If you are a fresh juice or cider lover, it's important to protect your health by drinking products that have been pasteurized either by the producer or at home in your own kitchen.
Pasteurization kills moulds and harmful bacteria such as E. coli 0157:H7 that may be present in the juice or cider. Most people are aware of the link between E. coli and undercooked ground beef and take care to cook it until well done. But many people don't realize dangerous bacteria can also be found in unpasteurized fruit drinks. In the past year there were a number of cases of E. coli infection linked to a batch of unpasteurized cider in central Ontario.
Clean Meets Contaminated
The contamination often happens when apples that fall off the tree, also known as windfall or grounders, come in contact with feces from animals. If contaminated apples are pressed together with clean hand-picked apples, bacteria from the windfalls or grounders will be present in the cider or juice. The end product must be pasteurized to be sure these bacteria are destroyed. It is also important for the producers to use clean wash water for the apples and to keep their equipment clean and sanitized.
While the risk may not be high that the unpasteurized apple cider or juice you buy will be contaminated, if bacteria such as E. coli (0157:H7) are present, serious illness could occur, especially in young children, the elderly and anyone whose immune system is weak.
If in Doubt, Boil
If you are not sure if the apple cider or juice you buy is pasteurized, you can protect yourself and your family by simply boiling the product on the stove to kill any bacteria before drinking it. It can then be kept in the refrigerator for 7-10 days.
The federal and provincial governments together with the apple growers and the Consumers Association of Canada have set up a manufacturing Code of Practice to help make sure unpasteurized apple cider and fruit juices are safe for consumers. But it's important to remember that none of the recommendations and guidelines can guarantee unpasteurized apple cider or fruit juices are free of disease-causing bacteria.
There is no reason to miss out on apple cider or juice this autumn, but always put safety first.
Click here for more information on unpasteurized fruit juice and cider.