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Bacteria can invade unpasteurized juices and cider

September 26, 2000

Bacteria can invade unpasteurized juices and cider



Expect to see warning labels on fresh apple juice and cider products this fall. The labels are part of regulations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to inform consumers of potential risks from unprocessed juices. Particularly vulnerable are children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.

Why the concern? In a word, e. coli 0157:h7. While fresh, unpasteurized juices account for only 2 percent of the total juice sold in the United States each year, they have been linked to an estimated 16,000 to 48,000 cases of food-borne illness.

The most likely way fruit becomes contaminated with e. coli is from cow, sheep, squirrel or deer droppings when fruit falls to the ground. Cross-contamination from workers during juice preparation may be another source.

While the acid content of fruit juice prevents many bacteria from growing, this particular microbe thrives quite well in an acidic environment. Refrigeration doesn't help much. For example, in one study, e. coli 0157:h7 bacteria survived for 31 days in fresh-pressed, unpasteurized apple juice at typical refrigeration temperatures.

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E. coli 0157:h7 is an excellent example of a good bacteria gone bad. Where most strains of e. coli are harmless, this strain attaches itself to the intestinal wall and releases a toxin that causes severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting.

Symptoms usually take four to five days to appear and last a week or longer. In small children and the elderly, the illness can lead to kidney failure.

First reported in 1982, e. coli 0157:h7 has extended its ugly tentacles to many other products, including undercooked ground beef, contaminated water and vegetables grown in manure.

Products you can count on to be safe from harmful bacteria include juices made from frozen concentrate, shelf-stable juices in hermetically-sealed containers and canned juices.

Juices most likely to be unpasteurized are those found in the grocers' refrigerated sections or sold at cider mills and farm markets. To help consumers identify unpasteurized juice and cider, the Food and Drug Administration requires the following label on these products: "Warning: This product has not been pasteurized and therefore can contain harmful bacteria that can cause serious illness in children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems."

If you can't tell whether a juice product has been processed to destroy harmful bacteria, it's best to not serve it at all, or to bring it to a boil to kill potentially harmful bacteria before you serve it.




Lynn F. Little, family and consumer sciences extension educator, Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County. Maryland Cooperative Extension programs are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin.

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