Redefining Orange Juice?

Ernie NeffOrange Juice

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Some Florida citrus processors, scientists, grower representatives and others recently started discussions about the feasibility of changing the legal standard of identity for orange juice (OJ).

Under current U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards of identify for OJ, only sweet orange can be used in OJ products without limitation. Only 10 percent of juice from mandarins or citrus hybrids can be used in standard OJ products.

Peter Chaires, executive director of New Varieties Development and Management Corp. (NVDMC), said the discussions are about “restoring (orange juice) supply using (mandarin) hybrids that are very similar to what we know as sweet orange.” Florida’s orange juice supply has plummeted in recent years because of HLB; some of the mandarin hybrids exhibit tolerance to HLB.

Chaires and University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) citrus breeder Fred Gmitter discussed the initiative May 21 with the Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF) board of directors. They reported on an April meeting to initiate discussion about the issue. Chaires said that meeting included NVDMC, Florida Citrus Processors Association, CRDF, Florida Citrus Mutual, some citrus processors, and UF/IFAS and U.S. Department of Agriculture citrus breeders.

“There are mandarin hybrids that are very mandarin-like that are showing tolerance (to HLB), and have been shown to be able to be processed and blended into orange juice, improving the quality of the product,” Gmitter said. He added that a survey of one group of Florida consumers indicated they liked blends of mandarin hybrids with sweet OJ “better than the commercial (OJ) product that’s in the supermarket right now.”

Chaires said before pursuing a change in standards of identity, “We really want to make sure … that it’s well vetted and well supported” by the Florida industry.

If the industry decides to pursue the issue, Gmitter said research would need to determine the productivity of the mandarin hybrids. Research would also need to determine the hybrids’ flavor and aroma chemical attributes, and how the flavor and aroma are perceived by a broad group of American consumers.

Hear more from Chaires and Gmitter:

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About the Author
Ernie Neff

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large