Q&A with Alissa Hamilton – The Boston Globe

Q&A with Alissa Hamilton – The Boston Globe: “What could be simpler than a glass of orange juice? The beverage holds a place in the pantheon of wholesome American breakfast foods, on equal footing with toast, cereal, and eggs. It’s pure and natural, ads tell us, and we buy both the sentiment and the product. More than 620 million gallons of orange juice are sold per year in the United States, according to market research from Nielsen.

Author Alissa Hamilton would have us take another look at the glass on the breakfast table. That simplicity is actually the result of a complicated process – juice stored in tanks for long periods, then goosed with flavor packs to taste like fruit again. Her book, ‘Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice,’ due out in May from Yale University Press, reveals that orange juice, with its image as a natural Florida product, bears the fingerprints of chemists and is often shipped from South America.

Hamilton traces the history of the drink, first processed in the United States in the early 1900s as a canned juice that was said to taste like ‘battery acid.’ World War II ushered in the age of palatable processed orange juice, with the military seeking a source of vitamin C that soldiers would readily consume. In 1948, frozen concentrate was born, too late for the war effort but in time to help revive an ailing citrus industry, which was struggling with a surplus of fruit.

A further boost from Bing Crosby, who crooned about Minute Maid in radio ads, and OJ was on its way to becoming America’s favorite breakfast drink. Since then, the citrus industry and its technologies have changed. The FDA tussled with manufacturers to set standards for orange juice. What remains constant? Marketing – some of it deceptive, says Hamilton.

If orange juice isn’t harmful, it also isn’t what it’s portrayed to be. Consumers have a right to know what they are consuming, Hamilton says, and that is at the heart of her story. Ideas spoke with the author, a Woodcock Foundation-funded food and society policy fellow, by phone at her home in Toronto.

IDEAS: You write that the first question everyone asks when they hear about the book is whether orange juice is good for us. So – is orange juice good for us?

HAMILTON: I tell people if you like it, drink it, but not because you think it’s good for you. You’d be better off with a whole orange than a glass of orange juice. It has more fiber and more vitamin C. But I’m not a dietitian. The book is not about whether you should drink orange juice and whether it’s healthy. It’s about how little consumers know about how popular and – in the case of orange juice – seemingly straightforward foods are produced and the repercussions for agriculture.

IDEAS: What isn’t straightforward about orange juice?

HAMILTON: It’s a heavily processed product. It’s heavily engineered as well. In the process of pasteurizing, juice is heated and stripped of oxygen, a process called deaeration, so it doesn’t oxidize. Then it’s put in huge storage tanks where it can be kept for upwards of a year. It gets stripped of flavor-providing chemicals, which are volatile. When it’s ready for packaging, companies such as Tropicana hire flavor companies such as Firmenich to engineer flavor packs to make it taste fresh. People think not-from-concentrate is a fresher product, but it also sits in storage for quite a long time.

IDEAS: What goes into these flavor packs?

HAMILTON: They’re technically made from orange-derived substances, essence and oils. Flavor companies break down the essence and oils into individual chemicals and recombine them. I spoke to many people in the industry at Firmenich, different flavorists, and at Tropicana, and what you’re getting looks nothing like the original substance. To call it natural at this point is a real stretch.

IDEAS: Why isn’t orange flavor listed in the ingredients on the carton?

HAMILTON: The regulations were based on standards of identity for orange juice set in the 1960s. Technology at that time was not sophisticated at all . . . I don’t think the concern is so much ‘are these flavor packs unhealthy?’ The bigger issue is the fact that having to add flavor packs shows the product is not as fresh and pure as marketed.

IDEAS: It reminds me of McDonald’s adding flavor to its fries to make them taste meaty, or beef extract to Chicken McNuggets, as we read about in ‘Fast Food Nation.’

HAMILTON: The flavor industry can lend diversity to products that aren’t really that diverse. Soft drinks are a perfect example: They’re corn syrup and flavor. With orange juice, it’s masking the processing procedure rather than the diversity of ingredients.

