My children think that getting a juice box is a special treat. Am I a food ogre for keeping my children away from delightful treats that all children should enjoy? Considering its lower nutrient content and high natural sugar content, I feel my food dollars are better spent elsewhere. I like to buy fruit in its whole form most of the time. Plus, fruit juice has been found to contain lead and arsenic

Now I have just one more reason not to buy my children juice boxes: mold. A mother who is also a doctor recently blogged about a mother and child who came in after a child noticed green slime coming up the straw of her Juicy Juice box. Green slime going into a child’s mouth is not what mothers want to see.

This juice box, within its expiration date, was found to be quite moldy when cut open. Just look at the picture!

moldy juice boxI’d love to say that this is an unusual occurrence, but a quick Google search brought up news stories of similar incidences from a variety of brands. Apparently even a microscopic hole can cause oxygen to get into a juice box, which then allows mold, or for the many natural sugars in the juice to ferment, forming alcohol.

Thankfully it seems that mold in juice won’t cause serious illness, but perhaps just a bad stomachache and a worried mother. If your child does drink a juice box that it found to contain mold, know that your child shouldn’t be in any serious danger.

There is another option to juice boxes, and that is juicing your own. It used to be common to start the day with a small glass of freshly pressed orange juice. My great grandmother’s cupboard contained small juice glasses, a regular fixture in cupboards of the time. Back in the day, they understood the value of fresh orange juice for its vitamin C content, but didn’t feel the need to gulp down supersized cups of it. I have been researching vitamin C sources, and fresh produce is definitely a great source. Using portion-appropriate glasses (like these beautiful Italian juice glasses), and then making freshly squeezed orange juice allows you to enjoy mold-free orange juice, with up to 1/3 more vitamin C than pasteurized orange juice.

My dad turned me off of many store-bought orange juices after he told me how often he saw unrefrigerated trucks bringing in hundreds of gallons of orange juice over the Mexico border to be pasteurized and bottled in the U.S. Juice traveling hundreds of miles in sweltering heat without refrigeration is not appetizing. We have rarely bought juice for a variety of reasons, but after examining our daily diet, I realized that getting more vitamin C would be beneficial. Because freshly squeezed orange juice is a favorite of my husband’s, I’ve realized that fresh orange juice can be a part of a nourishing diet.

While squeezing your own orange juice at home used to be a common practice, it's not very common anymore. Sometimes it seems like a “big project”, but it’s not really. You can use an inexpensive orange juice juicer like this one that is set on top of a glass, or a sturdy one like this one that makes it pretty effortless. We are also grateful to own an Omega juicer, which we generally use to make fresh vegetable juice.

Fresh juice can be a lovely addition to a nourishing diet when consumed in moderation and well-tolerated. Drinking it from a juice box is probably not the best choice for a variety of reasons, one of which is the risk of mold.

Do you buy juice boxes? Why or why not? 

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Photo: Children's MD

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