Is orange juice a unpasteurized juice?

Orange juice is one of the most popular juices consumed around the world. It’s loved for its fresh, tangy taste and nutritional benefits. But there is an ongoing debate about whether orange juice should be pasteurized or not. Some argue that pasteurization destroys nutrients and enzymes naturally found in the juice. Others say pasteurization is necessary to kill harmful bacteria and extend shelf life. So is orange juice typically pasteurized or unpasteurized? Let’s take a closer look.

What is pasteurization?

Pasteurization is a process of heating liquids to a specific temperature for a set amount of time in order to kill harmful microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, molds and yeasts. It is named after the French scientist Louis Pasteur, who discovered that spoilage organisms could be destroyed by applying heat at certain temperatures.

There are two main types of pasteurization:

  • High Temperature/Short Time (HTST) – Heats the juice to at least 72°C (161°F) for 15-30 seconds.
  • Extended Shelf Life (ESL) – Heats the juice to 80-90°C (176-194°F) for 1-2 minutes.

Both methods are effective at killing potentially dangerous bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes. However, ESL pasteurization uses higher temperatures for a longer duration, resulting in a longer shelf life but more loss of nutrients.

Is store-bought orange juice pasteurized?

The vast majority of store-bought, commercially produced orange juice is pasteurized using the HTST method. Pasteurization is required by the FDA for all commercially sold juices, except for certain fresh-squeezed juices like those made and sold at juice bars.

Here are some of the major orange juice brands and whether they pasteurize:

Brand Pasteurized?
Tropicana Yes
Simply Orange Yes
Florida’s Natural Yes
Minute Maid Yes
Sunkist Yes

As you can see, all major commercial orange juice brands pasteurize their products before sale. This guarantees the safety of the juice by eliminating any potentially harmful bacteria.

Why is pasteurization used?

There are a few key reasons why pasteurization is standard practice for store-bought orange juice:

  • Food safety – Pasteurization kills dangerous pathogens that could make people sick.
  • Prevention of spoilage – It destroys yeasts, molds and bacteria that can cause premature spoilage.
  • Extended shelf life – Pasteurized juices last 2-3 weeks compared to 1-2 days for unpasteurized.
  • Consumer expectations – Most consumers expect juice to be pasteurized.
  • Legal requirements – As mentioned, the FDA mandates pasteurization for commercial juices.

While pasteurization does have some downsides in terms of nutrient degradation, the benefits outweigh potential risks when it comes to producing juice safely on a large scale.

Is there unpasteurized orange juice?

While the majority of store-bought orange juice is pasteurized, there are some options to buy unpasteurized orange juice:

  • Freshly squeezed – Juice bars or health food stores may offer freshly squeezed orange juice that has not undergone pasteurization.
  • Home-squeezed – You can make your own unpasteurized orange juice by squeezing or juicing oranges at home.
  • Small-scale producers – Some small OJ producers sell unpasteurized juice at farmers markets or grocery stores, but this is less common.

However,keep in mind that consuming unpasteurized orange juice may pose some health risks:

Pasteurized Unpasteurized
  • Kills harmful pathogens
  • Prevents foodborne illness
  • Extended shelf life
  • May contain pathogens like Salmonella or E. coli
  • Risk of foodborne illness
  • Short shelf life of 1-2 days

Children, elderly, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems are at the highest risk when consuming unpasteurized juices. The FDA strongly recommends only drinking pasteurized juice products.

Effects of pasteurization on nutrients

Pasteurization does degrade some nutrients in orange juice through the application of heat. Here are some of the key nutritional differences between pasteurized and unpasteurized orange juice:

Pasteurized Unpasteurized
Vitamin C Moderate loss of 15-20% Full vitamin C content preserved
Folate Up to 30% loss Fully preserved
Anti-oxidants Some loss of antioxidant compounds Higher antioxidant levels
Enzymes Destroyed by heat Natural enzymes intact

As shown above, pasteurization can degrade heat-sensitive vitamins like vitamin C and folate. It also destroys all enzymes and some antioxidant compounds. However, it’s important to note that pasteurized orange juice still retains a solid nutritional profile. An 8oz glass provides over 100% of your daily vitamin C, plus potassium, folate and antioxidants.

Taste difference

In terms of taste, some people feel unpasteurized orange juice has a fresher, more natural flavor. Enzyme and volatile compound loss during pasteurization may subtly degrade taste. However, many people don’t notice a significant difference.

Here’s a quick taste comparison:

Pasteurized Unpasteurized
Taste Slightly less fresh flavor Very bright, fresh tangy flavor
Mouthfeel Slightly thinner texture Rich, smooth texture
Color Slightly paler orange hue Deep orange color

Again, these are very subtle differences that some people may not pick up on. The taste of pasteurized orange juice available at the grocery store is still very appealing and enjoyable for the majority of consumers.

Is pasteurized or unpasteurized better?

There are pros and cons to both pasteurized and unpasteurized orange juice:

Pasteurized Unpasteurized
  • Kills harmful bacteria
  • Prevents foodborne illness
  • Extended shelf life of weeks
  • Readily available
  • Higher vitamin and antioxidant levels
  • Natural enzymes intact
  • Maximum freshness and flavor
  • Some nutrient degradation
  • Slightly altered flavor
  • Risk of pathogenic bacteria
  • Short shelf life of 1-2 days
  • Limited availability

For most people, the pros of pasteurized OJ outweigh the pros of unpasteurized. The added food safety, shelf life, and convenience make pasteurized a better choice. However, some juice fans greatly prefer the taste and nutritional profile of fresh unpasteurized juice despite the risks and limited availability.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is homemade orange juice pasteurized?

No, orange juice you squeeze or make at home is not pasteurized. Pasteurization requires specialized equipment and processes not available in the home kitchen. Homemade OJ has a shelf life of only 1-2 days and carries a higher risk of foodborne pathogens without pasteurization.

Does pasteurization make orange juice less healthy?

Pasteurization does degrade some vitamins, enzymes and antioxidants in orange juice. However, pasteurized orange juice still retains excellent nutrition including vitamin C, potassium, folate and other nutrients and compounds. Most experts feel the benefits of pasteurization outweigh any moderate nutrient losses.

Is pasteurized orange juice safe for infants?

Yes, pasteurized orange juice is considered safe for infants to consume according to pediatricians and health organizations. In fact, pasteurization makes juice safer by eliminating dangerous pathogens that could make infants sick. Unpasteurized juice is never recommended for infants.

Does pasteurization affect the taste of orange juice?

Pasteurization can mildly affect the taste of OJ due to enzyme and compound degradation. However, most people don’t notice a major difference between pasteurized and unpasteurized orange juice in terms of flavor, sweetness or texture.

Is pasteurized orange juice alkaline or acidic?

Orange juice is acidic in nature, with a pH around 3-4. Pasteurization does not change the acidic pH of orange juice. Fresh squeezed unpasteurized OJ is also acidic with the same approximate pH.


In conclusion, the vast majority of commercially produced orange juice is pasteurized as a safeguard against pathogens and spoilage. Pasteurization provides significant food safety and shelf stability benefits that outweigh moderate impacts on nutrition and flavor. While unpasteurized orange juice does retain higher levels of some vitamins and antioxidants, its availability is limited and it poses higher risks, especially to vulnerable populations. For most people, pasteurized juice is a sensible choice thanks to its wide availability, long shelf life and freedom from dangerous bacteria.

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