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Decoding Labels: V8 Splash, Strawberry Kiwi

You can’t go wrong with vegetable juice, right? Everyone knows that stuff is healthy, healthy, healthy. While fruit juice is controversial among the health-conscious crowd, I never hear anyone diss vegetable juice. You’ve all heard that fruit juice concentrates the sugars in the fruit to an unhealthy degree. A tall glass of apple juice, for example, can be made from the juice of 15 apples! Since no one ever sits down to eat 15 apples at once, you can imagine how a 16oz. glass of apple juice can give you quite the sugar kick. Who cares if it’s natural sugar? It’s still a heck of a lot of sugar without very much of the other goodies that make eating whole fruits worthwhile — like pectin and fiber.

But vegetable juice? No one complains about that. It’s vegetables! A few, like carrots, may be a little sweet. But really? Who’s gonna say juicing a carrot is unhealthy? Even the low-carb people won’t knock you for downing a glass of V8.

So, what happens when a company known for it’s unadulterated, 100% vegetable juice drink decides to branch out? When they decide to start making new flavors and cashing in on our penchant for sweet drinks? That’s when you get products like V8 Splash: Strawberry Kiwi.


Here’s what the manufacturer claims:

Each variety of V8 Splash is a refreshing blend of delicious fruity flavors with a hint of carrot and includes Antioxidant Plus – a powerful blend of Vitamins A, C, and E. It’s the perfect afternoon lift to help your patrons stay energized and active throughout the day!

It’s V8! It’s got vegetables like carrots! It’s full of antioxidants! Those are good, right? Surely, this is a better drink option to give your kids than soda?

V8 Splash Strawberry Kiwi: Ingredients

  • Water,
  • high fructose corn syrup,
  • carrot juice from concentrate (water, carrot juice concentrate),
  • fruit juice from concentrate (water, apple juice concentrate, kiwi juice concentrate, strawberry juice concentrate),
  • malic acid,
  • natural flavoring,
  • vitamin c (ascorbic acid),
  • vitamin e (alpha tocopheryl acetate),
  • beta carotene,
  • sucralose,
  • red 40.

V8 Splash Strawberry Kiwi: DECODED

The number one ingredient in this drink is water — not carrot juice, not even fruit juice. That right there ought to send up warning signs. While nothing’s inherently wrong with buying or making flavored waters, I’d bet that most people who buy things made by V8 think they’re getting unadulterated juice. If they never looked at the ingredients label, they’d never know they were buying flavored water.

The second most used ingredient in this drink? High fructose corn syrup! Besides being an industrially-produced, GMO-laden sweetener, high-fructose corn syrup is dangerously high in mercury, can make you more obese than the same amounts of table sugar, and may even make you stupid. This is not an ingredient you want in your food, let alone in your “healthy” vegetable drink.

Malic acid is generally considered safe. It’s a naturally occurring acid found in some fruits and vegetables. Your body uses it for glucose conversion, which is why it’s being explored as a possible therapy for people with any kind of chronic fatigue or syndromes like fibromyalgia. However, in nature it’s always joined to an entire fruit or vegetable. You’ll never find it in isolation. When concentrated and isolated, it has been shown to have some adverse effects. It can erode tooth enamel or cause allergic reactions in sensitive people.

Need we beat a dead horse and complain one more time about the ambiguity of natural flavoring? Natural flavoring may be something simple and innocuous, or it may not be. It could be something as simple as an orange oil extract you could have made in your own kitchen, or it could be something as weird as a vanilla flavor made from beaver testes. Both are considered “natural” flavors. To know for certain what’s in the natural flavoring added to foods, you have to contact the food manufacturer. So, while this ingredient sends up a warning flag, it is not in and of itself a tell tale sign of something inherently bad or dangerous.

Next up you’ve got a few more vitamin isolates in ascorbic acid, alpha tocopheryl acetate, and beta carotene. These are being billed as vitamins C, E, and A — the triple antioxidant punch that everyone knows is oh so good for you. But are they actually these vitamins?

