The pattern of fruit juice consumption has changed over time. Fifty years ago, orange juice was the major juice produced and it was consumed primarily to prevent scurvy. Now, apple juice is the juice of choice for the under 5 age group. While fruit juice is a healthy, low-fat, nutritious beverage, there have been some health concerns regarding juice consumption. Nursing bottle caries have long been recognized as a consequence of feeding juice in bottles, using the bottle as a pacifier, and prolonged bottle feeding. Non-specific chronic diarrhea or "toddler's" diarrhea has been associated with juice consumption, especially juices high in sorbitol and those with a high fructose to glucose ratio. This relates to carbohydrate malabsorption, which varies by the type, concentration, and mixture of sugars present in different fruit juices. Fruit juice consumption by preschoolers has recently increased from 3.2 to about 5.5 fl oz/day. Consumption of fruit juice helps fulfill the recommendation to eat more fruits and vegetables, with fruit juice accounting for 50% of all fruit servings consumed by children, aged 2 through 18 years, and 1/3 of all fruits and vegetables consumed by preschoolers. Concomitant with the increase in fruit juice consumption has been a decline in milk intake. This is concerning as milk is the major source of calcium in the diet, and at present, only 50% of children, aged 1 through 5 years, meet the RDA for calcium. Studies of newborn infants and preschool-aged children have demonstrated a preference for sweet-tasting foods and beverages. Thus, it is not surprising that some children, if given the opportunity, might consume more fruit juice than is considered optimal. Eleven percent of healthy preschoolers consumed > or = 12 fl oz/day of fruit juice, which is considered excessive. Excess fruit juice consumption has been reported as a contributing factor in some children with nonorganic failure to thrive and in some children with decreased stature. In other children, excessive fruit juice consumption has been associated with an increased caloric intake and obesity. This paper reviews the role of fruit juice in the diets of infants and children and outlines areas for future research. Recommendations regarding fruit juice consumption based on current data are also given.