On October 30 the Chicago Tribune reported on the FDA’s warning that just-pressed apple cider bought from that quaint roadside farm stand could contain the E. coli bacteria.
The agency is reminding people of the dangers associated with unpasteurized fruit and vegetable juices — the kinds sold at farmers markets, stands and some juice bars — after an outbreak in upstate New York that appears to be linked to apple cider from a small orchard.
“It’s that time of year,” FDA spokesman Mike Herndon said. “In the holiday season, you’re probably going to drink cider.”
That type of statement has some area farmers grumbling.
“The good ol’ FDA,” said Alan Quig of Quig’s Orchard in Mundelein, which began pasteurizing its cider after a 1996 E. coli outbreak linked to untreated apple juice. “Every time that kind of thing happens, they put [a warning] out in the season when farmers are trying to make their money.”
New York is investigating what appears to be contaminated cider from an orchard in Peru, N.Y. Since late September, 221 people have reported gastrointestinal illnesses after drinking cider from the orchard, spokeswoman Claire Pospisil said.
Most juice sold in supermarkets is pasteurized, or heat-treated to destroy bacteria. Untreated juice is required to have a label saying so.
The FDA instituted the labeling rule after the 1996 E. coli outbreak in which a 15-month-old Colorado girl died after drinking tainted apple juice made by Odwalla.
The FDA requires juice processors to use a hazard analysis to flag potential contamination hazards in its plants. The agency does not regulate roadside stands and markets.
When in doubt, consumers should boil the juice, the FDA said. Children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems should drink only pasteurized juices.
Farmer Bob Quig said his family invested more than than $20,000 in pasteurizing equipment after the 1996 E. coli outbreak because “it was something we had to do.”
But, he said, his cider sales still plummeted and have never fully recovered, and he blames the FDA for putting “such a panic in people.”
“Whether you make money on cider or not, people expect to have fresh apple cider,” he said. “It’s one more thing that cuts into your bottom line.”