARIOUS that they were saying the Pure Premium also had 100% juice as well?

  16. This reminds me of a story that my boss told me.
    Apparently her husband was touring a factory that made some product that had “natural” flavorings in it. They kept telling him that they couldn’t divulge most of their recipes because it was a trade secret, blah blah. Anyway finally they get to a room with huge pile of wood in it and he asks what the deal is. They tell him that it is cherry wood and that when the wood is steamed, the flavor “extractions” is what makes their “natural” cherry flavoring in their products.

  17. jennej says:

    The point is that some people have food allergies or diseases that make it necessary to know exactly what goes into their food, including beverages. My dad has celiac disease and his nutritionist told him to steer clear of anything with “natural flavors” or other phrases like that. No guarantee that those “natural flavors” don’t include wheat gluten, which he absolutely cannot tolerate. Of course he can call the manufacturer as the OP did, but more often than not, the CSRs aren’t sure. And they don’t have any idea how serious disorders such as celiac disease are (or they don’t care, which is probably more likely).

  18. parad0x360 says:

    The natural flavor in most shiny candies is shellac beetles…

    YUM!

    • floraposte says:

      @parad0x360: Not quite. The shellac is a beetle secretion, not a beetle, the secretions aren’t a flavoring, they’re a gloss agent (“shellac,” see?).

      Presumably people who can tolerate the notion of regurgitated bee secretions wouldn’t have any issue with that, though. It’s food. It comes from nature. Nature’s kind of creepy. More of an issue with the shellac use is that its application results in the release of VOCs

    • Not Alvis says:

      @parad0x360: @floraposte: @Parapraxis:

      Shellac does NOT come from beetles. Never has, never will. It comes from scale insects

      • floraposte says:

        @Clold: I think it’s one of those common name vs. technical term thing–the insect is often called the lac beetle, but I wouldn’t be remotely surprised to know that it’s actually a different kind of insect than a beetle and that the common name drove entomologists crazy. And Parapraxis, I had the same thought, that they were thinking about the coloring from cochineal. So many different ways in which Insects Are Our Friends!

        @TechnoDestructo: Sorry, by me the Florida’s Natural tastes tinny in a way the Tropicana doesn’t. The Tropicana is really surprisingly close to fresh squeezed.

        • TechnoDestructo says:

          @floraposte:
          That’s probably just the extra acidity from the Brazilian oranged.

          • floraposte says:

            @TechnoDestructo: Are we crossing wires? I was saying that to me the Tropicana tastes much better than the Florida’s Select, which to me tastes tinny. And you’re been saying that the Tropicana is the one with the Brazilian oranges. I suspect it’s more a case of the pasteurization treatment used with each. Certainly the Cook’s Illustrated tests on acid levels found the Tropicana acid levels to be the lowest, so it doesn’t seem to have any “extra acid.”

            Mind you, I’ve also heard that Brazilian oranges are quite sweet–like Florida, their habitat there is humid with a long growing season, rather than the Californian dry and short growing time. So I may be questioning your underlying assertion as well.

        • Not Alvis says:

          @floraposte:
          Don’t think so. “Lac beetle” gets around 2600 hits on Google. That’s hardly a popular phrase.

  19. warf0x0r says:

    So to get juice you have to buy the premium actually 100% juice, not the 100% juice?

  20. springboks says:

    Cust. service really opens a can of worms by saying “it could be from daily” I could understand if something like a little orange rind or pip got into the OJ from the orange juice pressing. But dairy??

    Also who else thinks the new easy pour lid is a load of garbage. I wish Tropicana wouldn’t use their “creativity” to make consumer lives easier. Since I was in my teens I’ve been used to OJ with a screw lid. Now they have this lid that doesn’t even latch correctly. I’ve had OJ all over the floor from the morning shaking of the gallon of OJ!

  21. Heresy Of Truth says:

    I get this from some companies. If I can’t figure out the ingredient list, I call. I have Celiac, so if I don’t know what it is, I just don’t eat it.

    Most companies are pretty cool, and up on the whole gluten free thing, and other allergies/intolerance’s, but some are crazy. I had this exact conversation with a gal about Jello once, right after I was diagnosed. I make better gelatin desserts from scratch, anyways, now. I am pretty certain the Jello was safe, but she was so obtuse about it, that I have never bought it since.

