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OJ contamination sparks industry fears

Food Production Daily

July 13, 2005

The discovery of potential Salmonella Typhimurium contamination in an orange juice product has compounded worries over falling juice sales in the US.

The FDA has warned consumers against drinking certain unpasteurized orange juice products because of potential Salmonella Typhimurium contamination.

Products distributed under a variety of brand names by Florida-based Orchid Island Juice Company have been associated with an outbreak of human disease caused by this organism.

"FDA is working with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and our state partners to identify the source of the problem and its scope," said Dr Robert Brackett, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

"It is important to note, however, that the vast majority of orange juice sold in stores is pasteurized and safe to drink."

It is unclear as yet though whether this might affect Florida’s orange industry. The Florida Department of Citrus is already concerned that declining orange juice sales across the northeastern United States could mark a deeper trend, with sales falling 5.9 percent since October.

Florida is second only to Brazil in global orange juice production and the state remains the world's leading producer of grapefruit. Florida produces more than 80 percent of the United States' supply of citrus, with major oversees export markets including Canada, Japan, France and the UK.

The on-tree value of citrus — the money that goes to growers - is estimated at close to $1 billion.

The FDA says that there have been 15 reported cases to date of a matching strain of illness directly linked to a history of consumption of Orchid Island Juice from mid-May to June in Michigan, Ohio and Massachusetts.

In addition, at least 16 other states have reported cases of Salmonella Typhimurium infection that match this specific strain. Further investigations are underway to determine if these infections are also related to these products or not.

The unpasteurized juice in question comes in a variety of containers distributed to retail stores and restaurants under various brand names. The products are identified on the labels as freshly squeezed or fresh orange juice.

The following labels are involved: Nino Salvaggio's, Westborn Market, and Natalie's Orchid Island Juice. Orchid Island Juice bottles products under other brand names that have not yet been provided to FDA by the company.

These products do not bear a warning label that the juice is unpasteurized. Such warning labels do appear on many unpasteurized juice products, so consumers should not assume these products are safe to consume simply because they do not bear the "unpasteurized" warning label.

Individuals who believe they have become ill as a result of drinking this unpasteurized juice should consult their health care provider and contact their local health department.

Salmonella Typhimurium is a germ that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Otherwise healthy individuals may suffer short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Long- term complications can include severe arthritis.

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