IDEAS: So parse the carton for us. For example, what is the phrase ‘not from concentrate’ really about?

HAMILTON: In the ’80s, Tropicana had a hold on ready-to-serve orange juice with full-strength juice. Then this new product, reconstituted orange juice, started appearing in supermarkets. Tropicana had to make decisions. Storing concentrate is much cheaper than full-strength juice. The phrase ‘not from concentrate’ was to try to make consumers pay more for the product because it’s a more expensive product to manufacture. It didn’t have to do with the product being fresher; the product didn’t change, the name simply changed. Tropicana didn’t want to have to switch to concentrate technology.

IDEAS: A battle of the beverages?

HAMILTON: Yes. This is the orange juice equivalent of the cola wars. Minute Maid is probably the most familiar reconstituted orange juice, and it’s owned by Coca-Cola. Tropicana is owned by Pepsi.

IDEAS: To what degree is orange juice still made from Florida oranges?

HAMILTON: Most concentrate is now from Brazil. Shipping it is relatively easy. Until recently, you could count on [Tropicana] Pure Premium being from Florida, but shipping technology has advanced. Companies like Tropicana have started shipping full-strength juice from Brazil rather than buying and squeezing in Florida. The majority of not-from-concentrate is coming from Florida-squeezed oranges, but that’s certainly changing. The orange growing is moving to Brazil, which grows the most oranges for juice by far. Land is cheaper, and environmental regulations are almost nonexistent.

IDEAS: How is this affecting Florida growers?

HAMILTON: They are really struggling because of the growth of the industry. This product designed to help them has now effectively made them redundant. The groves are disappearing. They’re being turned over in favor of condominiums. That was my ultimate aim, to show the connection between how processing does affect growing and how we as buyers – our lack of knowledge – does have implications for agriculture.

IDEAS: It strikes me that this is a timely book, with the Obama administration promising a review of FDA operations.

HAMILTON: I do think there’s an opportunity. . . . It’s been going on for decades with misleading marketing campaigns; I don’t know why anybody isn’t standing up to this. It’s a perfect place for the FDA to start.”

World’s top 10 scariest airports

World’s top 10 scariest airports: “

1. Paro Airport, Bhutan

Tucked into a tightly cropped valley and surrounded by 4900-metre-high Himalayan peaks, Bhutan’s only airport is forbidding to fly into. It requires specially trained pilots to manoeuver and land through a channel of tree-covered hillsides.

2. Princess Juliana International Airport, St. Maarten

The length of the runway is just 2180 metres which is fine for small or medium-size jets, but as the second-busiest airport in the Eastern Caribbean, it regularly welcomes wide-body jetliners like Boeing 747s and Airbus A340s which fly in low over Maho Beach and skim just over the perimeter fence.

3. Reagan National Airport, Washington, DC

Located smack in the center of two overlapping air-exclusion zones, Reagan National requires pilots flying the so-called River Visual into the airport to follow the Potomac while steering clear of sensitive sites such as the Pentagon and CIA headquarters. On taking off, pilots need to climb quickly and execute a steep left bank to avoid flying over the White House.

4. Gibraltar Airport, Gibraltar

Pinched in by the Mediterranean on its eastern flank and the Bay of Algeciras on its western side, the airport’s truncated runway stretches just 1828 metres and requires pinpoint precision.

5. Matekane Air Strip, Lesotho

The 399-metre-long runway is perched at the edge of a couloir at 2300 metres. You drop down the face of a 609-metre cliff until you start flying. Says bush pilot Tom Claytor: ‘The rule in the mountains is that it is better to take off downwind and downhill than into wind and uphill, because in Lesotho, the hills will usually out-climb you.’

6. Barra Airport, Barra, Scotland

The airport on the tiny Outer Hebridean Island of Barra is actually a wide shallow bay onto which scheduled planes land with the roughness of landings determined by how the tide went out.

