As leaves begin to turn in Iowa, thoughts begin to turn from swimming pools and sweet corn to apple orchards and pumpkins. The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) reminds parents, caregivers and teachers that while trips to orchards and pumpkin patches can be fun and educational, precautions should be taken to prevent illness.
Many pumpkin patches and apple orchards offer free samples or sell fresh apple cider. Unfortunately, unpasteurized cider and apple juice can carry a risk for disease such as E.coli and others. Past outbreaks have been caused by cider and apple juice that was not pasteurized or not fully pasteurized. "Children, the elderly and those who have compromised immune systems are at particular risk of becoming ill after drinking these unpasteurized products," said IDPH Medical Director Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. "Contaminated cider does not look, smell or taste different from normal apple cider. That's why it's important to read labels."
If product labeling is unclear, ask the orchard owners or grocery store whether the juice being offered has been pasteurized. In general, pasteurized products include those packaged in cans, bottles and boxes that are found unrefrigerated in the grocery store. Unpasteurized products may be purchased as freshly pressed from local orchards, roadside stands or farmer's markets. They may also be found on ice or in refrigerated display cases and in produce sections at grocery stores.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that concerned consumers can reduce their risk of illness by heating their unpasteurized apple cider to at least 170 F. If at any time you question whether a cider or juice has been treated to destroy harmful bacteria, avoid drinking it. For more information about food-borne illnesses, visit www.idph.state.ia.us/adper/illness.asp.