Chicago-based Tropicana, owned byPepsiCo Inc., produces the best-selling orange juice in the U.S. and contends that it is working hard to provide healthier options. One such product is Trop50, a less-sweet drink that contains a day's supply of vitamin C in a 50-calorie, 8-ounce serving.
"While USDA recommends a majority of fruit servings come from whole fruit, the fact is most Americans are falling short," a Tropicana spokeswoman said in a statement. She further noted that USDA guidelines allow for as much as 8 ounces of juice a day "because it can play a role in helping people meet their daily goals and get vital nutrients."
While the public health community is coming to increasing agreement on fruit juice, some believe it could take years to persuade parents and school districts to act on the findings.
Dr. Elsie Taveras, a pediatrician who serves as co-director of the Obesity Prevention Program at Harvard Medical School, said the message on juice has come as a surprise to her patients.
"It's not so difficult to convince a family that soda really has no nutritional benefits," Taveras said in the documentary. "It's harder to convince families that juice can have almost exactly the same sugar content as a glass of soda."
Popkin admits that he couldn't have imagined warning people off fruit juice 10 years ago.
"But it has taken us about a decade to truly understand the role of fruit juice," he said in an email. "In many countries, soft drink companies have fought hard to replace soft drinks with fruit juice (made by juice companies they bought), but the research has shown fruit juice has the same effect as soft drinks on our health — all adverse, negative and fairly severe."
Tribune reporter Emily Bryson York contributed.