7. Toncontin Airport, Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Having negotiated the rough-hewn mountainous terrain, pilots must execute a dramatic 45-degree, last-minute bank to the left just minutes prior to touching down in a bowl-shaped valley on a runway just 1862 metres in length. The airport, at an altitude of 1000 metres, can accommodate aircraft no larger than Boeing 757’s.

8. John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York

Pilots have to avoid interfering with flights into New York’s two other close-by airports, LaGuardia and Newark. Set up in 1964 as a noise-abatement measure, this approach forces pilots to have a reported 457-metre ceiling and a eight-kilometre visibility before lining up with runway 13L and the waters of Jamaica Bay.

9. Madeira Airport, Funchal, Madeira

Wedged in by mountains and the Atlantic, Madeira Airport requires a clockwise approach for which pilots are specially trained. Despite a unique elevated extension that was completed back in 2000 and now expands the runway length to what should be a comfortable 2743 metres, the approach to Runway 05 remains hair-raising. Pilots must first point their aircraft at the mountains and, at the last minute, bank right to the runway.

10. Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport, Saba, Netherlands Antilles

Perched on a precipitous gale-battered peninsula on the island’s northeastern corner, the airport requires pilots to tackle blustery trade winds, occasional spindrift, and their own uneasy constitutions as they maneuver in for a perfect landing on a runway that’s just 396 metres long.”

Chávez devalues bolivar, Venezuelans go on spending spree – Douglas French – Mises Economics Blog

Chávez devalues bolivar, Venezuelans go on spending spree – Douglas French – Mises Economics Blog: “With oil prices off their highs, his country in a recession and prices soaring, President Hugo Chávez devalued the bolivar and ‘vowed to fight speculation and price increases that could result from the devaluation.’

At Caracas’s middle-class Sambil shopping mall, lines at cashiers reached 50-deep. Carmen Blanco, a 28-year-old accountant, waited to buy a 42-inch flat-screen television she doesn’t need because she already has one at home.”

mental_floss Blog » Is Your Child a Dandelion or an Orchid?

mental_floss Blog » Is Your Child a Dandelion or an Orchid?: “An article in the December 2009 issue of The Atlantic poses a fascinating scientific question: do some children’s genes give them a greater risk of failure, but also a greater chance for success, if they’re raised under the right circumstances? Such children are dubbed “orchid children” David Dobbs’s piece The Science of Success. The comparison is to a Swedish folk saying about “dandelion children” who will thrive anywhere (although, yes, good parenting helps them too — just not as much). Dobbs details current research into biology and evolution which suggests that a percentage of the population (for humans and other species) are “orchids,” who require careful parental attention during early development — without this attention, they suffer and fail, but with careful nurturing, they succeed spectacularly, like orchids in a greenhouse.”

The Arctic Oscillation and Arctic Weather Patterns

The Arctic Oscillation and Arctic Weather Patterns: “Arctic Climatology and Meteorology Patterns
The Arctic Oscillation

The Arctic Oscillation refers to opposing atmospheric pressure patterns in northern middle and high latitudes.

The oscillation exhibits a ‘negative phase’ with relatively high pressure over the polar region and low pressure at midlatitudes (about 45 degrees North), and a ‘positive phase’ in which the pattern is reversed. In the positive phase, higher pressure at midlatitudes drives ocean storms farther north, and changes in the circulation pattern bring wetter weather to Alaska, Scotland and Scandinavia, as well as drier conditions to the western United States and the Mediterranean. In the positive phase, frigid winter air does not extend as far into the middle of North America as it would during the negative phase of the oscillation. This keeps much of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains warmer than normal, but leaves Greenland and Newfoundland colder than usual. Weather patterns in the negative phase are in general ‘opposite’ to those of the positive phase, as illustrated below.

Over most of the past century, the Arctic Oscillation alternated between its positive and negative phases. Starting in the 1970s, however, the oscillation has tended to stay in the positive phase, causing lower than normal arctic air pressure and higher than normal temperatures in much of the United States and northern Eurasia.”