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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Didn’t I tell you to Pasteurize that Orange Juice?

Between early May and early June 2005 the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) identified 11 state residents as being infected with an indistinguishable genetic strain of Salmonella Typhimurium as determined by pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) analysis.  Eight of the cases were reported in children and five of the cases had required hospitalization.  Interviews with case patients indicated that all had consumed store brand orange juice from 1 of 2 grocery chains in Michigan in the week before becoming ill.  Health investigators at the MDCH and the Michigan Department of Agriculture conducted a product trace back and learned that both store brands were made by the same processor in Florida.  The company was identified as the Orchid Island Juice Company.

Two restriction enzyme PFGE subtyping results were uploaded to PulseNet, a database of PFGE patterns maintained at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and assigned pattern numbers JPXX01.0178 and JPXA26.0186.  Once the patterns were posted on PulseNet, Ohio and Massachusetts reported case patients with indistinguishable PFGE patterns and a history of consuming orange juice from the same Florida processor, Orchid Island.

On July 8, 2005 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a nationwide warning to consumers against drinking unpasteurized orange juice products distributed under a variety of brand names by Orchid Island Juice Company of Fort Pierce, Florida.  The alert went on to say that the juice had the potential for being “contaminated with Salmonella Typhimurium and had been associated with an outbreak of human disease caused by this organism.”  Fifteen ill cases had been directly linked to the product and at least 16 other states had reported cases of Salmonella Typhimurium infection that matched the outbreak strain.  Furthermore, the FDA cautioned, the juice was unpasteurized but there was no label on the product warning consumers that it was unpasteurized.  The FDA alert stated, “consumers should not assume these products are safe to consume simply because they do not bear the ‘unpasteurized’ warning label.”[1]

As the number of reports of illness among Orchid Island Orange Juice consumers continued to rise, the company agreed to issue a recall adding frozen juice to the products of concern.  On July 15, 2005 the FDA announced that the Orchid Island Juice Company was voluntarily recalling all unpasteurized orange juice with a code date of 7/25/05 or earlier and all unpasteurized frozen orange juice with expiration codes of 04-25-2007 through 07-08-2007 because of potential contamination with Salmonella.  Orchid Island Juice Company acknowledged the product had been distributed to at least 30 states including Tennessee and West Virginia, and 3 countries internationally.[2]

The FDA collected several samples of the orange juice from the suspect time period.  Salmonella Saintpaul was found in sample 341151 of product with a date code of 7/25/2005.[3]  Salmonella Typhimurium remained, however, the serotype du jour, with a count of 72 outbreak associated cases reported by mid-July.  Illness onset dates or culture date (if illness onset date was not known) for cases ranged from May 25 to June 17, 2005.  The cases ranged in age from 17 months to 77 years old.

For a while Orchid Island Juice Company discontinued manufacturing unpasteurized orange juice.  After restarting production, the firm’s private laboratory detected Salmonella in a sample of the juice, and on September 6, 2005 the firm once again recalled all fresh unpasteurized orange juice date coded 9/15/2005 through 9/22/2005. [4] Fortunately, no illnesses were linked to consumption of the juice this time.


[1]           See FDA Statement, FDA Issues Nationwide Health Alert on Orchid Island Unpasteurized Orange Juice Products, dated July 8, 2005.

[2]           See FDA Announcement, “Orchid Island Juice Co. Recalls Unpasteurized Orange Juice” dated July 15, 2005.

[3]           See FDA Report of Sample Analysis dated 7/25/2005.

[4]           See FDA Recall Firm Press Release, “Orchid Island Juice Company Voluntarily Recalls Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice Due to Potential Salmonella Contamination” dated September 6, 2005.