I am a big raw juice fan, have been for many years. After I make the juice, usually a couple of cups or more, I store the leftover juice in a wine bottle, and use a vacuum device to reduce the air supply. Raw juice, like raw milk, is a fragile food because its many enzymes and other microorganisms deteriorate quickly when exposed to air. 

Occasionally, when I don’t get a chance to replenish my juice supply, I will buy one of the several brands of raw juice that have shown up in Whole Foods and a few other upscale retailers over the last couple years. I try not to buy them too often, partly because they are very expensive ($8-$10 for a small bottle), but also because they don’t taste quite right to me. Even though it looks like there is some pulp in the bottle of vegetable juice, I can never taste or feel it. Beyond that, it somehow feels as if the juice is missing something. Hard to describe, since it is subtle. 

I always figured the taste problem had to do with the production date, which you can kind of infer from reading closely the sell-by info on some of the bottles; a stacker at one Whole Foods told me the bottles are dated to expire 14 days after production. But even if I bought a bottle that seemed to have just arrived, it never tasted much different from one that had been on the shelves for some days, and nowhere near as “alive” as the juice I make at home. (I should emphasize that the juices I am referring to here are made by not made by Whole Foods but rather by companies with the name Suja and BluePrint; some Whole Foods stores have juice bars, and the juices they make are much like what I make at home.)

I have also wondered how these new commercially produced “raw” juices managed to skirt the restrictions that have gradually been placed on raw juice by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration along with state public health agencies since several serious outbreaks from tainted apple juice occurred in the 1990. Because of the restrictions and labeling requirements, nearly all fruit and vegetable juices sold at retail today are pasteurized. 

So I was curious to read a lengthy article in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, “How Much for Salad in  a Bottle?”, about the new “raw” juices that have appeared. Most of the article was about how carrying around the new juices has become a status symbol. It also marveled that such an expensive product has grown significantly in popularity, and attractiveness to the big food companies. The important stuff, right? One of the companies, BluePrint, was quoted saying it had $20 million sales last year, and was acquired by Hain Celestial Group. Another, Evolution Fresh, was acquired by Starbucks Coffee Co. for $30 million. 

In fact, the article never got to the regulatory part I was wondering about. But there was a paragraph near the end of the article that caught my eye. “To extend shelf life, some companies, including Suja, BluePrint, and Evolution Fresh, have turned to a process often called High Pressure Processing (HPP), which inactivates most microorganisms (emphasis added) while retaining natural freshness. HPP, also used to preserve guacamole and ready-to-eat meats, subject the food to intense pressure of thousands of pounds a square inch.”

So now I had an explanation for why the store’s mass-bottled juice tasted different from mine. (I now realize I’ve had the HPP-treated guacamole, and it never tasted quite right, either.)

The next paragraph made mention of a federal court suit filed last month against Hain, noting that the suit alleges HPP “destroys some probiotics and enzymes,” and contending that the company’s claim the juice is “raw” amounts to false advertising. Rather than standing up for the integrity of its product, Hain declined comment. Not very inspiring. 

I went and located the suit, which is 36 pages, which was filed by four consumers, as a class action suit. At one point it states: “Juice is 100% Raw only if it contains all of the same enzymes, nutrients, probiotics, vitamins, and minerals as the fruits and vegetables had prior to being juiced. However, that is not the case with the (BluePrint) Juice Products. Once subjected to HPP, some of the enzymes, nutrients, vitamins, probiotics, and minerals contained in the pre-HPP Juice Products are no longer present. In fact, Defendants have admitted that HPP has an impact ‘on the structure of the components responsible for nutrition and flavor.’As such, Defendants cannot truthfully market the Juice Products as ‘100% Raw’ when, in reality, the pre-HPP and post-HPP juices are not identical.”

I am big on not assigning guilt  before those charged have had their day in court. But I have tasted, and read, enough to not want to buy those “raw” juices any more. 

It makes sense that the HPP juices shouldn’t have the same benefits as fresh untreated juice. We are increasingly learning about the differences in health benefits between pasteurized and unpasteurized milk. There have been assessments showing the nutritional differences between factory and pastured eggs. On and on it goes.

As Dave Milano, Mark McAfee, and others have argued here, we seem to have to repeatedly learn the lesson (or at least yours truly has had to learn) that it is impossible to process and re-package nature in a jar or in a pill. And kudos to the people who were outraged enough to call the food corporations on their deception.