Cider_406x250It’s PSL season again. For the uninitiated, this means that Starbucks is again selling its beloved Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL), and you can barely look at Pinterest and food blogs without seeing recipes for various pumpkin-flavored treats. This time of year is also sometimes referred to as fall or autumn. But apple cider also pops up in grocery and farmers markets in the fall, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to make sure consumers are being safe about drinking fresh-squeezed juices and cider. Outbreaks of foodborne illness have recently been traced to unpasteurized cider and fruit and vegetable juices. Last year, at least three people in Ontario who reported drinking unpasteurized apple cider were infected with E. coli O157:H7. In 2012, Michigan was tracking E. coli infections thought to be linked to unpasteurized cider. In 2010, seven people in Maryland were sickened. Without pasteurization, or some other treatment to kill bacteria, pathogens can end up in the juice or cider. Most people’s immune systems can typically fight off the effects of foodborne illness, but FDA warns that children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems (such as transplant patients and individuals with HIV/AIDS, cancer or diabetes) risk serious illness, or even death, from drinking untreated juices. Some grocery stores, health food stores, cider mills, farmers markets and juice bars sell packaged juice made on-site that wasn’t pasteurized or treated with a non-heat process for the same purpose. These products should be kept refrigerated and are required to carry a warning on the label that reads: “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.” FDA doesn’t require warning labels on juice or cider that is fresh-squeezed and sold by the glass at apple orchards, roadside stands or farmers markets. The agency advises people to look for the warning label to avoid purchasing untreated juices and not to hesitate to ask if a juice product is treated if the labeling is unclear or if the juice or cider is sold by the glass. Consuming dangerous foodborne bacteria will usually cause illness within 1 to 3 days of eating the contaminated food. But sickness can also occur within 20 minutes or up to 6 weeks later. Symptoms of foodborne illness include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and flu-like symptoms (such as fever, headache, and body aches). If you think that you or a family member has a foodborne illness, contact your healthcare provider immediately. (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)