Fall is harvest season and a favourite activity for families and school groups is visiting local orchards and farms. While most producers pasteurize their juice and cider to kill harmful bacteria, unpasteurized juice and cider can be found at some farmers' markets, local orchards, cider mills, roadside stands and juice bars. Consumers need to be aware that there are certain risks involved in consuming unpasteurized products.
Unpasteurized juice products can be contaminated with harmful bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli, viruses, and parasites like Cryptosporidium. Although fruits that are used to make juice and cider do not naturally contain harmful bacteria, viruses or parasites, they can become contaminated in the farm environment, through handling, processing or transportation. Contaminated unpasteurized juice and cider can potentially pose a health risk to consumers.
While most people can safely consume unpasteurized fruit juice and cider, food safety experts don't recommend that children, pregnant women, older adults and people with a weakened immune system consume unpasteurized juice and cider. These at-risk groups should take the following precautions:
Remember that freezing or refrigeration does not make unpasteurized juice and cider safe.
The majority of juices and ciders sold in Canadian stores are pasteurized. Pasteurization is a process which uses heat or ultraviolet light to kill any harmful organisms that can cause disease while maintaining the nutritional properties and other qualities of the product.
These pasteurized products include most of the juice sold in refrigerated display cases, juice made from concentrate, and all shelf-stable products, such as those packaged in cans, bottles and juice boxes, which can be found unrefrigerated on grocery store shelves. These pasteurized juice products represent a safer option.
The Code of Practice for the Production and Distribution of Unpasteurized Apple and Other Fruit Juice/Cider in Canada was developed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Health Canada and the provinces and territories with input from industry and consumers. It outlines the steps producers, processors, distributors and retailers can take to reduce the possibility of contamination. The goal is to continue to produce safe, high quality juice and cider for Canadian consumers. For more information please visit The Code of Practice.
In addition, the CFIA continues to monitor known producers and their products and provide them with updated information as it becomes available. In July 2000, Health Canada introduced a policy which advocates the use of a Code of Practice and also encourages producers to label their products as "unpasteurized" when they have not been pasteurized.
Before purchasing unpasteurized juice and cider, consumers should check with the producer or vender to find out if they are produced according to the Code of Practice.
The Government of Canada is committed to food safety.
Health Canada establishes regulations and standards relating to the safety and nutritional quality of foods sold in Canada. Through inspection and enforcement activities, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency verifies that food sold in Canada meets Health Canada's requirements.