You may not see the term “unpasteurized juice” too often. But actually, unpasteurized juices have been one of the most popular nutrition trends of the past couple of decades.
You might know of unpasteurized juice by terms like “raw” or “fresh squeezed” juice.
Juice bars often sell them, and various diet fads, such as fasting and juice cleanses, encourage you to make them at home. Perhaps for these reasons, many people associate unpasteurized juices with nutrition and assume they’re healthy.
However, while it’s true unpasteurized juices can be rich in health-promoting nutrients, they also have health risks.
In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that pregnant people and children avoid unpasteurized juices altogether (
Yet many people remain unaware of these risks (
This article squeezes out the facts about unpasteurized juice, including how it’s made, who it’s safest for, and when to use caution with it.
Heat pasteurization is a process used to treat foods and beverages. It makes them safer for human consumption and prevents products from spoiling as quickly as they would without pasteurization.
In this process, products are generally heated to a temperature around 135°F (57°C) for a few minutes to kill any dangerous pathogens or microorganisms that might be present in them (3).
Juice is not the only product that undergoes pasteurization. Eggs, honey, wine, beer, milk, cheese, and other dairy products are commonly pasteurized as well.
Alternatively, juice may be pasteurized using a process called high pressure processing (HPP), also called pascalization. HPP applies pressure instead of heat. It destroys dangerous organisms in juice and extends its shelf life, though not for quite as long as pasteurization (4).
Unpasteurized juice has not undergone pasteurization or HPP, so it’s not sterilized.
Here are some terms to be aware of when you’re looking at juice labels:
- Cold-pressed. This term refers to the method used to extract juice from whole fruits and vegetables. Cold-pressed juice can be raw, pasteurized, or treated using HPP.
- Raw. This may be cold-pressed or extracted in other ways, but it’s never treated with pasteurization or HPP. In the United States, raw juice is required to have a warning label unless it’s sold at the same location it was made.
- Fresh. Similar to raw juice, fresh juice that doesn’t clearly state it’s been pasteurized or treated with HPP likely has not been treated at all and will only have a shelf life of a few days.
You can usually determine whether juice is pasteurized based on how it’s packaged.
How to identify pasteurized juice
Juice has likely been pasteurized if it is:
- a juice concentrate
- labeled as shelf-stable
How to identify unpasteurized juice
On the other hand, unpasteurized juices are often:
- refrigerated bottles (though some of these may be pasteurized)
- in health food stores
- at farmer’s markets
- from juice bars
- made at home
- used for juice cleanses
Pasteurization uses heat to extend shelf life and kill dangerous organisms that may be present in fruit and vegetable juices. Unpasteurized juices have not been treated and thus must be refrigerated and consumed within a few days.
Answering this question is not as simple as yes or no.
Often the fruits and vegetables used to make unpasteurized juice have been cleaned and treated properly throughout their lifespan, and the juice is stored safely. In these cases, unpasteurized juice can be enjoyed safely with very few risks or side effects.
However, in other instances, if produce has been contaminated with a pathogen capable of causing foodborne illness, or if juice has been stored improperly or kept for more than a few days, the risks associated with drinking unpasteurized juice increase greatly.
A recent study of more than 78 unpasteurized fruit juice samples found as many as 86% of the juices were contaminated with bacteria and 33% contained concerning amounts of Escherichia coli — a common type of bacteria known to cause severe illness (
Though in this study the researchers also noted a link between juices that were contaminated and the hygiene and safety practices used by the makers of the juice (
Still, several other studies have confirmed samples of fruit and vegetable juices were contaminated with an array of pathogens capable of making you sick, such as the Trypanosoma cruzi and Cryptosporidium parasites and Salmonella bacteria (
Another study identified more than 100 different strains of bacteria from 60 samples of fruit juice sold by street vendors. Just because juice contains bacteria does not automatically make it dangerous, but in this case many samples contained dangerous amounts (
Most people’s immune systems can safely process the small amount of bacteria usually present in raw juice. However, those who are sensitive to foodborne illness should use greater caution with unpasteurized products.
Juice of any type is a good source of many nutrients (
Many people are under the impression that fresh, unpasteurized juice is more healthy and nutritious than pasteurized juice. But actually, much of the research on the topic is conflicting.
