Unpasteurized Fruit Juices and Cider - Know What You Are Drinking

Fruit juices and cider are healthy and delicious products that Canadians enjoy all year round. The majority of these beverages sold in Canada are pasteurized and safe to drink. But you need to be aware that a small percentage of apple juice, apple cider, and orange juice is unpasteurized. Although unpasteurized drinks are normally safe as well, some carry a risk of being contaminated with harmful bacteria, such as E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella, which can make some people very ill. Learn more about the risks and who is most vulnerable so that you can make an informed choice, because, after all, it's your health!

Pasteurized and Unpasteurized... What's the Difference?

Heating a liquid at high temperature kills harmful bacteria that may be in the product. This is a method of pasteurization most often used for milk, but it is also used for juices and ciders in bottles, cans and juice boxes that are stocked on grocery store shelves. Some fresh juices and ciders, commonly sold at roadside stands, country fairs, juice bars and on ice or in refrigerated display cases at grocery stores, are unpasteurized. This means that there is a chance the product you buy may contain bacteria harmful to your health.

Keeping it Safe and Clean

Most producers of unpasteurized juices and ciders use a careful and hygienic method to prepare their product. They follow a Code of Practice that outlines a set of good manufacturing practices they can follow to avoid contamination of their products by harmful bacteria. Home producers can follow these safety measures too.

Code of Practice - Key Elements

  • Avoid using fruit dropped to ground
  • Wash, brush and rinse fruit
  • Clean and sanitize equipment
  • Label products properly
  • Keep unpasteurized products refrigerated

Who is most vulnerable?

Most people can enjoy unpasteurized juice, but there is a risk especially, for people in vulnerable groups. Those most vulnerable are young children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems. The effect of food contamination from E. coli O157:H7 or other bacteria on people in these vulnerable groups can be severe, even deadly.

How will I know if a juice or cider is unpasteurized?

Health Canada encourages producers of unpasteurized juices and ciders to voluntarily label their products as "unpasteurized" or "non pasteurisé", through a policy introduced in August 2000. Consumers can look for this word on the label and make a more informed decision about whether or not to buy the product.

What should I do if I am unsure?

People in a vulnerable group (young children, seniors, people with weakened immune systems), are advised to drink pasteurized juice and cider, or bring unpasteurized products to a boil before consuming it. If you are not sure if the juice or cider you want to buy is pasteurized, look for the word "UNPASTEURIZED" or "NON PASTEURISÉ" on the label. If there is no indication on the label, ask the vendor or phone the information number displayed on some products. If you are not satisfied with the answers provided, you need to consider the risk of consuming the product.

Consumer Tips - Reducing the Risk

  • Boil unpasteurized juice or cider before consuming it to be sure the product is safe for everyone.
  • Avoid serving unpasteurized products to those most vulnerable if not boiled.
  • Don't rely on freezing or refrigeration to make unpasteurized juices or ciders safe.
  • Do ensure freshness and quality by refrigerating these products and respecting the best before dates.
  • See a doctor immediately at the first sign of illness from food contamination (stomach cramps, vomiting, fever, diarrhea). These symptoms can occur within two to ten days of consuming contaminated food.

For more information on unpasteurized juices and ciders you can:

Contact your local health unit
CAT. No. H49-143/2001
ISBN No. 0-662-66025-0

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