What Does '100% Juice' Mean?

memoriesarecaptured/istock via getty images
memoriesarecaptured/istock via getty images

Buying fruit juice at the supermarket is a surprisingly complicated task that leads to myriad questions. What’s really in that “100% juice”? Why does that “juice” have the word “cocktail” loitering behind it? Let’s take a look at the exciting world of juice labeling.

What does “100% juice” mean?

As you might guess, that label legally means that everything in the bottle or carton was expressed from a fruit or vegetable. Seems straightforward enough, right? Not quite. Things are a little trickier. The “100% juice” label means that everything in the bottle came from a fruit or vegetable, not necessarily the fruit or vegetable you think you’re chugging.

So what fruits are in the bottle, then?

Juice makers have a problem. High-end fruit juices are delicious, but they’re also expensive. It’s tough to turn out an affordable product when you’ve got to squeeze loads of pricey fruits to produce a single bottle. To save money, companies dilute their wares with cheaper juices like white grape, apple, or pear. The finished product is still 100% fruit juice, but it may not be juice from the fruit you were expecting.

How can you tell what’s really in the bottle?

The FDA has a slew of naming and labeling restrictions that would be too confusing to remember; the prose stylings in the labeling regulations bear a more-than-passing resemblance to the tax code. The easiest solution to sniffing out what you’re really drinking is to have a look at the ingredients list rather than just taking the product name’s word for it.

What about the fruit cocktails and “drinks” that line the shelves?

Those drinks are a totally different animal. Unless a beverage is 100% juice, the FDA won’t let companies refer to it as a juice without jumping through some other hoops. If a drink is diluted to less than “100% juice,” the FDA’s rules stipulate that the word “juice” must be qualified with an additional term like “beverage,” “drink,” or “cocktail.”

What other beverages have to declare their percentage of juice?

Surprisingly, a few types of bar mix are legally obligated to declare what sort of juice they’re packing. According to FDA rules, if a bar mix “purports to contain juice,” it must declare what percentage of juice is in the final product. For example, the FDA writes, “Bloody Mary mix, by appearance and taste, purports to contain tomato juice and thus would be required to bear a statement as to the percentage of juice contained in the product.”

Same goes for strawberry daiquiri mix, but only if “its label or labeling also includes pictures of the juice dripping from strawberries or if the product looks and tastes like it contains strawberry juice or strawberry pulp.” If the product billed itself as “strawberry-flavored daiquiri mix,” it would be in the clear from a labeling perspective.

Are there any other exceptions to the labeling rules?

The FDA doesn’t require companies to disclose the percentage of juice if the juice in question is only used in minor amounts for flavoring and the drink doesn’t have anything on its label or in its appearance, like pulp, that would make a consumer think it was a fruit juice. That’s how a drink like Mountain Dew can avoid saying just how much of its recipe comes from orange juice. (There goes our plan to use Mountain Dew to ward off colds.)

Celebrate the Holidays With the 2020 Harry Potter Funko Pop Advent Calendar

Funko
Funko

Though the main book series and movie franchise are long over, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter remains in the spotlight as one of the most popular properties in pop-culture. The folks at Funko definitely know this, and every year the company releases a new Advent calendar based on the popular series so fans can count down to the holidays with their favorite characters.

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Right now, you can pre-order the 2020 edition of Funko's popular Harry Potter Advent calendar, and if you do it through Amazon, you'll even get it on sale for 33 percent off, bringing the price down from $60 to just $40.

Funko Pop!/Amazon

Over the course of the holiday season, the Advent calendar allows you to count down the days until Christmas, starting on December 1, by opening one of the tiny, numbered doors on the appropriate day. Each door is filled with a surprise Pocket Pop! figurine—but outside of the trio of Harry, Hermione, and Ron, the company isn't revealing who you'll be getting just yet.

Calendars will start shipping on October 15, but if you want a head start, go to Amazon to pre-order yours at a discount.

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Are Halloween Pumpkins Edible?

Diane Helentjaris, Unsplash
Diane Helentjaris, Unsplash

When people visit their local family-owned pumpkin patch around Halloween, they aren’t usually looking for dinner. The majority of the nearly 2 billion pounds of pumpkins cultivated in the U.S. each year are carved up instead of eaten, making the squash a unique part of the agriculture industry. For people who prefer seasonal recipes to decorations, that may raise a few questions: Are the pumpkins sold for jack-o’-lanterns different from pumpkins sold as food? And are Halloween pumpkins any good to eat?

The pumpkins available at farms and outside supermarkets during October are what most people know, but that’s just one type of pumpkin. Howden pumpkins are the most common decorative pumpkin variety. They’ve been bred specifically for carving into jack-o’-lanterns, with a symmetrical round shape, deep orange color, and sturdy stem that acts as a handle. Shoppers looking for the perfect carving pumpkin have other options as well: the Racer, Magic Wand, Zeus, Hobbit, Gold Rush, and Connecticut field pumpkin varieties are all meant to be displayed on porch steps for Halloween.

Because they’re bred to be decoration first, carving pumpkins don’t taste very good. They have walls that are thin enough to poke a cheap knife through and a texture that’s unappealing compared to the squashes consumers are used to eating. “Uncut carving pumpkins are safe to eat; however, it's not the best type to use for cooking,” Daria McKelvey, a supervisor for the Kemper Center for Home Gardening at the Missouri Botanical Garden, tells Mental Floss. “Carving pumpkins are grown for their large size, not the flavor. Their flesh can be bland and the fibers are very stringy.”

To get the best-tasting pumpkins possible this autumn, you’re better off avoiding the seasonal supermarket displays. Many pumpkin varieties are bred especially for cooking and eating. These include Sugar Pie, Kabocha, Jack-Be-Little, Ghost Rider, Hubbard, Jarrahdale, Baby Pam, and Cinderella pumpkins. You can shop for these varieties by name at local farms or in the produce section of your grocery store. They should be easy to tell apart from the carving pumpkins available for Halloween: Unlike decorative pumpkins, cooking pumpkins are small and dense. This is part of the reason they taste better. McKelvey says. “[Cooking pumpkins] are smaller, sweeter, have a thicker rind (meatier), and have less fibers, making them easier to cook with—but not so good for carving.” These pumpkins can be stuffed, blended into soup, or simply roasted.

If you do want to get some culinary use out of your carving pumpkins this Halloween, set aside the seeds when scooping out the guts. Roasted with seasonings and olive oil, seeds (or pepitas) from different pumpkin varieties become a tasty and nutritious snack. Another option is to turn the flesh of your Halloween pumpkin into purée. Adding sugar and spices and baking it into a dessert can do a lot to mask the fruit’s underwhelming flavor and consistency.

Whatever you do, make sure your pumpkin isn’t carved up already when you decide to cook with it. There are many ways to recycle your jack-o’-lanterns, but turning them into pie isn’t one of them. "If one does plan on cooking with a carving pumpkin, it should be intact,” McKelvey says. “Never use one that's been carved into a jack-o'-lantern, otherwise you could be dealing with bacteria, dirt and dust, and other little critters.”