  22. mmejanvier says:

    100% JUICE!!!*

    *the part of it that is actually juice is 100% juice but that part is not very much okay.

  23. MyPetFly says:

    Can I get juice without the juice?

  24. el_smurfo says:

    Costco concentrate only lists orange juice on the ingredient list.

  25. admiral_stabbin says:

    Buying juice that is from concentrate is never 100% juice. Sounds like the CS rep. went above and beyond by offering to send out that coupon for the more most 100% juicetastic product they offer.

    FWIW, I’m a big fan of orange juice that’s not from concentrate. The natural flavors in not-from-concerntrate juice are just…so much more…natural.

  26. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    It’s legal to put MSG (monosodium glutamate, a flavor enhancer) in food and let it fall under the “natural flavors” ingredient. Celiac sufferers may have problems with the glutamate chemicals (that’s why they call the protein food made from wheat flour “gluten,” after all).

  27. RunawayRunaway says:

    The “natural flavors” bit is on the ingredients label so that companies can protect “trade secrets”, i.e. the exact recipe for whatever the food or drink is. I don’t like it either, but there’s the reason you see it so often. I bet any company will give you this kind of runaround if you ask them this.

    It’s the same reason that perfumes/colognes have “fragrance” listed as an ingredient instead of listing out the actual scents.

  28. I’ve always wondered: if reconstituted OJ can be called “100% juice”, then is it accurate to say that concentrated OJ is “300% juice”?

  29. audiochick says:

    This is a big problem for me, too. I HATE seeing the phrase “natural flavors.” It could be anything. When there was that big lawsuit against McDonald’s a few years ago it was because someone realized that the “natural flavors” in the fries was from beef. Not cool, particularly for vegetarians like me. I try my best to steer clear of the “natural flavors” in my food – and I am going to triple-check the carton of Tropicana in my fridge when I get home. Supposedly it is a no-from-concentrate product, so it’d better be OK…

    • ludwigk says:

      @audiochick: Ok, you totally lose because you didn’t know that McDonald’s fries contain beef. That’s your own damned fault for being a vegetarian, then assuming that anything that ‘could’ be vegetarian ‘is’ vegetarian. McDonald’s fries used to be fried in beef tallow, making them VERY un-vegetarian. They stopped doing that, but don’t forget that animal fats make great cooking/frying ingredients. Your choice to be vegetarian doesn’t change the way McDs operates. Dood, fast-food chicken is flavored with beef! (a la Double Meat Palace).

      People fry grilled cheese sandwiches with lard, or use duck oil to make salad dressing. Just because a food isn’t made of meat, doesn’t mean people won’t improve it by adding a bit as flavoring.

      Natural Flavorings means almost nothing because the FDA does not define the term “natural” for use in listed ingredients.

      Effectively, Natural usually means that a particular flavor was extracted from something like a plant or animal, as opposed to synthesized from completely inert ingredients. So for instance, if you got orange flavors from orange peel, as opposed to synthesizing them from carbon rings, you would call it a “natural flavor” instead of artificial. Of course, flavor additives are so precise, and so pure, that the two would be indistinguishable on the molecular level, except that the ‘natural’ flavor will cost more to the food scientist because you start with something messy and impure.

      Companies don’t want to tell you what is in their “natural flavors” because its those tiny flavor compounds that differentiate their product from the competitors. They spend big bucks with flavor specialists and food chemists to make up their proprietary flavor profile, and they’re not giving it away for free. I would bet that the customer service person didn’t know what was in the natural flavors. Also, they *do* not care enough to tell you. They are present in minute amounts, and are generally regarded as safe by the FDA, and there isn’t a practical reason to tell people what they are. The products are safe as far as humans can tell. If you have specific dietary restrictions, or rare conditions, well, Tropicana really isn’t prepared for you to consume their concentrate products, and you should just avoid them.

      I personally avoid all tropicana products because I don’t really like the way they taste.

