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FOOD SAFETY RISKS OF ORANGE JUICE
Edited by: Stephanie Wallner, M.S., Mary Schroeder, M.S., R.D, Pat Kendall, Ph.D., R.D., Colorado State - Fall 2006
Although orange juice is not commonly considered as a source of foodborne illness, recent headlines have drawn attention to its potential for contamination. Since the mid-1990s, several outbreaks of foodborne illness caused by Salmonella bacteria have been linked to unpasteurized orange juice. In July of 2005, in response to one such case, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a warning advising consumers to avoid drinking unpasteurized orange juice and other products distributed by Orchard Island Juice Company in Florida. The warning came after Salmonella Typhimurium was found in an unpasteurized product made by Orchard Island and linked to an outbreak of salmonellosis.
Infection from Salmonella Typhimurium bacteria usually causes high fever, headache, vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea, and symptoms can be severe or even fatal in young children, the elderly, and persons with compromised immunity. The FDA reported 15 cases of this type of infection linked to Orchard Island juice products from mid-May through June 2005 in Massachusetts, Michigan, and Ohio. Meanwhile, 16 other states reported cases of Salmonella infection matching the strain of those found in the other three states. As a result, Orchard Island voluntarily recalled all unpasteurized products made before July 2005 and initiated a flash pasteurization process for the duration of the investigation.
This May, at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), experts presented information on the possible risk of foodborne illness from consumption of orange juice. Microbiologists explained that foods with an acidity or moisture level that make them incapable of supporting the growth of foodborne pathogens are considered "non-potentially hazardous" under the FDA Food Code. However, such foods may still contain pathogens at levels sufficient to cause illness, even if growth is not occurring.
Therefore, some highly acidic foods such as orange juice can actually cause foodborne illness despite the fact that they may be considered "non-potentially hazardous." Public health officials stress that all confirmed outbreaks from orange juice have been linked to unpasteurized products, so consumers should carefully read labels to ensure that a product has been pasteurized. Frozen orange juice concentrates and most brands of bottled orange juice sold in large grocery stores are pasteurized, yet recent outbreaks of illness serve as a good reminder to always check labels when selecting orange juices.
- FDA Issues Nationwide Health Alert on Orchid Island Unpasteruized Orange Juice Products. July 8, 2005. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/news/2005/NEW01203.html
- Webpage for American Society for Microbiology (ASM), available at http://www.asm.org
- Webpage for the 106th General Meeting of ASM, May 21-25, 2006, Orlando, FL, available at http://gm.asm.org/postmeetinginformation.shtm.
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