Juice Safety and Foodborne Illness

Juices provide many important nutrients, but consuming unpasteurized juices can pose health risks to your family. Serious outbreaks of foodborne illness have been traced to drinking fruit and vegetable juice and cider that was not treated to kill harmful bacteria.

In the last decade in North America, over 1,700 people have fallen ill after consuming juice and cider. Most of these outbreaks involved unpasteurized juices and ciders such as apple cider, orange juice and lemonades. Other fresh fruit juice outbreaks included pineapple, carrot, coconut, cane sugar, banana, acai and mixed fruit juices.
Source: Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) – Outbreak Alert! Database

The pathogens, or biological agents, responsible for these illnesses and deaths include bacteria (viral and parasitic groups) as well as metal contaminants. The most common pathogens were E.coli O157 and O111, Salmonella, Cryptosporidium and norovirus. A few other outbreaks were due to Vibrio cholerae, Clostridium botulinum, yeast and hepatitis A.

What You Need to Know?
When fruits and vegetables are fresh-squeezed or used raw, bacteria from the produce can end up in your juice or cider. Unless the produce or the juice has been pasteurized or otherwise treated to destroy any harmful bacteria, the juice could be contaminated.

Pasteurized juice is heated to a high temperature for a short time before it is sold. By pasteurizing juice, pathogens (germs), which may be present in the liquid, are killed.

Who is at greatest risk?
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. These people are safe to drink pasteurized juice and should keep juices refrigerated.

Facilities that serve juice such as schools, child and adult daycares, and hospitals, should make sure it is pasteurized. Children on field trips to farms or farm markets should not drink unpasteurized juice.

Foodborne Illness and Juice

Know the Symptoms
Consuming dangerous foodborne bacteria will usually cause illness within 1 to 3 days of eating the contaminated food. However, sickness can also occur within 20 minutes or up to 6 weeks later. Although most people will recover from a foodborne illness within a short period of time, some can develop chronic, severe, or even life-threatening health problems.

Foodborne illness can sometimes be confused with other illnesses that have similar symptoms. The symptoms of foodborne illness can include:

  • Vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, and body ache

Take Action
If you think that you or a family member has a foodborne illness, contact your healthcare provider immediately. Also, report the suspected foodborne illness to FDA in either of these ways:

Follow These Simple Steps to Prevent Juice Foodborne 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. Untreated juice is most likely to be sold in the refrigerated section of a grocery store.
  • Ask if you are unsure if a juice product is treated, especially for juices sold in refrigerated cases in grocery or health food stores, cider mills, or farmers’ markets. Also, don’t hesitate to ask if the labeling is unclear or if the juice or cider is sold by the glass.

When Preparing Juice At Home

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after preparation.
  • Cut away any damaged or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables. Throw away any produce that looks rotten.
  • Wash all produce thoroughly under running water before cutting or cooking, including produce grown at home or bought from a grocery store or farmers’ market. Washing fruits and vegetables with soap, detergent, or commercial produce wash is not recommended.
  • Scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush. Even if you plan to peel the produce before juicing it, wash it first so dirt and bacteria are not transferred from the surface when peeling or cutting into it.
  • After washing, dry produce with a clean cloth towel or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present on the surface.

Juice Safety Requirements

Since November 1999, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that all unpasteurized juice display a warning label for all juice products. The label will bear a 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.”

Juice that is packaged by a processor or in a food establishment such as a grocery store or health food store must be treated under a HACCP plan or be stored under refrigeration and bare the above warning label. For information on Juice HACCP, follow these links:

Juice HACCP Regulations and Rules