      • jacques says:

        @ludwigk: Before you go telling people they that “lose”, know that McD’s managers claimed the fries were, in fact, vegetarian because they were fried in vegetable oil. They didn’t disclose that the coating contained the beef tallow. And fast food isn’t flavoured with beef, it’s flavoured with corn, followed by meat-like droppings.

      • Juliekins says:

        @ludwigk: Dude, cram it. They were also doing this in India, all the while INSISTING their oil did not contain beef tallow. They insisted their fries were vegetarian. Cite:

        The lawsuit says McDonald’s “intentionally failed to publicly disclose its continued use of beef tallow in the (french fry) cooking process under the guise of ‘natural flavor.”‘

        McDonalds dicked vegetarians around for years about whether or not the fries contained beef-derived ingredients or not. Don’t blame the victim.

      • audiochick says:

        @ludwigk: Ahem. I didn’t say that I ate McDonald’s fries. I merely pointed out the reason for the lawsuit was similar to the context of this post. I don’t assume that everything without visible meat products are vegetarian. I know what happens when people assume. Do you?

  30. maztec says:

    In Orange Juice “Pulp Added”, “Natural Pulp Added”, and “Natural Flavors” usually translate to “Wood Pulp Added”. At least that was what they were doing when I went on a few industry tours – first to a paper mill, and asking what they do with excess, unprocessed woodpulp that was “unsuitable for paper” and the following trip to an orange juice factory/packager that when asked where the pulp was from got all funny and finally admitted that it was a “mixture of pulps from many different plants, including trees, all safe for human consumption.”

  31. Petra says:

    When they say that “natural flavors” can cover ANYTHING coming from nature, they mean it… crushed up bugs, horse ejaculate, animal feces…the list goes on.

  32. Carbonic says:

    MMMMMMM
    mmmmmmm
    MMMMMMM
    mmmmmmm
    MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM

    Wood Pulp and beetle secretions!

    I cant wait for breakfast!

  33. mzhartz says:

    We always joke that “natural flavors” is there in case anyone pees in the juice vat.

    I also hate Modified Food Starch. It’s like saying, “this food contains food.”

  34. jacques says:

    Maybe it’s just covering for Tropicana’s use of poor quality Brazilian oranges. I pay a little extra for the Florida’s Natural, which tastes a little better than the tropicana did even before they got all cheap and foreign-y.

  35. Wes_Sabi says:

    There is an FDA formula that tells you how much juice concentrate you need to use to make a 100% reconstituted juice. For orange juice, you dilute orange juice concentrate which is normally 64-65 brix (percent sugar) with water to 11.8 brix. That gives you a 100% orange juice from concentrate. You can add other things to it (flavors, colors, acids, etc) and as long as you still have an 11.8 brix finished orange juice, then it is considered 100% orange juice.

    Other juices are the same, but the reconstituted brix value changes: apple=11.5 brix, grape=16.0 brix, pineapple=12.8, etc.

    Flavors are pretty complex, and I doubt a customer service rep would know exactly what is in the natural flavor they use. Even specification sheets and MSDS sheets I get from our flavor suppliers don’t list what’s in them unless they contain one of the top 8 allergens.

  36. AlphaBitchSoup says:

    Cochineal/carmine comes from insects and some people are badly allergic to it. I’m not but unnecessary bug bits (there’s always some chance of bugs in processed fruit) put me off the red grapefruit juices and red punches that have “natural coloring”, unless it is explicitly stated that it comes from beet juice, raspberry juice, etc. Ugh.

  37. AlphaBitchSoup says:

    Oh, and carmine/cochneal doesn’t come from a beetle (Order Coleoptera) they come from a true bug (Hemiptera).

    (Since we are being nitpicky about beetles/bugs/scale insects already.) Old-style shellac is also from a true bug.

  38. 800HighTech says:

    Shocking!

  39. bairdwallace says:

    I sort of get the feeling that when the CSR says “The product you have is from concentrate, any drink from concentrate has natural flavors” what they *might* be saying is “the act of concentrating and then rehydrating this makes us legally have to call it a natural flavor”. Or not, I don’t know.

    And when the CSR says “Natural flavors can be anything from nature.” the *may* be saying “What the FDA or USDA defines as natural flavors are anything from a natural source instead of a synthetic source.”

