Juicing may be popular, but there are important things to consider before you reach for your next glass. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend at least half of our daily fruit intake come from whole fruits. While choosing 100-percent fruit juice may help you meet your fruit intake, juices tend to be lower in dietary fiber and may result in unnecessary calories. Plus, it's important to be aware of food safety concerns when selecting juice at the store or making it at home.
Pasteurized or "raw:" Which should you buy?
When produce is squeezed into juice, any bacteria present on its surface can become part of the finished product. Unless juice is further processed to destroy potentially harmful bacteria, it could be dangerous for those at risk for food poisoning, potentially causing illness or even death. In the United States, most juices sold in grocery stores are pasteurized to ensure they're safe to drink. For instance, thermal pasteurization, or heat treatment, often is used to destroy harmful bacteria. Alternative pasteurization treatments are becoming more widely used, too.
Freshly squeezed juice made onsite, such as at a restaurant, juice bar, grocery store or farmers market, is not required to be pasteurized. Most people have immune systems strong enough to handle small amounts of bacteria, such as in unpasteurized or "raw" juice. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends high-risk individuals — including infants, young children, pregnant women, older adults and people with weakened immune systems — boil unpasteurized juice before drinking to destroy potentially harmful bacteria.
Can you make fresh squeezed juice at home safely?
Yes, but clean everything, including all fruits, vegetables, cutting boards, knives, blenders, juicing machines and glasses. Even if you're not using the peels, clean them anyway. Bacteria on the outside of the fruits and vegetables can contaminate the inside when cut and juiced. Even if you follow all safety habits, fresh juice can still pose a risk for food poisoning in high-risk individuals.
Three tips to follow:
1. Be a label reader.
Pasteurized juice should be labeled as such. If it is not pasteurized, it will be refrigerated and must contain the following statement on the 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."
Use these labels to determine which juice to buy.
2. Be inquisitive.
The FDA doesn't require a warning label for juice or cider that's freshly squeezed and sold by the glass at farmers markets, orchards, roadside stands and in some juice bars or restaurants. When in doubt, ask whether the juice has been treated to ensure safety.
3. Be clean.
Whenever you're doing your own juicing or watching fresh juice being prepared, make sure cleanliness is evident at all stages of juicing. Then sip safely with confidence.