Imagine, for a moment, that you go to an auto parts store and buy a headlight. Would you assume that you had bought a car? No way! So, you look and see what other parts are in a car and go buy those. You come home with a muffler, a fender, a steering wheel, some seats, brake lights, a battery. Would you now assume that you’d bought a car? No way! If you wanted to buy a car to drive you from point A to point B, you’d buy a car — not a pile of parts!

In the same way, these vitamin isolates aren’t actually the vitamins found in whole foods. They’re just parts of the vitamins, usually synthesized in laboratories, and usually indigestible to us. Studies have consistently shown that if you swallow a so-called Vitamin C pill made from ascorbic acid joined with bioflavanoids, you’ll pee 90% of it out within the hour. Your body has little use for these isolated vitamin components. It needs the real deal — the vitamins actually present in whole foods.

Does that mean these vitamin isolates are always bad for you? Yes and no. Some have been linked to terrible side effects, others don’t seem to cause much harm. But the point here is that they’re unnatural. Wouldn’t you much rather stick to getting your vitamins the way nature intended? From food rich in nutrients?

Sucralose is an artificial sweetener — the primary ingredient in Splenda. It’s made by adding chlorine molecules to sugar, rendering the sugar indigestible while still maintaining a sweet taste. Unfortunately, “indigestible” doesn’t actually mean indigestible. Numerous studies have shown that we digest an average of 15% of the sucralose we consume. And sucralose, when metabolized by the body, has been shown to form chlorocarbons because of the presence of chlorine. Some research shows chlorocarbons cause organ, genetic and reproductive damage. We’re talking shrunken thymus glands, enlarged livers, and over-worked kidneys. Chlorocarbons are one of the substances that make pesticides so harmful, and that’s what we’re calling “safe”?

Finally, the last ingredient here is Red 40, an artificial food coloring that’s been banned in Denmark, Belgium, France, and Switzerland. The European Union doesn’t officially ban it, but does say that it’s unsafe for children to consume. Studies on the safety of Red 40 have linked it to hyperactivity in children, along with other hyperactivity disorders like ADHD.

V8 Splash Strawberry Kiwi: THE VERDICT

So, what should you use instead?

Of course, the best option is to make your own juice. It’s so easy to buy fresh vegetables and fruits and run them through a juicer. Most juicers completely remove the plant fiber to produce a juice. While this is still better than store bought juice, it’s also inefficient and arguably not as healthy as turning the whole vegetable or fruit into juice. For making real juice from the whole vegetable or fruit, absolutely nothing beats a Vitamix Blender.

These babies are super-powerful, excellent juicers with a remarkable warranty. They not only juice, they blend. You can even buy attachments for them to grind grains or coffee beans, grate cheese, or knead dough. It’s an all-in-one kitchen appliance that will last and last and last — like the Energizer bunny.

If you want to opt for convenience and buy a ready made beverage, one of my favorites are the raw, cultured vegetable juices made by Zukay Live Foods. They’re juices that have been naturally fermented to produce a powerful probiotic tonic.

My favorite is the beet juice, but carrot comes in a close second! My husband enjoys the cabbage juice, while my kids rave about the carrot.

Want Your Labels Decoded?

In this series on Decoding Labels, I’m highlighting deceptive labeling practices, hidden ingredients, and more! If you’ve got a particular label pet-peeve you’d like me to share, please feel free to email me with your idea. It may just turn into a blog post!

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.
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38 Responses to Decoding Labels: V8 Splash, Strawberry Kiwi
  1. Catherine Alderman via Facebook
    July 17, 2012 | 12:32 pm

    always check ingredients before buying juice lots of 100% juice has artificial colors in it too :-/

  2. Ali Kulenkamp via Facebook
    July 17, 2012 | 12:35 pm

    I saw this on Welch’s 100% juice too- how is it 100% juice if there is water, HFCS, and AFCs? It is confusing!

  3. Zep Richichi via Facebook
    July 17, 2012 | 12:41 pm

    that’s the splash stuff, which I agree is garbage. the regular low-sodium v8 is really high in potassium and vitamins A and C… and is low sugar as well.

