Fresh squeezed juices: What is the risk?

Beware, take proper care with fresh squeezed juices to avoid foodborne illness.

Many people are working on a healthier life style. Their diets include fresh fruit and vegetables and fresh juices. Some people are going out of their way to promote the juicing of fresh fruits and vegetables. But what is the risk for food borne illness when it comes these juice products?

In the United States most of the juices sold commercially are processed or pasteurized to kill harmful food borne illness bacteria. But if the fruits and vegetables are “fresh-squeezed” into juice there is the risk of harmful food borne illness bacteria being in the finished product. 

There are some grocery stores, health food stores, cider mills, and farm markets that sell packages and containers of juice that was made on site. These juices were not pasteurized or treated to kill harmful food borne illness bacteria. This could be a food borne illness waiting to happen. 

For example, someone takes the fresh orange from a display of fresh fruit, cuts the orange in half and puts it in the juicer. Two things are potentially wrong here. If the person did not wash his hands before preparing the juice, there is a problem because whatever was on his hands is now on the orange. If the outside of the orange was not washed, when the orange was cut, whatever was on the outside of the orange has now contaminated the inside of the orange, thereby contaminating the juice. Since the juice is a raw product, there is no opportunity for the food borne illness bacteria to be killed by a heat process. These procedures make the risk for food borne illness to occur very high. 

If the consumer is looking at the “fresh squeezed” or untreated juice products in the store, these products should be kept in the refrigerator section or on ice. The following warning is mandated to be on the label in regarding the potential risk of foodborne illness for people who are at risk:

  • 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. 

Some farm markets, roadside stands, juice bars and even some restaurants may sell fresh squeezed juice by the glass. Even though the juice has not been pasteurized or heat treated for safety, it does not need a warning label because the juice is sold by the glass for immediate consumption. 

If you or someone in your family is at risk for food borne illness, and you cannot determine if the juice was pasteurized or heat treated to destroy the harmful food borne illness bacteria, it is better not to drink the juice or bring the juice to a boil to kill any harmful bacteria that may be lurking in the juice.

If the consumer is going to make “fresh squeezed” juice at home, Michigan State University Extension recommends that the hands be washed for at least 20 seconds before preparing the juice. The fresh fruits or vegetables to be juiced need to be rinsed in running water. Equipment to prepare the juice needs to be wash, rinsed, and sanitized. If the juice is for someone who is at risk for foodborne illness, the juice should be brought to a boil and cooled before it is served.

When it comes to “fresh squeezed”juice, it is better to be safe than sorry.

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