Juice Drinks: The Secret Ingredient You Weren’t Expecting

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Juice drinks and pouches have been around for decades. They certainly have made life easier on parents, not to mention the little piece of mind knowing that many brands available on store shelves are preservative free.

A good thing – or so we think: Parents and children have been discovering a nasty hidden ingredient inside the boxes and pouches. Mold!

WHNT News 19 spoke to Dr. Kathleen Berchelmann, a pediatrician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.  Dr. Berchelmann experienced the moldy discovery through one of her patients.

“We had a case come into our ER,” said Berchelmann.  “It was a girl who drank a juice box and as she got to the bottom she found all kinds of green slime.”

And that box of juice wasn’t expired.  “Many juice boxes that grow mold are unexpired,” said Berchelmann.  “In fact, the one that we saw was an unexpired juice box.”

Here’s what’s happening.  Juice boxes and pouches can be easily damaged.  The tiniest puncture allows the sugars in the juice to ferment, turning the product into a form of alcohol.

Since many of these storable drinks are made without preservatives, mold can grow very easily.

The good news, says Berchelmann, is that moldy, fermented juice is typically not a danger.  An upset stomach can sometimes occur.  Berchelmann says she’s stopped buying these kinds of drinks for her children, though.  She discusses her decision here.

Still, that begs the question, do juice manufactures know about this?  It turns out they do.  We found this warning on one of the Capri Sun boxes we purchased:

•    Warning: Do not drink if pouch is leaking, damaged or swollen as fermentation can occur.

WHNT held an unscientific experiment with various juice boxes and Capri Suns.  We poked tiny holes in the drinks and placed them in a variety of conditions for four days.  Sure enough, a few of the boxes started fermenting and were sour to the taste.

Russ Dyer with Kraft Foods sent WHNT News 19 this statement on behalf of Capri Sun:

“Nothing is more important to us than providing a high quality, wholesome product that you and your kids love. Although it’s extremely rare, because Capri Sun does not contain any artificial preservatives, something many moms appreciate, it is possible for food mold to grow inside a pouch that has been punctured and is exposed to air. ”

Here’s an experiment Humboldt State University did on Capri Suns and mold.

So, what are they doing about it? Interestingly enough, Capri Sun recently invested more than $2 million to make their pouches even stronger and more resistant to leaks.  That doesn’t mean tiny holes or tears can’t still occur.

Experts recommend parents gently squeeze each pouch to check for leaks before serving juice drinks to their kids.  Any leaky or punctured pouches should be discarded.  And remember, storing these drinks on shelves isn’t a good idea, especially in warm environments like garages and car trunks.  The heat can quicken the fermentation process.