  4. Quinn McDorman via Facebook
    July 17, 2012 | 12:42 pm

    It’s deceiving but if the product does contain “100% fruit juice” the Co. can get away w/ putting extra stuff in as well. –it still contains 100% fruit juice (as they used the whole fruit, etc for the juice) then the extras are added. Again, deceiving advertising but unfortunately 100% legal as well… : /

  5. Jackie Hodge via Facebook
    July 17, 2012 | 12:44 pm

    can you ferment your own juices? and is that much fermentation ok? I know that kraut and such is to be a “side”… I have a vitamix but get so frustrated in coming up with different things to put in it that everyone likes!

  6. Food Renegade via Facebook
    July 17, 2012 | 12:45 pm

    Zep Richichi — Exactly my point! It bothers me that V8 is cashing in on its brand name to market garbage as a healthier alternative to sodas and other “kid-friendly” drinks. They’ve spent decades building their brand as the 100% unadulterated vegetable juice makers, and now they’ve introduced this and several other lines of drinks that are anything but. People who don’t read labels get fooled into thinking they’re giving their families something “healthy.”

  7. Jackie Hodge via Facebook
    July 17, 2012 | 12:46 pm

    Its all about the Benjamins baby. LOL

  8. Food Renegade via Facebook
    July 17, 2012 | 12:48 pm

    Jackie Hodge — Yes, you can. And yes, it’s ok. There are a few really yummy beverage recipes in Nourishing Traditions that ferment fruits and veggies.

  9. Samantha Lindmeier via Facebook
    July 17, 2012 | 12:50 pm

    what is your take on Buddy Fruit?

  10. Amanda Edwards Bussard via Facebook
    July 17, 2012 | 12:56 pm

    I can’t view your website.

  11. Food Renegade via Facebook
    July 17, 2012 | 1:01 pm

    Amanda Edwards Bussard — The site is live. Are you getting any kind of error message while loading a particular page?

  12. Jennifer Chastain via Facebook
    July 17, 2012 | 1:03 pm

    I learn a lot from this blogger, he has great graphs of all the food additives http://www.dyediet.com/2012/03/31/soft-drinks/v8-juice-what-it-takes-to-convert-original-to-the-diet/

  13. René O'Deay via Facebook
    July 17, 2012 | 1:03 pm

    always read the labels. HFCS is a big NO for me.

  14. Andy Boyle via Facebook
    July 17, 2012 | 1:08 pm

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

  15. Food Renegade via Facebook
    July 17, 2012 | 1:10 pm

    Jennifer Chastain — Yes, you have to look at the labels on each, individual flavor. For example, the V8 ACE (billed as a 100% veggie juice drink) contains DISODIUM INOSINATE, DISODIUM GUANYLATE — two additives that are only ever present if MSG is also present! The MSG is likely hidden in the “FLAVORING” ingredient.

  16. Leslie Uman DeSanto via Facebook
    July 17, 2012 | 1:14 pm

    plus it is made with GMO vegetables and is bottled in plastic

  17. Michaela Capello via Facebook
    July 17, 2012 | 1:40 pm

    I know! They are such frauds! I’m so sick of this nutrition veil our country has created. Thanks food renegade for lifting the smoke and mirrors from my eyes. <3

  18. Wyrd Yggdrasil via Facebook
    July 17, 2012 | 1:48 pm

    I hate that so much because regular V8 was a favorite of mine as a kid. But it is like covering a carrot in sugar , yeah it is a carrot, but it is still covered in sugar.

  19. Kathleen Quiring | Becoming Peculiar
    July 17, 2012 | 2:19 pm

    Just to be clear: you’re kidding about the vanilla flavor made from beaver testes, right?!

    Thanks for these decoding posts, which remind me to look closely at what I buy!

    • KristenM
      July 17, 2012 | 2:25 pm

      Not really. The most common “natural” form of vanilla flavoring isn’t made from vanilla, but the secretion from a beaver’s castor scent sacs (glands at their anus).

  20. Martel Douglas via Facebook
    July 17, 2012 | 2:31 pm

    I stopped at high fructose corn syrup.

  21. Sue Peer via Facebook
    July 17, 2012 | 3:51 pm

    I make my own. Not always v-8 I use whatever veggies I have in the garden, using tomatoes as a base then can it for later.

