Juice and Cider: Make Sure They're Safe
By Martin J. Stutsman, Consumer Safety Officer, FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
When fall arrives, many of us look forward to enjoying fresh apple cider and juices. While most people think of juices as healthy foods, since they provide many essential nutrients, certain types of juice could pose a health risk to your family.
Why Juice Is Pasteurized or Treated
Most of the juice sold in the United States is pasteurized (heat-treated) to kill harmful bacteria, such as E. coli and Salmonella. Juice may also be treated by non-heat processes to kill bacteria.
When fruits and vegetables are fresh-squeezed to produce juice, any bacteria that are present on the inside or the outside of the produce can become part of the finished product. Unless the juice is further processed to destroy harmful bacteria, it could be dangerous for those most at risk for foodborne illness.
Who’s at Risk?
Infants and young children, pregnant women, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems, such as AIDS and cancer patients, diabetics, recipients of organ transplants, and others with chronic diseases are at greatest risk for foodborne illness.
While most people’s immune systems can usually fight off foodborne illnesses, people in these “at-risk groups” are susceptible to serious illness from drinking juice that has not been processed to kill bacteria. FDA recommends that these groups should drink unpasteurized juice only if they bring it to a boil first to kill any harmful bacteria.
Check the Label
Some grocery stores, health food stores, cider mills, and farm markets sell packaged juice that was made on site that has not been pasteurized or processed to ensure its safety. These untreated products should be kept refrigerated and are required to carry the following warning label:
WARNING: This product has not been pasteurized and therefore may contain harmful bacteria that can cause serious illness in children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems.
The FDA does not require this warning label for juice or cider that is fresh-squeezed and sold by the glass at orchards, farm markets, roadside stands, or in some restaurants or juice bars. So, if you stop at a roadside stand or farm market where samples of cider or apple juice are available, be sure to ask whether the juice has been treated.
Two Simple Steps to Prevent Illness
1. Always Read the Label
Look for the warning label to avoid juice that has not been pasteurized or otherwise processed. In particular, look for the warning label on any packaged juice product that may have been made on site, such as at grocery and health food stores, cider mills, or farm markets.
2. When in Doubt, Ask!
Always ask if you are unsure if a juice product is pasteurized or not. Pasteurized juice is normally found in your grocers’ frozen food cases, refrigerated section, or on the shelf in containers such as juice boxes, bottles, or cans. Do not hesitate to ask questions if the label is unclear or if the juice or cider is sold by the glass.
Questions and Answers
Updated September 22, 2010
Q. Are juices made at home with a juicing machine safe? Are there special precautions to take when making juice at home, other than washing fruit and vegetables?
A. While it's important to wash fruits and vegetables before consuming them, any bacteria on the outside or inside of produce could contaminate the juice. Unless you process the juice to destroy the bacteria, it could still be dangerous for people who are at risk for foodborne illness.
All good tips! I love the seasonal ciders, so yummy and good for you (as long as they are not loaded with sugar). But, they do go bad very easily, or can start out contaminated, if not made properly. Kind regards.
Wow! I can't believe I'm reading this article. I just got over 3 days of diarrhea due to unpasteurized apple juice. I got the juice at an apple ranch. It was in the fridge for 2 weeks. It even had that warning label on it... which I ignored.I decided to down the rest of it. And that night IT HIT! For two days it was pretty touch and 'go ' (no pun intended). Yesterday is quieted down due to Pepto Bismo. I decided to go to urgent care. She recommended lab work. So today I took 'the evidence' in. I should hear soon, but I suspect the apple juice. I wish I'd read your article sooner!!!!
I think it is somewhat alarmist to tell people that they should beware of of the harmful bacteria that could be present in fresh fruit and vegetable juices made at home. Are you suggesting people boil every fresh fruit and vegetable they have at home perchance there might be bacteria present? How come you don't mention all the recent recalls of foods and beverages that have been processed and pasteurized in large centralized facilities and still have bacteria present? I think buying a bottle of Minute Maid apple juice that says on the label: Contains apple jucie concentrate from the U.S.A,., Argentina, Austria, Chile, China, Cerrmany and Turkey, is far more likely to have a pathogen present due to the fact that it is traveling through so many facilities, (mostly outside the United States) and is processed in a giant centralized processing plant. How often does the FDA inspect this kind of juice?
Are juices "juiced" with a juicing machine at home safe or are there specioal precautions to take other than washing fruit & vegetables
The irony in all of this is that we are encouraged to eat fresh fruit. No one says to boil or to heat it. Therefore, your article does not add up. What does make sense is that the factory or farm, from where the "store bought" fresh juice is taken, is not following proper guidelines and therefore contaminates freshily squeezed juice. Fortunately, for most, people who buy fresh produce and bring it home wash all raw veggies and fresh fruit before eating. IT'S the mass PRODUCERS and MARKETERS, not the fruit or the veggies that are at fault. Just call a spade a spade.
This was a great article. I didn't know that juices and cider had to be pasteurized. And I get cider as soon as it's 'in season'. Thanks!