Aseptic Juice

Reporter: James Thomas

Even the juice companies admit it. Consumers don't want to drink fresh orange juice that's been heated, chilled and stored for years. But, as we revealed on Monday, they're all putting aseptic juice in their product. Coca Cola's Crusta and GV premium juices use it. National Food's Daily Juice and Australian Fresh. Others use it too but how would you know - it's not labelled.Today Tonight has received a deluge of complaints. This morning, lobbyists spun into action.

Kate Carnell is a former politician turned hired gun for the sellers of aseptic juice."This juice is identical, I suppose, to the juice that is squeezed today."No it's not Kate. The juice that is squeezed today is fresh. Aseptic is old and inferior."Once you heat any orange juice, you are removing a lot of the fresh tasting components of that juice" says George.

George Polymiadis is a food technologist, microbiologist and juice maker. He says aseptic juice is damaged juice. "The vitamin C level is reduced by 50%." But, the industry tells us aseptic processing is good for us. "They heat it very quickly to maintain the nutrients. So they don't add anything to it, no preservatives, no additives, no anything. So it is in its natural state" says Kate.

Really? That's not what we were told on Monday by the man who used to blend aseptic juice into Australian Fresh and Daily Juice. "Sometimes you put a colour in. We also add a little highlighter to it, to give it more flavour" said the whistleblower. A copy of a flavour label which was allegedly attached to a container addressed to Crusta, owned by Coca Cola was sent to us. The person who sent us this information says she gets sick when she drinks this juice.

The label clearly identifies the flavour, in its concentrated form, as a "hazardous" material and warns handlers to "avoid skin contact". It is also described as "very toxic" to aquatic life. Diluted, this juice additive is widely considered safe but no one could argue the juices it's added to are fresh. "Where products are marketed as fresh and they contain aseptic juice. In our view they breach the code." The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's Graeme Samuel says he will prosecute companies for misleading conduct.

Currently another government agency, Food Standards Australia New Zealand allow juice companies to mislead consumers by using aseptic juice without labelling it. A practice the ACCC wants stopped. "The ACCC would have a strong preference that ingredients like this are marked on the packaging" says Graeme. The man to make that happen is Parliamentary Secretary for Health Mark Butler. We wanted to ask him why aseptic juice is not currently labelled. He was unavailable due to a family holiday.

"Well the law is a joke. The law is a joke and that's why it needs to be changed. Every consumer in this country should be outraged that boiled juice is being passed off as fresh juice. It's a con" says Senator Nick Xenophon. He is campaigning for truth in labelling. In the meantime you might be thinking of switching from orange juice to apple... think again. "Grapefruit into aseptic, lemon into aseptic, apple into aseptic" says the whistleblower.

Coca Cola's GV 5 fruits and GV Lemon Juice use Aseptic juice.Daily Juice's Apple, Apple and Blackcurrent, Breakfast Juice, five fruits, Orange and Mango... Their whole range is aseptically processed. And what about Australian Fresh - yep they're all aseptic. And they're just the one's we know about.