Apple cider in the fall is on the menu for many of us and whether or not it is safe for everyone to drink is a great question.
Having a glass of apple cider is definitely a page in my childhood memory book since we had neighbors who served a glass with doughnuts every Halloween. It was a great way to take a much needed break from roaming the streets saying trick or treat when we sat on their front porch enjoying our apple cider!
To this day, apple cider makes it to my home during the fall!
However, there are precautions we should take when we purchase apple cider and any other fresh squeezed juice to avoid foodborne illness common to unpasteurized juices of all kinds.
Recently you may have heard about the recalls on a particular brand of apple cider which have been contaminated with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli. This one particular brand is affected but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued safety warnings for the public on all fresh squeezed juices and cider.
Unpasteurized juices including fall apple cider pose a health risk because the bacteria which could be present on the fruit itself is not killed as it would be during pasteurization. The heat process of pasteurization will kill harmful bacteria.
All containers of unpasteurized juices are supposed to carry this warning label:
“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.”
However, juices and cider made at the apple farm, farmer’s market or roadside stand are not required to carry this warning. You should ask the retailer of these operations if the juice or cider was heat-treated.
It is important to be informed so that you can make the best and safest decision about foods you serve your family.
If you make your own juice or cider at home and thoroughly clean the fruits and equipment you use as well as store the juice at the proper temperature, you will generally be safe. It is those operations that aren’t cleaning the fruit or machinery they use and then improperly refrigerating the product that can put you and your family at risk when bacteria is allowed to grow.
Foodborne illness is most severe for people with compromised immune systems such as young children, older adults, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems such as transplant patients, those with HIV/AIDS or other chronic diseases. Symptoms of foodborne illness can include gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain as well as flu type symptoms.
Be careful serving unpasteurized juices of any kind whether made at home, at the apple orchard or from the farmer’s market to people with compromised immune systems.
Enjoy your fall favorites safely!