I picked up a carton of organic orange juice from a Trader Joe’s grocery store yesterday. I wanted to get organic juice because I know how destructive non-organic agriculture can be.
There were two kinds of organic orange juice available. One had no pulp, which didn’t seem very healthy, given that the pulp in orange juice provides dietary fiber. So, I picked the alternative: Trader Joe’s organic orange juice “calcium added”.
When I opened up the juice back at home and had a glass, I was disappointed to discover that the calcium added juice didn’t have pulp either. My assumption that it would, because it wasn’t marked “no pulp”, was not well founded.
I started to consider more about how that carton of juice was marked. It was called organic, but the label said that calcium was added. Is that an organic practice, to add calcium to orange juice?
Looking on the label, I read the following ingredients: “Organic orange juice, Tricalcium phosphate”. Hold on. Stop the breakfast. The juice is marked organic, but the tricalcium phosphate isn’t marked organic. So, is the Trader Joe’s orange juice really organic?
Organic food is supposed to be free of synthetic (human created) chemical treatments. Tricalcium phosphate sounds like a synthetic chemical, but it isn’t necessarily. Tricalcium phosphate occurs in nature. It’s found in rocks in places like Morocco, and it’s also obtained from the bones of animals like cows and pigs.
I can’t find any information about where exactly the tricalcium phosphate in Trader Joe’s orange juice comes from, but if it comes from animal bones, that means that my juice wouldn’t be vegetarian, or at least not vegan. It’s not marked as organic tricalcium phosphate, and so I want to know whether the Trader Joe’s tricalcium phosphate comes from cows or pigs that were not organically reared. If that were to be the case, that orange juice would definitely not be organic.
However, if the tricalcium phosphate Trader Joe’s used came from the ground, well, I can’t find any reason to conclude that the mineral disqualifies the juice as organic, strictly speaking. Of course, that doesn’t mean that it would truly be beneficial for the health of those who drink it. Arsenic occurs as naturally as tricalcium phosphate, after all, and arsenic is not usually thought of as a health food.
I’ve got a little bone to pick with Trader Joe’s in terms of its labeling, though, saying that the orange juice has “calcium added”. It’s true that the calcium triphosphate has calcium in it, but it has other elements too: Oxygen and phosphorus. You don’t see the label reading “phosphorus added”, or “oxygen added”, but calcium triphosphate has more oxygen atoms in it that it has calcium atoms.
There’s a reason that Trader Joe’s just didn’t come right out and put “Tricalcium phosphate added” on the front of the orange juice package. They know tricalcium phosphate doesn’t sound like it fits with the ideal of organic food as easily as simple calcium does. It seems to be playing around the edges of what’s allowable within the definition of organic food.
Aesthetically, the Trader Joe’s organic orange juice with calcium added tastes like, well, like it has calcium added… At least, it tastes like it has something funny added to it. I can’t honestly say that I know what calcium – tricalcium phosphate – really tastes like. What I can say is that the orange juice tastes not quite right, and that’s the best reason of all for me to decide against buying any more in the future.