With the arrival of apple season and fall fairs, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control is reminding people that unpasteurized apple juice and cider can sometimes be contaminated with harmful bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella.
In the last decade in North America more than 1,700 people have fallen ill after consuming juice and cider. Most of these outbreaks involved unpasteurized juices and ciders such as apple cider, orange juice and lemonades.
While the vast majority of apple juice and cider sold in B.C. is not dangerous, the safety of unpasteurized products cannot be confirmed. Only pasteurized apple juice and cider are free of pathogens. Unpasteurized apple juice and cider should be boiled for at least a minute before drinking to kill any pathogens that might be present.
Both retailers and consumers should check before buying apple juice or cider to determine if it has been pasteurized. If this information is not on the label, ask the retailer or producer, or phone the number on the product label. If you cannot be certain, consider the possible risks to you and your family before buying the product.
Symptoms of infection with E. coli or Salmonella can include stomach cramps, vomiting, fever and bloody diarrhea. Up to eight per cent of people, and especially young children under the age of five, infected with E. coli 0157:H7 can have severe kidney damage. This can be fatal or require the person to be on kidney dialysis for the rest of their lives while they wait for a kidney transplant.
People in vulnerable groups, including young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems should not drink unpasteurized apple juice or cider. If you believe you or your child is ill as a result of drinking unpasteurized apple juice or cider, see a doctor immediately and notify your local health authority. Symptoms can occur within two to ten days of consuming the contaminated products.
Freezing or refrigeration will not make unpasteurized apple juice or cider safe. Ensure freshness and quality by refrigerating apple juice and cider and respecting their best-before dates.
“It’s important for everyone who drinks apple juice or cider, especially people in vulnerable groups, to make sure their apple drinks are pasteurized,” Mr. Lynn Wilcott, food safety specialist with BCCDC.
“Make sure you and your children are drinking only pasteurized products when you visit fall fairs on the weekend.”
– Provincial Health Services Authority