One study on kiwi juice found that pasteurization lowered the total amount of phenols, flavonoids, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), and fiber present in the juice, but only by a little bit (
A study on orange juice found heat pasteurization and HPP both caused decreases in carotenoid levels and antioxidant activity (
It found pasteurization also lowered levels of the beneficial plant compounds flavonoids and anthocyanins, but interestingly, HPP actually increased flavonoids (
Another study on passion fruit juice also found that pasteurized samples contained greater amounts of phenolic compounds, lycopene, carotenoids, and greater antioxidant activity than unpasteurized samples (
Though it was lower in a few other nutrients, including beta carotene and provitamin A (
What’s more, it appears that pasteurization is not the only factor that influences how many nutrients juices retain. The temperature at which they’re stored, and the length of time they’re kept for also appear to have a strong influence (
Even most of the studies that have observed differences in nutrient contents between fresh and pasteurized juices have noted that the difference is often minor. There seems to be great variability in nutrient content depending on the type of juice and other factors (
Overall, you shouldn’t feel like opting for pasteurized juices means sacrificing nutritional value.
Any time a product like juice is treated with a process like pasteurization, this may alter the product’s nutritional profile. But often the difference is negligible, and in some cases pasteurization even helps retain or increase certain nutrients.
Aside from the risk of illness, there are a few other downsides of unpasteurized juice you might want to know about.
Shorter shelf life
One of the main downsides of fresh juice is that it will spoil much quicker than pasteurized juice. The pasteurization process extends the shelf life of juice. This is why you’ll only find fresh, unpasteurized juice in the refrigerated section of grocery stores.
In general, unpasteurized juice stays fresh for only about 3 days while pasteurized juice may last for months or even years as long as it’s unopened.
Another downside of fresh unpasteurized juice is that it’s often significantly more expensive than pasteurized juice. In fact, raw fresh juice can be as much as five times more expensive than pasteurized juice.
This is not to suggest that one is necessarily better than the other — both fresh and pasteurized juices have their pros and cons. These are simply factors to consider when deciding which type is best for you.
Unpasteurized raw juice tends to be notably more expensive than pasteurized products. It also has a much shorter shelf-life and must be consumed within a few days after it’s made.
Drinking unpasteurized juice carries a risk of foodborne illness. However, that doesn’t mean that all unpasteurized juice will make you sick, or that you should avoid it completely, especially if you don’t fall into an at-risk group.
Most people’s immune systems are well-equipped to manage the small amounts of bacteria typically present on fresh produce or in raw, unpasteurized juice. Still, there are a few things you can do to lower your risk when enjoying unpasteurized juice.
Find out what you’re consuming
First things first — always know what kind of juice you’re drinking. Unpasteurized juice may also be in ciders, artisan ferments, and even cocktails, so if you’re unsure whether or not a drink contains unpasteurized juice, it’s best to check with the seller (
If juice has been pasteurized or treated with HPP processing, it should state that clearly somewhere on the label. Further, if juice is bottled or boxed and not refrigerated, you can assume it’s pasteurized or processed with a similar treatment to make it shelf-stable.
Most unpasteurized juices sold at grocery stores and markets are required to carry a warning label. However, raw juices sold at restaurants, juice bars, and farmers markets where the juice has been made are not required to carry such labels.
Prepare it safely
When making your own fresh juice at home, remember to thoroughly wash the produce you plan to use as well as your equipment to reduce the risk of bacterial contamination.
Also, be sure to properly refrigerate your fresh juice and consume it within a few days (
Consider boiling it
If you only have fresh unpasteurized juice available to you, but are worried about the risk of illness, one option is to bring the juice to a low boil and then let it cool again before you drink it (
Before drinking juice, be sure to find out if it’s pasteurized. If not and you’re worried about catching a foodborne illness, bring the juice to a low boil on the stove for a few minutes and then let it cool before drinking it.
Many types of raw and fresh-squeezed juice are unpasteurized, including juice made at home or sold at juice bars and restaurants.
Unpasteurized juice is more likely to contain harmful microorganisms, such as those that can cause food poisoning, whereas pasteurized juice carries a much lower risk.
For many people, unpasteurized juice can be healthy and safe. But for those with compromised immune systems — like children, older people, and pregnant people — unpasteurized juice is more likely to cause severe foodborne illness.
If you fall into one of those groups, the good news is you can safely enjoy pasteurized juice products without sacrificing nutrition. And they’re often much cheaper, too.