Apple cider season is upon us — and the FDA is warning shoppers to double-check their drinks.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced this week that it has received reports of “serious outbreaks” of food poisoning that have been traced to fruit and vegetable juices and ciders that are unpasteurized:
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 (heat-treated) or otherwise treated to destroy any harmful bacteria, the juice could be contaminated.
Most of these types of drinks sold in the U.S. are pasteurized, but some stores — as well as cider mills, farmers markets and juice bars — sell packaged juices that are made on site and have not been treated.
Untreated juices and ciders should be refrigerated and are required to bear this warning on their label, according to the FDA:
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.
It also is important to note that some vendors, apple orchards, roadside stands and restaurants sell juice and cider by the glass, which is not required to bear the warning.
To prevent food poisoning from juices and ciders, the FDA recommends avoiding products with the warning label. If you are unsure whether a drink was treated to kill harmful bacteria, ask the seller.
When making juice and cider at home, follow proper produce handling guidelines, such as washing all produce, even those like apples that you plan to peel. Scrub hard produce with a clean scrub brush.
Also follow precautions for avoiding foodborne bacteria. These include thoroughly washing your hands before and after preparing food. (To learn more, check out “7 Keys to Dodging Deadly Bacteria That Lurk in Your Food.”)
Most people’s immune systems can keep food poisoning at bay, but the FDA says certain groups are at greater risk if they drink unpasteurized drinks. These groups include:
- Older adults
- Pregnant women
- People with weakened immune systems (such as transplant patients and people with HIV/AIDS, cancer or diabetes)
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