The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a reminder to consumers that drinking fruit and vegetable juices that have not been treated to kill harmful bacteria can pose serious health risks.
The FDA continues to receive reports of serious outbreaks of foodborne illness caused by untreated juices. Bacteria often contaminate fruits and vegetables as they are juiced and can be harmful if the juice is not treated to destroy them.
Healthy people’s immune systems can usually fight foodborne bacteria but for children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems there are significant risks including serious illnesses or even death.
Symptoms of foodborne illness usually include vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain; or flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, and body ache. Although symptoms can occur within 20 minutes or up to six weeks after ingesting the affected food source, sickness usually develops in one to three days.
As a protective measure, since 1999, the FDA has required juice manufacturers to place warning information about the health risks of drinking untreated juice or cider on product containers.
Almost all juices sold in supermarkets, including refrigerated juices and products sold in boxes and containers are treated for bacteria.
Untreated products are required to have 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 warning label requirements do not apply to fresh-squeezed juices and juices bought by the glass at farmers’ markets, roadside stands, or in juice bars.
Consumers should note that untreated juice is most likely to be sold in the refrigerated section of a grocery store. When in doubt, FDA advises consumers to ask if a juice product is treated, especially for juices purchased in health food stores, cider mills, or farmers’ markets.
For more information on handling food safely, contact: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Food Information Line at 1-888-SAFEFOOD (toll-free), 24 hours a day.