As Florida’s citrus season revs up, the state’s growers are touting progress on several fronts, all of which could make a difference to consumers.
The first hopeful signs relate to the most unpredictable dynamics of all. According to the Florida Department of Citrus, growing conditions in Florida have been optimal, resulting in solid forecasts for citrus production. Additional optimism relates to progress growers are making in the battle against citrus greening, a disease that has seriously reduced the state’s production of oranges and grapefruit. The overall acreage of citrus groves has decreased by 1.8% within the last year, dropping to 515,147 from 524,147 acres, as of September 18, 2014.

Growers are employing various methods to restore affected trees to their previous productivity. Preventative methods are also being used to slow or stop the harmful disease. “Scientists are working fervently to provide additional solutions,” explains FDOC spokesman David Steele. “The federal Farm Bill passed earlier this year included significant, targeted funding for greening research.”
Against this backdrop, consumption of orange juice has declined. “Consumers continue to enjoy every drop of juice Florida’s growers can produce,” said Steele, “but there is less of it available. We have seen consistent declines in orange juice consumption over the last several seasons. Those declines have generally tracked with comparable declines in production, due to greening.”
Despite the decline in production and consumption, orange juice remains the nation’s most popular 100% fruit juice by a wide margin. Florida distinguishes itself in the citrus market by providing premium produce valued in the processing business. “Our oranges yield amazing juice. Consumers have historically preferred Florida OJ, and the vast majority of our citrus crop is dedicated to meeting that demand.”

In addition to greening, the Florida citrus industry also battles public perception. “With orange juice,” Steele began, “the FDOC works hard to make sure consumers are aware of the amazing nutritional density of 100% orange juice.” According to Steele, consumers already enjoy the beverage – but they don’t always realize what a healthy choice it can be.
Grapefruit also has a challenge, given persistent misconceptions about its potential to interact with medication. According to Steele, those misconceptions are “very unfortunate.” While grapefruit does interact with some medications, research has shown that the results are not as dangerous as assumed. “We know of no validated evidence that co-administration of grapefruit or its juice with a drug has caused a dangerous drug interaction resulting in actual harm to a patient’s health.”

Dr. Hartmut Derendorf, Ph.D., past-president of the American College of Clinical Pharmacology and a distinguished professor at the University of Florida has published an article in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology addressing these issues. His findings state that most prescription medications have no interactions with grapefruit or their juice. Consuming grapefruit juice is safe with almost all over-the-counter medication. Also, in cases where interactions are reported and monitored, physicians can often prescribe non-interacting, alternative medications within the most commonly prescribed drug classes. These medications often can provide the same therapeutic effect with no need to avoid grapefruit juice.
The Florida Department of Citrus suggests people contact their doctor or pharmacist if they have any questions about the current medications they’re taking. The department also encourages those with concerns to visit, which provides a continually updated listing of drugs that are known to interact with grapefruit and the level of interaction, along with access to cited scientific documentation. “Our hope is to help clear up confusion around this issue and set the record straight that grapefruit juice can be safely co-ingested with the great majority of medications.”
Between the progress being made in the fight against greening and the good news about grapefruit, said Steele, “Things are looking up.”
For more information please contact:
David Steele
Florida Department of Citrus
Tel: 863.537.3965
Fax: 1.877.FLA.CITRUS