Raw Juices Can Make You Sick, FDA Warns

Mechele R. Dillard's picture

We always tend to think that the fresher a product is, the better it is for us, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration indicates that unpasteurized juices can make you sick if the wrong bacteria are in the juice.

Juice can be a healthy drink for adults and kids alike. But, did you know that your juice could make you sick if it is not properly prepared?

“When fruits and vegetables are fresh-squeezed,” the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns on its website, “bacteria from the produce can end up in your juice or cider.” Pasteurization, they indicate, is the answer to this problem. “Unless the produce or the juice has been treated to destroy any harmful bacteria, the juice could be contaminated.”

The FDA has received reports in the past about untreated juices causing serious foodborne illness outbreaks. And, while most people have the immune system strength to fight off the effects of such illnesses, some sections of the population are particularly susceptible. These groups include children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems. For these individuals, such illnesses pose heightened risk of serious illness or death.

How Do You Know?

When purchasing your juices, make sure you check the labels. The FDA has required juice manufacturers to include information warning consumers about the health risks of drinking untreated juice or cider since 1999. While most fruit and vegetable juices sold in commercial supermarkets has been treated, those that are not must carry the following label, the FDA indicates:

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.

This does not, however, include those juices or ciders that is fresh-squeezed and sold by the glass. Establishments that often sell fresh juice-by-the-glass would include apple orchards, farmers’ markets, roadside stands and juice bars.

How to Be Juice Safe

First, read the labels of the juices you purchase. The FDA suggests that most untreated juice can be found in the refrigerated section of a grocery store. Pasteurized juices can, however, also be found in the refrigerated section. To be sure, just check the labels. Other areas where treated juices are often found include the frozen food cases or on shelves in boxes, bottles or cans.

Additionally, if you just are not sure about a particular product, ask. If the labeling is unclear, or if the juice is sold by the glass, ask about pasteurization. This is particularly important for juices sold in refrigerated cases of grocery or health food stores, cider mills or farmers’ markets, the FDA suggests.

Symptoms of Foodborne Illness

It is important to be aware of the symptoms of foodborne illnesses, the FDA says, and offers the following information:

Consuming dangerous foodborne bacteria will usually cause illness within one to three days of eating the contaminated food. However, sickness can also 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
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, and body ache

If you or your children experience these symptoms, see a health care professional who can properly diagnose foodborne illness, identify the specific bacteria involved, and prescribe the best treatment.

For more information about food and your health, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Image: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

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