    Again, I have no clue. But maybe, just maybe, it is 100% juice, with natural flavors made from concentrated juice. If I had food sensitivities, you can be sure I wouldn’t risk it.

  40. ChelseaCosta says:

    Maybe “Natural Flavors” are the bug bigs that fall in when they make
    the juice. It DOES come from nature… :-b

  41. fonetek says:

    100% Juice means just that. Apparently they are 100% juice and 1% anything from nature? Maybe they should list 101% on their labels.

  42. Zulujines says:

    I remember once playing Trivial Pursuit and the question asked how many maggots the FDA allowed per (some quantity) of orange juice, and the answer was two. Since maggots come from nature…

    Frankly I don’t want to know what’s the food I eat, as long as it tastes good. I used to love scrapple when I was a kid, and now…not so much.

  43. Snarkysnake says:

    For just a few cents more,you can have the best product of its kind on earth- Real Florida orange juice without anything that you have to call and ask about. How ofeten do big companies sell you the best of ANYTHING ?

  44. BiZarRroBALlmeR says:

    feces, hair, fur, bug parts (may include wings, legs, antenna and other natural components) spit, sperm, pee….ok, I’m never eating/drinking packaged products again…ok after I finish this glass of OJ, then never again.

  45. TechnoDestructo says:

    orangeS, even.

  46. Zabella says:

    My partner has a fungus growing on both her arms, that when she scratches weeps a fluid that we call fungus juice… this could be the secret ingredient!

  47. hebrewhammer770 says:

    ^wow thats gross
    anywho, the fda doesn’t require companies to disclose the ingredients that make up less than 2% of the product. so don’t get worked up about the “natural flavors,” get worked up about the rodent hair or fungus juice or depleted uranium etc.

    or if you really want to know what’s in your food, make it yourself or buy kosher.

  48. GoVegan says:

    The fact is we deserve to know what we are paying for and what we are consuming. I am also a vegetarian and have a hard time getting companies to admit what they mean by “natural flavors” in their ingredients. For example, I called about BBQ Corn Nuts and the representative refused to tell me if the natural flavors in corn nuts meant chicken fat or some other animal part. There are also plenty of people out there with not only dietary preferences but also allergies who need to know what is in their food. They really need to come up with a much better way to label food but I really have the feeling that the food industry has a tight grip on the FDA and Congress.

  49. mariospants says:

    Well now there’s gonna be a rush on the 1-800 line asking this same question just so people can get their free coupon…

  50. vladthepaler says:

    The (reasonable) concern I think is that it might include some sort of flavouring derived from animals, making their OJ not vegetarian-friendly.

  51. LeoSolaris says:

    This is sort of like the term ‘spices’ in the ingredients lists. From what I have read, ‘spices’ can even include things that are low-level addictive. Sort of the way caffeine is low-level addictive. Might be why people keep buying Pringles.

    I try to be as healthy as possible about the food I buy, and tend to steer away from products that have ‘natural flavorings’ ‘spices’ and laundry lists of chemical names in place of normal food names.

    Things like this always remind me of something one of my dad’s friends mentioned after studying the ingredients list (the guy is a chemist) that the butter substitute we used was a molecule off of plastic. That was what started my ingredients watching. (Pretty sure it was “I can’t believe it’s not Butter”, but I may be wrong there.)

  52. Anthonym38 says:

    While traveling, I bought this product and after tasting it realized that it was NOT 100 percent OJ. That is when I found the cryptic ingredient listing and became concerned. Because of some medication I am taking, I am supposed to avoid grapefruit and grapefruit juice or flavoring which could cause an adverse reaction (some of these have resulted in death). There is no way to tell from the label if one of the concentrates or added ingredients contains grapefruit juice, extract, flavoring or what have you. Not a top 8 allergen, but potentially deadly nonetheless. I felt a little faint after taking a swig of this concoction, but that was probably a mild panic attack from discovering I had no real clue what I’d just poured down my throat. Caveat emptor for sure.

  53. scottymichaels says:

    I just called Tropicana, and was reassured that there is nothing besides orange fruit in the “natural flavor.” The representative said it could be the skin or pulp of the orange. That settled my nerves until I thought about all the chemicals and food coloring that was probably sprayed on the skins of these oranges.