Danger Can Lurk in Morning O.J.

In rare cases, juice can harbor salmonella bacteria, experts say

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WEDNESDAY, May 24, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- In rare instances, if your morning glass of orange juice isn't pasteurized, it may be a source of foodborne illness, public health officials noted Wednesday at a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, in Orlando, Fla.

Orange juice is one of the foods that -- due to its acidity, moisture levels, or a combination of both -- isn't capable of supporting the growth of foodborne pathogens under proper storage conditions and is defined as non-potentially hazardous food.

However, these foods can still contain pathogenic organisms at sufficient levels to cause illness.

"The more we find out about the behavior of microorganisms in non-potentially hazardous foods, the more we are beginning to understand that some of these foods are borderline or not consistent with the definition," Dr. Larry Beuchat, of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, Athens, said in a prepared statement.

"For many years, individuals in the public health arena would not think of orange juice as a vehicle for salmonella. When epidemiologists would collect information on salmonella outbreaks, high-acid beverages like orange juice were not considered to even possibly be involved as carriers," he said.

However, since the mid-1990s, unpasteurized orange juice has been linked to a number of salmonella outbreaks in the United States. This may be due to a number of factors such as more importation of orange products from countries with less stringent sanitary guidelines or regulations; greater overall consumption of orange juice; or better public health surveillance and detection methods.

"Is it new, or were we just not looking for it 20 years ago? I think it is a little bit of both," Beuchat said.

Consumers concerned about the possibility of foodborne diseases should always buy pasteurized orange juice, he said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about foodborne illness.

SOURCE: American Society for Microbiology, news release, May 22, 2006

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