The state Department of Citrus has changed its marketing strategy to convince consumers that orange juice can be compatible with the Atkins diet as well as the popular weight-loss plan pushed by television talk show host Dr. Phil McGraw.
The department's lawyer also is reviewing legal options against some books, such as "The South Beach Diet," that discourage orange juice for dieting purposes because of its high sugar levels.
About $1.8 million will be spent on a marketing campaign to combat the bad image caused by low-carb diets. The department is abandoning a marketing campaign that targeted moms and young professional women.
"There are powerful, negative messages against us," said Bob Crawford, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus. "We're not going to stand and take it."
Florida's $9 billion citrus industry has reason to be concerned. Orange juice consumption has fallen from 888 million gallons during the 2000-2001 growing season to an expected 844 million gallons in the current season.
Citrus officials said a noticeable drop occurred last March when low-carb diets began to reach a critical mass.
"People are dropping out of the market," said Dan Gunter, a consultant for the Department of Citrus.
Crawford said the Atkins diet and Dr. Phil's diet leave room for orange juice consumption. But he said lawyers were reviewing claims against orange juice made in "The South Beach Diet" and other publications.
"I think if people write things that aren't true about our product, we'll first talk about it with them and hopefully avoid litigation," Crawford said.
In "The South Beach Diet," Dr. Arthur Agatston urges readers to eat fruits rather than drink fruit juice.
"Again, fruit juices are a big source of trouble, in part because we've come to associate them with healthy habits," Agatston writes in the best-selling book. "But they also bring with them high levels of fructose, which can be the undoing of any effort to lose weight."
The publisher, Rodale Inc., said it stands by the book's "sound nutritional advice."
Most of Florida's oranges are processed into juice. Florida is the nation's largest producer of oranges and second in the world to Brazil.