  22. Faith Epp via Facebook
    July 17, 2012 | 6:15 pm

    Saw Dr. Oz today and he promoted drinking veg juice for giving up fruit juice.

  23. Launa Virgo via Facebook
    July 17, 2012 | 8:44 pm

    And the sodium…YIKES!!!

  24. Jonathan Lipscomb via Facebook
    July 17, 2012 | 9:13 pm

    Knew about this for years…

  25. Celeste
    July 18, 2012 | 5:18 am

    I only found out about V-8 Splash not being real juice in the last year. One day I checked the label and saw HFCS was the 2nd ingredient I stopped buying it.

  26. cara
    July 18, 2012 | 6:21 am

    What are your thoughts on V8 fusion?

    • KristenM
      July 18, 2012 | 3:04 pm

      V8 Fusion doesn’t have HFCS. So, that’s better. But, it’s still full of the synthetic ACE vitamin mix and the “light” versions all have the artificial sweetener sucralose.

      And, completely absent from this discussion so far is that these aren’t organic fruits or veggies. While that’s not necessarily a deal breaker for me, it is if the fruit or veggie is on the dirty dozen list. In my way of thinking, those fruits and veggies just contain too many pesticides and other chemicals to be concentrated into a juice.

  27. Holly Harmon via Facebook
    July 18, 2012 | 6:22 am

    Damn they have to ruin everything don’t they?

  28. Elizabeth Whitney
    July 18, 2012 | 6:37 am

    Pretty much everything that is not a fresh fruit or vegetable (besides dairy & meat) contains “natural flavor”. It’s sooo annoying. We try to make as much as we can ourselves, but unfortunately sometimes you’ve gotta use something store bought..

  29. Nicole
    July 18, 2012 | 9:42 am

    Thank you for finally answering my question of “What is natural flavors?” I’ve been trying to figure this out for a while now. Every time I read a label that has it on there, I don’t buy or consume the product because I don’t know what that is. Now, I definitely won’t be doing so. Thank you.

    • KristenM
      July 18, 2012 | 11:02 am

      Well, I don’t think they’re always to be avoided. I just think they should be consumed with caution — say after a call to the food manufacturer for details.

  30. Wendi Wilkins
    July 18, 2012 | 4:05 pm

    Great decode, KristinM! I have a question sort of off subject here, but I own a Vitamix and in the demo at Costco when I bought mine, the guy put an entire orange and an entire apple in as parts of a smoothie and when asked about the seeds, his response was, “Birds eat seeds and they’re strong enough to fly, right?” At the time, that sounded logical to me, so I bought into it, but now that I’m learning so much about food and our digestion, I’m wondering if we should be pulverizing the seeds along with the whole fruit in our smoothies? Don’t ALL seeds need to be sprouted, soaked, or fermented in order for humans to assimilate the nutrients and decrease the anti-nutrients?
    Thank you so much!

    • KristenM
      July 18, 2012 | 4:09 pm

      In the context of a nutrient-dense diet, I don’t think a few raw seeds will harm you. That said, I still remove the seeds before juicing.

  31. melanie keck
    July 20, 2012 | 11:43 am

    Just love to read what you write here. People don’t get it. Processed food is still processed food no matter what you do to it to make it appear healthy. Thanks for the info on natural flavorings. I always knew that natural flavors did not set well with me. Now I know a bit more why. The processes food goes through is amazing. Thank you for your brutal honesty.

  32. dogg
    July 20, 2012 | 3:04 pm

    Good article. One one note– not only is apple juice not nutritionally healthy, all the main brands are now made in Chine, where dubious and unhealthy ingredients make up a toxic cocktail.

  33. Gale
    August 10, 2012 | 4:59 pm

    “Studies have consistently shown that if you swallow a so-called Vitamin C pill made from ascorbic acid joined with bioflavanoids, you’ll pee 90% of it out within the hour.”

    So that means that 90% of the vitimin C that my friend and I snuck into bedroom and ate like candy as a kid cause the things tasted so good were probably find, cause eating 10 was like eating one? Whew! *grin*

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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