Unpasteurized Orange
Juice Can Carry Salmonella

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Orange juice, contrary to what many had long believed, is not too acidic to carry food poisoning, researchers reported Wednesday.
They said careful checks showed that 62 people were sickened by a Salmonella outbreak at Disney World in Orlando in 1995, and unpasteurized orange juice was to blame. Kim Cook and colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Foodborne and Diarrheal Diseases branch investigated the outbreak.
They found 62 cases in 21 states dating back to June of 1995. ``All had visited a large tourist theme park in Orlando during May 1995,'' they wrote in a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association. After the victims and family members were questioned, it became clear that nearly all had drunk orange juice, too. Many had stayed in the same hotel.
``We traced the implicated product, orange juice, back through its production process and conducted site inspections off the involved processing facilities and farms,'' Cook's team wrote. They tested samples from the suspect batch and found Salmonella, a bacteria that can cause vomiting and diarrhea. ``A site inspection of the juice company identified several deficiencies in its processing plant,'' the researchers wrote. The walls were cracked, mice and bird droppings could be seen and even frogs got inside somehow.
Salmonella was found on a toad found just outside the building where the juice was processed. Reptiles and amphibians are known to carry Salmonella.
Only a small percentage of food poisoning cases are ever reported, so the researchers think there must have been many more. ``Orange juice and other acidic fruit juices are generally believed to be unusual vehicles of transmission for human pathogens,'' they wrote. But an outbreak of a strain of E. coli bacteria that can cause a sometimes deadly form of food poisoning was traced to unpasteurized apple juice in 1996.
``Although the vast majority of orange juice and other fruit and vegetable juices produced within the United States are pasteurized and safe to consume, this outbreak illustrates the importance of the current national debate and regulatory activity regarding the safety of unpasteurized juices,'' the CDC team wrote. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently tightened rules on the labeling of fruit juice. Roadside stands selling home-grown apple juice and cider must warn consumers the product may contain illness-causing bacteria.
The National Food Processors Association wants the FDA to require that all juices be pasteurized -- a brief heating process that kills microbes.