FDA Reminds Consumers That Untreated Juices May Pose Health Risk

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- While juices provide many essential nutrients, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reminding consumers about the dangers of drinking fruit and vegetable juices that have not been treated to kill harmful bacteria.

The FDA continues to receive reports of serious outbreaks of foodborne illness that have been traced to drinking untreated juices.  While most people's immune systems can usually fight off the effects of foodborne illness, children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems risk serious illnesses or even death from drinking untreated juices.

When fruits and vegetables are juiced, bacteria from the produce can become a part of the finished product.  The juice may be contaminated unless the produce or the juice has been treated to destroy any harmful bacteria that may be present.

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.  Only a small portion of all fruit and vegetable juices sold in supermarkets is not treated to kill harmful bacteria.  These products are required to carry 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 does not require warning labels for juices that are fresh-squeezed and sold by the glass, such as at farmers markets, at roadside stands, or in some juice bars.

Consumers can find pasteurized or otherwise treated products in the grocers' refrigerated sections, frozen food cases, or in nonrefrigerated shelf-stable containers, such as juice boxes, bottles, or cans.  Untreated juice is most likely to be sold in the refrigerated section of a grocery store -- so look for the warning label.  When unsure, FDA advises consumers to ask if a juice product is treated, especially for juices sold in refrigerated cases of grocery or health food stores or at cider mills or farmers markets.

Consuming dangerous foodborne bacteria will usually cause illness in one to three days after eating the contaminated food, and sickness can occur within 20 minutes or up to six weeks later.  In addition, sometimes foodborne illness is confused with other types of illness.  Symptoms of foodborne illness usually include: vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain; or flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, and body ache. If foodborne illness symptoms occur, consult a doctor, who can properly diagnose the illness, identify the specific bacteria involved, and prescribe the best treatment.

Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration