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.
It’s tailgate season — are you ready for the kick off? Planning is the key to keeping your food safe during a tailgate, so get your gear ready now. Do you have enough coolers and all the tools you need to cook? In addition to a grill and fuel for cooking make sure you don’t forget your most valuable player, the food thermometer. It’s the only way you can be sure your meat or poultry has reached a safe temperature.
Don’t sideline your guests—Stay in the Food Safety Zone
- Bring water for cleaning if none will be available at the site. Pack clean, wet, disposable cloths or moist towelettes and paper towels for cleaning hands and surfaces.
- Carry cold perishable food like raw hamburger patties, sausages, and chicken in an insulated cooler packed with several inches of ice, frozen gel packs, or containers of ice.
- Be sure raw meat and poultry are wrapped securely to prevent their juices from cross-contaminating ready-to-eat food. If possible, store these foods near the bottom of the cooler, so that juices don't contaminate other foods in the cooler.
- If you can't keep hot food hot during the drive to your tailgate, plan and chill the food in the refrigerator before packing it in a cooler. Reheat the food to 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer.
- If bringing hot take-out food, eat it within 2 hours of purchase (1 hour if the temperature is above 90 °F).
Know your opponent—Defend against bacteria
To defeat bacteria, use a food thermometer! Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often browns very fast on the outside. the only way to be sure that the food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature is to use a food thermometer.
Using a food thermometer not only keeps your guests safe from harmful food bacteria, but it also helps you to avoid overcooking, giving you safe and flavorful meat. Different meats have different minimum cooking temperatures, so check the Minimum Cooking Temperatures chart to be sure.
Follow the game plan for a winning tailgate
When you plan your party, use this checklist to pack your gear:
- Clean: Soap, water (if none is available at the site), wet disposable cloths or moist toilettes, hand sanitizer
- Separate: Separate plates and utensils for raw meats and cooked meats
- Cook: Grill, fuel, cooking utensils, food thermometer, Minimum Cooking Temperatures chart
- Chill: Coolers, ice or frozen gel packs, clean containers for storing leftovers
For more information about keeping bacteria away on the big game day, check out these resources:
- Tailgating Food Safety Q&A
- Podcast: Tailgating Food Safety | Read the script
- Video: Food Safety Advice for Tailgating Parties
If you have any questions about tailgating food safety, feel free to contact us at the Hotline (1-888-674-6854 toll-free) or online at AskKaren.gov.
As children head back to school this fall, parents and caretakers may wonder, “What’s the most important thing that the kids should take to school with them?” From my perspective as a food safety specialist, I’d recommend an insulated lunch box as the best investment of the school year. For a few dollars, an insulated lunch box can keep children healthy and engaged to learn by protecting them from foodborne illness.
If you pack perishable food in an old-fashioned brown paper bag, it can be unsafe to eat by lunchtime. When children are sent home sick or stay home because of illness, it’s difficult for them to succeed in their school work.
Insulated lunch boxes help maintain food at a safe temperature until lunchtime. Perishable lunch foods, such as cold cut sandwiches and yogurt, can be left out at room temperature for only 2 hours before they may become unsafe to eat. But, with an insulated lunch box and a chilled freezer gel pack, perishable food can stay cold and safe to eat until lunch.
Why keep food cold? Harmful bacteria multiply rapidly in the "Danger Zone" — the temperatures between 40 and 140 °F. So, perishable food transported without a cold source won't stay safe long.
Here are some other tips to keep food safe until lunchtime:
- Clean Hands: Always make sure your hands are clean before preparing lunches. And, make sure your children understand that they need to wash their hands thoroughly before eating lunch or snacks. “Washing hands thoroughly” means using soap and warm water, and rubbing hands for 20 seconds (the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice). If water is not available, provide moist towelettes or hand sanitizing gels in the lunch box.
- Freeze your juice box: You can freeze juice boxes and use them as freezer packs. By lunchtime, the juice should be thawed and ready to drink.
- Hot Foods: To keep hot foods hot, use an insulated bottle like a thermos for foods such as soup, chili, or stew.
- Non-Perishable Food: Some food is safe without a cold source. Lunch items that don't need to be refrigerated include whole fruits and vegetables, hard cheese, canned meat and fish, chips, breads, crackers, peanut butter, jelly, mustard, and pickles.
If the lunch box comes home with food in it, make sure to throw away any perishable food items, because they have been unrefrigerated too long!
If you have any other questions about packing lunches safely or have other food safety questions, feel free to contact us at the Hotline (1-888-674-6854 toll-free) or online at AskKaren.gov.