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This week, it looked as if fruit juice might fi nally lose its claim to healthin…

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This week, it looked as if fruit juice might fi nally lose its claim to healthiness and be put into the same category as fi zzy drinks. It emerged that a headteacher, Elizabeth Chaplin, who runs Valence primary school in Dagenham, wrote to parents about a new rule to confi scate juice cartons from children’s lunch boxes. Instead, pupils would only be allowed to drink water.

Fruit juice isn’t the same as intact fruit and it has as much sugar as many classical sugar drinks. It is also absorbed very fast, so by the time it gets to the stomach the body doesn’t know whether it’s Coca-Cola or orange juice, frankly. It is a relatively easy thing to give up. This comes on top of a year or so of stories about the high sugar content of fruit juice. The studies published in the British Medical Journal in summer have found that fruit juice is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. The studies are starting to make people realize that fruit juice may not be as wholesome as they once believed.

The juice industry has long enjoyed a healthy image. Anything to do with fruit, juice has always been used to put a sign of health around other products that don’t merit it. That is business usual for the food industry. For all their reliance on phrases such as “100% pure” and “pure squeezed”, many of the big commercial orange juice manufacturers make a processed product.

In the early 20th century, juice was mainly sold in cans. During the second world war, the US government commissioned scientists to develop a product that would supply vitamin C to soldiers overseas. That’s when research into developing a frozen concentrate that people would actually like started. Until then, it had been fairly tasteless — the concentrating process removed the water, but also the natural chemicals that gave orange juice its taste. They started adding fresh juice to the concentrate and that made it taste good. The discovery was too late for the war, but after the war that’s when orange juice started to become really popular.

However, as the market grew, it was becoming too expensive to use fresh juice to add flavour back to concentrate. They developed the technology around the 1960s to capture and break down the essences and oils that were lost when the juice was concentrated, and came up with these things called flavour packs. Producers of orange juice began storing their juice in vast tanks. In order to keep it ‘fresh’, the product had to be isolated from oxygen. Once this had been done, the juice could be stored for up to a year. The only problem was that this process also removed much of the taste. They used flavour packs to make it taste like anything people knew as orange juice.

Not everybody is racing to excoriate juice just yet. It’s about portion size. The key message is that small amounts — a 150 ml glass is quite small — as a part of a healthy varied diet is fine. But we would suggest you have it with a meal so it doesn't make your blood sugar go up too quickly. I think the difficulty comes when people think of fruit juice as being a really healthy drink and they have half a pint or have it throughout the day, or where children are being brought up on large amounts. You get fluid and vitamin C but you need to be aware that it does contain sugar.

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How does the author explain that juice cartons will be confiscated from children’s lunch boxes in Valence primary school?

  1. Juice is spoilt fast.
  2. They are not useful for health.
  3. They are expensive.
  4. Children can drink only fizzy drinks.

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