Nothing says fall like driving in the country or drinking cider or fresh-squeezed juice. Unfortunately, serious outbreaks of foodborne illness, often called “food poisoning,” have been traced to drinking cider and fruit and vegetable juice that have not been pasteurized or otherwise treated to kill harmful disease-causing germs. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reminds consumers to read the label carefully before purchasing and consuming juice and cider products.
Fruit and vegetable juices provide important nutrients, but consuming untreated juices can pose health risks to you and your family. When fruits and vegetables are fresh-squeezed or used raw, disease-causing germs from the produce can end up contaminating your juice or cider. Unless the produce or the juice has been treated to destroy any harmful disease-causing germs, the juice could be contaminated. While most people’s immune systems can usually fight off the effects of foodborne illness, children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems (such as transplant patients and individuals with HIV/AIDS, cancer, or diabetes) risk serious illnesses or even death from drinking untreated juices.
Most juices sold in the United States are pasteurized (heat-treated) to kill harmful disease-causing germs. Juices may also be treated by non-heat processes for the same purpose. However, some grocery stores, health food stores, cider mills, farmers’ markets, and juice bars sell packaged juices that are made on-site and are not pasteurized or otherwise treated to ensure its safety. These untreated products should be kept under refrigeration and are required to carry the following warning on the 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.
However, FDA does not require warning labels on juice or cider that is fresh-squeezed and sold by the glass, such as at apple orchards, farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and juice bars.
Follow these simple steps to prevent illness when purchasing juice:
- Look for the warning label to avoid the purchase of untreated juices. You can find pasteurized or otherwise treated products in your grocers’ refrigerated sections, frozen food cases, or in non-refrigerated containers, such as juice boxes, bottles, or cans. In a grocery store, untreated juice is most likely to be sold in the refrigerated section.
- If you are unsure, if the labeling is unclear, or if the juice or cider is sold by the glass, don’t hesitate to ask if a juice product has been treated.
Foodborne Illness: Know the Symptoms
Consuming food contaminated with disease-causing germs will usually cause illness within 1-3 days of eating the contaminated food. However, sickness can also occur within 20 minutes or up to 6 weeks later. Symptoms of foodborne illness include: vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and flu-like symptoms (such as fever, headache, and body ache). If you think that you or a family member has a foodborne illness, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
SOURCE U.S. Food and Drug Administration