Q: Does pasteurizing juice or cider make it safe to consume?

A: Yes. Juice products are naturally acidic which kills or prevents many disease organisms from growing. However, some organisms that could cause the product to spoil or make someone sick may be present in untreated juice. Heat pasteurization, or an equivalent process, destroys E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, and any other pathogenic microorganisms of public health concern, thus enhancing the safety of juice. Heat treatment can also create a shelf-stable product by destroying enzymes and naturally occurring spoilage organisms.

Q: There are a whole variety of juices; how do I know which ones are safe?

A: Juices are generally sold in four ways: 1) in small, aseptic (laminated paperboard) boxes on the shelf; 2) in bottles and cans on the shelf; 3) in bottles or cartons in the refrigerator case; and 4) in frozen concentrated form in the freezer section.

Juices in the first two categories – in small aseptic boxes, and in bottles and cans on the shelf – have been heat treated to ensure that they are shelf stableAll shelf-stable juices, those that do not require refrigeration prior to opening, have been heat-treated. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require pasteurized juices, other than orange juice, to be labeled “pasteurized.” Since not all pasteurized juices are labeled as such, consumers can check with the retailer or manufacturer if they have questions.

The vast majority of juices in the refrigerator case are heat-treated. Frozen concentrate juices also are produced from ingredients that have been heat processed. Juices that have been heat-treated are safe to consume. “Fresh juices” ––bottled juices that have not been heat-treated – have NOT been exposed to a pathogen-destroying process.

Q: Does the federal government require juices to be pasteurized?

A: No, the FDA does not require juice or juice products to be pasteurized at this time. However, the FDA does require milk or milk products intended for sale in interstate commerce to be pasteurized. NFPA members have urged that the FDA require that juices be pasteurized or otherwise treated to destroy pathogenic bacteria.

Q: Is there a labeling requirement for unpasteurized juices?

A: Yes. With the exception of certain citrus juice manufacturers operating under an FDA exemption, all containers of unpasteurized juice sold in interstate commerce must bear the following statement: “Warning: this product has not been pasteurized and, therefore, may contain harmful bacteria which can cause serious illness in children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems.” This labeling requirement does not apply to juices sold by the glass at juice bars or in restaurants; consumers may want to ask if the juice they are being served has been pasteurized.

Q: If I purchase unpasteurized juice is there anything I can do to make it safer?

A: Juice that is purchased fresh should be heated to 160° Fahrenheit to ensure that harmful pathogens are destroyed. For consumers who do not have a thermometer, bringing the product to a boil (212° F) is more than adequate.

Q: What is NFPA’s position regarding juice pasteurization?

A: NFPA’s position is that juice or juice ingredients should receive heat pasteurization or an equivalent process sufficient to eliminate microorganisms of public health significance.

Q: What percentage of juices available today have been pasteurized?

A: According to the FDA, fresh juice producers constitute approximately two percent of juice manufacturers nationwide. About 98 percent of juice sold has been heat-treated.